Obesity and excessive fat in dogs increases the risk of often-preventable secondary health conditions, such as arthritis, liver disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and certain forms of cancer. A recent study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) found that 56% of dogs in the U.S were clinically diagnosed with obesity. Further alarming statistics show that obesity levels have continued to rise in recent years. For example, the obesity rate in dogs was 9% in 2009, climbing to 20% by 2016.
Dogs with obesity have a reduced quality of life and shorter life expectancy compared to dogs at an ideal weight. In comparison, dogs that maintain an ideal weight experience delayed onset of clinical signs of chronic medical conditions.
The great news is that you can easily help your overweight dog lose weight. The best strategy for shedding pounds is to follow a low-calorie and weight loss diet in combination with increased exercise.
This article explores why weight loss food is a better alternative than regular food, discusses the benefits of high-protein diets and lists further tips on how to help your dog lose weight. But first, we describe the best five dog foods for weight loss available on the market to date.
- 1 FAQs
- 2 The Best Dog Foods for Weight Loss
- 3 Dog Food for Weight Loss: Buyer’s Guide
- 3.1 Regular Food vs. “Diet” Food
- 3.2 Things to Look for in Dog Food for Weight Loss
- 3.3 Benefits of High-Protein Diets
- 3.4 How to Switch to a Weight Loss Dog Food
- 3.5 Additional Tips to Help Dogs Lose Weight
- 4 Final Thoughts
How can I tell if my dog is overweight?
Purina states that dogs at a healthy and ideal weight should typically have an hourglass appearance. From above, a slight but visible narrowing around a dog’s waist should be seen. From the side, the tummy is tucked up from the chest. If your dog’s ribs and waistline aren’t where they should be, there’s a chance that your dog is overweight (or underweight). PDSA have a useful video on how to tell if your pet is overweight.
You can also weigh your dog and compare with the breed’s average weight. If you suspect your dog is overweight, visit your veterinarian where they’ll be able to confirm, help determine potential causes and offer treatment solutions.
What is the cause of my dog’s weight gain?
There can be many reasons underlying a dog’s weight gain. Some can be due to chronic health issues or genetic predisposition. However, most reasons are preventable.
The most common source of excessive fat is too much food in combination of too little exercise. If dogs are consuming more calories than they’re utilizing through exercise, then the excess calories need to be processed in another way. Additional body tissue is created that is predominantly fat.
What are the benefits of diet or weight loss dog food?
These foods are designed to aid in weight loss and maintain a healthy weight without reducing portions. Typically, weight loss dog foods are lower in fat, lower in calories and higher in protein than regular dog foods. Our buyer’s guide includes a handy list of things to look for in a good food for weight loss.
The Best Dog Foods for Weight Loss
We’ve narrowed down hundreds of products to just five. Below is a list of the most effective foods for weight loss:
1. Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula
Blue Buffalo is based in the United States and takes pride in always delivering real meat as the first ingredient. Its natural-ingredient formula is designed to help dogs achieve and maintain a healthy weight. It contains high-quality protein from real chicken, wholesome whole grains, garden vegetables and fruit. In addition, it includes a blend of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals carefully chosen by holistic veterinarians and animal nutritionists.
- First Ingredient: Deboned Chicken
- Food Type: Dry Kibble
- Calories Per Cup: 322
- Macronutrients: 22% Protein, 14% Fat, 5% Fiber
- Weight: Available in 6lb, 15lb or 30lb
- Age Range: Puppy, Adult, Senior
As you may have guessed by the name, the Life Protection Formula is formulated specifically for puppies, adult and senior dogs. Ingredients such as DHA (an omega-3 fatty acid) help promote puppies’ cognitive development, and glucosamine and chondroitin offer joint and mobility support for large breeds and senior dogs. This weight management dog food contains no chicken by-product means, corn, wheat, soy, artificial flavors or preservatives.
2. Merrick Grain Free Healthy Weight Recipe
Merrick Grain Free Healthy Weight Recipe uses a balance of high-quality protein, healthy fats and fiber, along with farm-fresh fruits and vegetables such as sweet potatoes and blueberries. The idea behind the formula for promoting healthy weight management is to leave dogs feelings satisfied, without the additional calories or fat.
- First Ingredient: Deboned Beef
- Food Type: Dry
- Calories Per Cup: 360
- Macronutrients: 32% Protein, 8-11% Fat, 5% Fiber
- Weight: Available in 4lb or 25lb
- Age Range: Adult
Compared to other weight loss dog foods on the market, this product was found to be the highest in protein content. This all-natural dog food is cooked in the USA and uses real whole foods sourced from local farmers. The natural, grain free formula is free from poultry by-products, artificial preservatives, corn, wheat, soy and gluten. It contains omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids to promote healthy skin and coat. The added glusamine and chondroitin also support healthy hips and joints.
3. Purina Beneful Healthy Weight Dog Food
Purina Beneful Healthy Weight Dog Food uses a complete and balanced formula that contains real farm-raised chicken blended with whole grains, real fruit and vegetables. The recipe provides dogs with calorie-smart nutrition without compromising the taste. That means dogs will receive the taste they crave while also thriving in weight loss. The combination of crunchy kibble and tender bites also creates a variety of textures that dogs won’t get bored of.
- First Ingredient: Farm-raised Chicken
- Food Type: Dry
- Calories Per Cup: 310
- Macronutrients: 25% Protein, 8% Fat, 9% Fiber
- Weight: Available in 3.5lb (multipacks), 6.3lb, 15.5lb, 31.1lb or 40lb
- Age Range: Adult
Like all of Purina’s products, this healthy weight dog food is produced in Purina owned U.S. facilities that reach gold standard food quality and safety checks. As it’s readily available in small multipack bags, dogs can try the food before opting to purchase more.
4. Purina ONE SmartBlend Natural Healthy Weight Formula Dog Food
The ONE SmartBlend Natural Healthy Weight Formula Dog Food is another product from Purina. This weight management dog food contains 25% less fat and 15% fewer calories than the Purina ONE SmartBlend Lamb and Rice Formula, while still providing a healthy blend of ingredients for complete and balanced nutrition. There are 0% fillers in this product, meaning that every high-quality ingredient in the recipe has a purpose.
- First Ingredient: Real Turkey
- Food Type: Dry
- Calories Per Cup: 320
- Macronutrients: 27% Protein, 8-12% Fat, 5.5% Fiber
- Weight: Available in 8lb, 16.5lb, 31.1lb or 40lb
- Age Range: Adult
The mixture of crunchy kibble and meaty morsels provides dogs with a great taste and texture that even fussy eaters will enjoy. Additionally, the antioxidant blend helps to support a strong immune system.
5. Nutro Lite And Weight Management Dog Food
Nutro Lite and Weight Management Dog Food contains natural ingredients carefully sourced from Nutro’s trusted network of farmers and supplies. The formula is made with a blend of protein and fiber to help dogs feel full, reduce their overall food intake and ultimately supporting healthy weight loss. High-quality protein source is always the number ingredient. For this dog food, you can choose from farm-raised chicken or Australian and New Zealand pasture-fed lamb.
- First Ingredient: Farm-raised Chicken or Pasture-Fed Lamb
- Food Type: Dry
- Calories Per Cup: 228
- Macronutrients: 23% Protein, 7% Fat, 11.5% Fiber
- Weight: Available in 5lb or 30lb
- Age Range: Adult
This USA-manufactured weight management dog food is available for different breed sizes. Its natural fiber promotes healthy digestion and the essential antioxidants such as Vitamin E supports the immune system. There are no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. It also has an impressively low 228 calories per cup, making it the lowest out of our featured products.
Dog Food for Weight Loss: Buyer’s Guide
There are many foods marketed for weight loss in dogs, but they’re not all created to the same quality. This guide is designed to go over what to look for in a dog food for weight loss.
Regular Food vs. “Diet” Food
Weight loss can be achieved by feeding less of your dog’s normal food. However, it’s important to keep in mind that this approach is most effective in dogs that are mildly or moderately overweight. The majority of everyday dog foods are incredibly calorie-dense and contain typically around 400 to 500 calories per serving. Because of this, you have to feed very small amounts if you want to achieve the reduced number of calories necessary for your dog to lose weight. Furthermore, reducing the amount of regular dog food can be a health concern in itself as dogs may be deprived of essential nutrients.
Reducing a dog’s current portion size is difficult because it’s also likely to result in dissatisfaction and feeling hungry for more. These dogs end up failing at weight loss attempts because owners feel they’re depriving their loved one from food and find it difficult to remain compliant. After all, not many can resist the face of endless begging (combined with those sad puppy eyes!). A great alternative strategy is to opt for weight loss food.
Weight loss foods are a good choice instead of regular dog food because they effectively help with shedding excessive fat. This is because they have fewer calories than normal foods, while still providing the same amount of substance so your dog feels full after eating. This is achieved by increasing a food’s protein or fiber content.
Things to Look for in Dog Food for Weight Loss
When browsing on the market, there is a lot to keep in mind. A high-quality food is essential for aiding weight loss and ultimately to your dog’s health. Here is a list of what makes a good food for weight loss:
- Ideal balance within food groups. Do look for a food that is high in protein (30% or more), low in fat (preferably around 10%) and low in carbohydrates. This balance within food groups will maintain the overall calorie count.
- Real meat as the first ingredient rather than meat meals. High-quality meat to provide protein is the most important. All our featured products have real meat as the first ingredient.
- Contains no by-products, sugars, excessive fillers, artificial additives or preservations. Dogs should not consume unnecessary and potentially unhealthy ingredients. If a dog food product does not state it is free of any of ingredients that should be avoided, there’s a strong chance it contains them. These ingredients are also best avoided in the case that they trigger allergies.
- Provides the essential vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats and carbohydrates for a balanced diet. The main difference between weight loss and regular foods should be the calorie content.
- Features probiotics. This is to prevent any intestinal upsets should your dog experience a sensitive stomach or diarrhea. This can sometimes happen when a dog’s daily food changes.
- Tasty. Look for foods created with delicious proteins and fats so your dog feels happy to conform to the diet and lose weight effectively. If you know your dog doesn’t enjoy a particularly flavor then avoid it completely. Your pup might stop eating altogether and you’ll be out of pocket.
- Less than 400 calories per cup. This is below-average calories, an ideal amount to help dogs lose weight safely and effectively. By reducing the amount of calories that your dog consumes, it minimizes the tendency of the body to store calories as fat. If you opt for foods with even less calories per cup, that’s even better! However, you need to tailor the amount of calories according to the dog breed.
- Made in a country with high safety standards. The USA, Canada, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand are examples of “safe” countries.
In addition, consider adding canned food to your dog’s feeding schedule. Canned food typically has higher protein, lower carbohydrates and similar or even less calories in comparison to an equivalent sized quantity of dry food. Therefore, weight loss is likely to be easier to achieve when canned food is included.
Though it didn’t quite make our top five products, we recommend the bundle of Purina Pro Plan Weight Management Dog Food that comes with twelve mouth-watering cans of Turkey and Rice Entrée Morsels in Gravy.
Benefits of High-Protein Diets
When it comes to weight loss, dogs will benefit from a protein-rich diet. Here are some of the most significant ways:
Increased Feelings of Fullness
The best weight loss formulas contain high protein to create the sensation of fullness without having to eat as many calories. This means your pup will engage in less begging, ultimately making it easier for you to stick to the diet.
High-fiber foods also create the feeling of fullness in a similar way to high-protein. In fact, high-fiber is often added to diet foods for this exact purpose. In addition, high-fiber foods help with anal gland problems. Therefore, you might have a preference as to where this feeling of fullness comes from: higher protein or fiber fillers.
Prevents Muscle Loss
Losing muscle is common when dieting. Just like humans, dogs that lose weight burn both fat and muscle for energy. Selecting a high protein food will help to preserve and build lean muscle mass, which is important for normal functioning and optimum health.
How to Switch to a Weight Loss Dog Food
All food transitions should always take place in a gradual manner to avoid dietary upsets.
petMD suggests starting with 20% of the new food with 80% of the old. Increase the new food by 20% while decreasing the old food by 20% per day (e.g. day 2 involves a mix of 40% new food and 60% old food), until eventually your dog is consuming 100% of the new food. The changeover should take around 5-7 days to complete, but always allow up to 10 days.
Additional Tips to Help Dogs Lose Weight
Switching from regular to weight loss food is the first way to help your dog lose the extra pounds, but there are also many other ways you can help facilitate the weight loss journey:
The most common reason why dogs become overweight is because they’re not receiving enough exercise to overbalance the amount of consumed calories. By increasing the amount of exercise your dog engages in while keeping the food intake the same, they’ll fuel their body by burning the stored fat.
Stop Feeding Human Food
It can be temping for some owners to feed the leftover scraps to their pups, whom are begging under the dinner table. But these foods often contain a high number of calories which is a health problem waiting to happen. Try to feed your pooch only dog food, or select healthy human foods that dogs can eat.
Cut Down On Treats
Lots of owners forget about the calories consumed from treats. This is particularly troublesome for smaller breeds as each treat takes up a large percentage of the daily calorie intake. By stopping treats altogether, you can avoid miscalculating. However, if you do choose to give the occasional treat then make sure to factor in these extra calories.
Visit Your Veterinarian
As every dog is different, your veterinarian can calculate your dog’s ideal body weight, devise a plan on how much and how often to feed your dog, and how to oversee your dog reach their weight goal safely and successfully. Your veterinarian can also help with developing an exercise plan to assist weight loss that fits around your lifestyle while addressing any health problems your dog may presently have.
Excessive weight places a dog’s health at risk and it won’t be long till they begin to suffer. Thankfully, the first step to achieving weight loss and optimum health is to choose the right food for your dog. The second step is to feed your pup properly by following (and sticking to) a diet plan. By doing so, you’ll be giving your pooch the best chance to live a long, healthy and fulfilling life.
Remember that if you’re ever unsure or want to seek further professional advice before starting a weight loss programme for your canine companion, then seek advice from your veterinarian.