Portly Pooches: How to Help Your Dog Lose Weight

Golden REtriever out on a walk to help dog lose weight

Reviewed by Dr. Willow Hipwood and Kacey Reilly, CVT

Did you know that, in the U.S., one in three pets is overweight? This represents a 158% percent increase in overweight dogs in the past 10 years!

The sharp increase in obesity rates among our canine companions is very concerning. Overweight dogs are more likely to suffer from diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, lung disorders, high blood pressure, immune dysfunction, and cancer.

One study even showed that if you could help your dog lose weight and maintain an ideal body weight, you might add almost 2 extra years to your dog’s life!

So, is YOUR dog overweight? Since dogs vary so much in body size and shape, we use a Body Condition Score (BCS) to rate an animal’s weight. Our friends at Royal Canin show us how your veterinarian -- and you at home -- can judge your dog’s BCS.

If your dog is overweight, it’s important to work with your veterinarian on a healthy weight loss plan for your pet. Here is what a weight loss plan for your dog would include.

Assessing Your Dog’s Diet & Creating a Nutrition Plan

Dogs become overweight when they consume more calories than they use. For this reason, assessing your dog’s diet (calories consumed) is a critical first step in developing a weight loss program. Answer honestly as your veterinarian asks about what your dog eats every day.

What are you feeding your dog? Be specific about the brand and type -- it matters. How much dog food are you feeding and how often? How many treats does your dog consume in a day? Finally, does your dog get human food at all? Again, answer honestly, and know that we can be just as weak in the face of those pleading puppy eyes.

Once the current diet has been established, it’s time to create a new nutrition plan. In some cases, your veterinarian may recommend Royal Canin Canine Satiety Support. This diet is high fiber, high protein and formulated to promote weight loss.

Whether you are feeding Canine Satiety Support or another diet, your veterinarian will calculate the number of calories your dog should be consuming and how much to feed your dog at any given meal to stay within the calorie target.

Reducing and/or Changing Treat Habits

Treats can be part of your dog’s healthy diet and weight loss plan. However, treats are not calorie-less. Any treats given must be accounted for in your dog’s daily calorie consumption.

One way to manage treat calories is to reduce how often your dog gets treats. Other treat strategies include:

  • Giving your dog vegetables instead of dog treats
  • Using a portion of your dog’s daily amount of kibble for treats
  • Buying Royal Canin Satiety Canine Treats, which are low in calories and compatible with the Satiety Canine Support diet

Exercising Daily

The other half of the weight loss equation for your dog is exercise. Unlike cats, dogs are a little easier to exercise -- and helping them exercise might just help you get fitter, too!

Here are some ideas to help your dog get fit:

  • Go for daily walks
  • Play games in the yard, like fetch
  • Go swimming -- We recommend Dunkin Dawgs K9 Swim Center
  • Try food puzzles -- Your dog must play with the toy to get the kibble out, exercising both body and mind 

To keep your dog’s weight loss program on track, we recommend monthly weigh-ins at the vet clinic. Since we want slow and steady weight loss, a monthly check-in will give us a good indicator if the program is working. Either way the scale moves, we can take this opportunity to adjust the weight loss plan as needed.

To start designing a weight loss program for your dog, give Badger Veterinary Hospital a call and we’d be happy to schedule a time to see you!