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Fat Loss in Dogs

A pet lover passionate about educating readers about animal health and care. Love reading studies and recent research.
Published on
Monday 13 April 2020
Last updated on
Tuesday 9 May 2023
Fat Loss In Dogs – Weight Loss Guide for Dogs
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The leading health problem affecting our pets is obesity, according to a 2018 factsheet by Vet Innovation‘s, almost 100 million pets are affected by weight gain, this is more than 50% of all American dogs. Fat dogs can have far more health issues than other dogs. If you are an owner and suspect or know your dog is overweight, you will want to know the best methods for fat loss in dogs.

If you want to be sure your dog is gaining weight, we have labeled how to check this and the best methods and foods to encourage dog weight loss. Furthermore, if you are trying to encourage an owner to help their dog lose weight, we have a detailed list of all the affecting health problems for an overweight dog to convince them.

How to Check if Your Dog is Overweight?

Physically, you can feel your dog’s body to see if they’re overweight, you can also judge it through looks. Ideally, you should take your dog to the vet, as some breeds are naturally heavier or rounder than others. It also means vets can run the correct tests to see if any health problems are causing your dog to be overweight or unable to lose fat.

Firstly, you can physically feel your dog around their ribs and spine. There should be a thin layer of fat surrounding both, but you should still be able to feel the spine and ribs. If you cannot feel these bones, there is a high chance your dog is overweight.

Secondly, you can make some physical and behavioral observations to see if your dog is overweight. Is their waist well-defined? Is your dog’s rump merges instantly to their sides and stomach with no waist definition, this is a sign of obesity. Furthermore, have they been sleeping more or are reluctant to participate in play or walks? This may be because they are quick to tire or their joints ache from the pressure on them due to excess weight. Monitor their behavior as well as their appearance.

How to Plan a Diet for Fat Loss in Dogs

Nutrition can influence fat loss by 70% compared to exercise, hence why a proper diet plan is crucial to reach this goal. Remember that weight loss comes from your dog burning more calories than they are ingesting. Here are the best ways to create a diet plan and the affecting factors you must consider.

Monitor the Calories

Calories can be defined as a measurement of energy food provides. Our dog’s body only requires a certain amount of calories a day, if that is exceeded, this leads to stored weight. Many owners do not know their dog’s daily calorie requirements. You can find out your dog’s precise required calorie intake from taking them to the vets. However, you can also roughly work out their ideal daily calorie intake from their breed, weight, gender, and age. PetMD published the calculations vets use to find out your dog’s daily calorie intake alongside the affecting factors. One affecting factor you require to measure yourself is their daily exercise levels. To work out their average exercise levels daily, you can use an activity monitor.

  • Find your dog’s weight in kilograms
  • Their Resting Energy Requirements (RER) are calculated by using the formulae 70 (body weight in kg)^0.75
  • Their Maintenance Energy Requirement (MER) can be calculated by multiplying any affecting factors by the RER

Here is the table provided by PetMD with the affecting factors:

typical neutered pet1.6
typical intact pet1.8
weight loss1
weight gain1.7
light work2
moderate work3
heavy work6
growth (less than 4 months old)3
growth (more than 4 months old)2

Dietary Fiber

Fiber has nutritional benefits such as helping digestion and aiding your dog in feeling more full. It is known to “bulk up” our dogs in more ways than one. They will feel more full, thereby leading them to eat less and not search for extra food after their meals. Fiber can also bulk up a dog’s stool, meaning it passes through the digestive system more easily and reduces constipation. This is because fiber softens your dog’s stool. This helps a dog have a normal and healthy digestive system which will minimize the cravings for excess food.

Furthermore, fiber will bulk out your dog’s diet without adding calories. This means they feel full without the chance of excess weight being put on. It will also aid weight loss as a full dog will not search for extra food but will have the energy to exercise.

Dogs can eat more yet lose weight and body fat.
Dogs can eat more yet lose weight and body fat.

Fewer Carbohydrates

A lot of dog foods have more carbohydrates and fewer proteins, though it should be the other way around. Often, brand dog foods will be purchased because they are well-known and owners will have trust in them. However, they can often be stocked full of carbs which has multiple downsides. The main purpose of carbohydrates is for the use and storage of energy. However, dogs’ bodies do not need large amounts of carbohydrates for energy. The recommended percentage of carbohydrates for dogs is below 14%. Therefore, a lot of carbs are stored and increased weight gain ss the result.

Protein cannot be a full replacement for carbohydrates but can replace 80% of the amount. Furthermore, protein can contribute energy towards your dog as well as aid growth and repair. Therefore, it is more beneficial for your dog.

Weight Loss Dog Food

There are specially designed dog foods for fat loss in dogs, these can be beneficial to use up until the point your dog has a healthy weight for their age, breed, and gender. Then you can put your dog onto a regular diet, but one that is healthier than their last. These foods have low fat and carbohydrate contents to avoid the storage of these food groups. The average dog food may contain between 15 to 20% of fat, the recommended average amount for a usually sedentary dog is 5%. Therefore, we recommend dog food with 10% fat content.

Furthermore, the protein content of 30% minimum for an adult dog is ideal, and can actually replace the majority of the carbohydrate content in their food. Protein can not only provide energy, like carbohydrates but can also aid your dog’s immune system. Therefore it is much more useful in your dog’s diet.


Adding vegetables to your dog’s diet can benefit their digestion. Furthermore, vegetables are low in calories but high in nutrients for your pup, this can help boost their immune system and make them feel better in themselves. These positive feelings can result in a much more active dog, one who enjoys exercise and play and can begin losing weight on their own accord. Vegetables can be diced up into a regular meal for your dog or used as a substitute for an ingredient if you cook at home.

Make sure to never to give your dog just vegetables, they are omnivorous and require meat products in their diet for proper digestion and good health. Just because your dog can survive without meat, does not mean they can thrive. Furthermore, some vegetables can be toxic so be aware!

Cut Down on Junk Treats

Giving your dogs regular treats can contribute to their weight gain greatly. These are high in calories, fats, and carbohydrates, all of which cause obesity in your dog. We are not saying to avoid treats permanently, but multiple treats daily will contribute to fat gain.

Treats can be given more frequently to puppies to aid with training, furthermore, they are growing and won’t suffer from a few extra treats. However, as soon as a dog reaches its adult size, the treats should be given with more restraint. Consider giving your dog one a day maximum, of course, this depends on the treat size and the size of your dog, it is all relative.

5 Best Fat Loss Dog Foods

Here are the top five best dog foods for fat loss and why we and others recommend them.

1. Purina Smartblend Healthy Weight

Purina’s designed a weight loss formulae for your dog. This 40 lb packet contains less fat and calories than average dog food brands. As it is protein-rich from natural lean turkey, this food enriches your pup’s immune system and keeps them feeling full while losing fat and becoming more healthy. Furthermore, the high protein percentage in this food will give your dog more glucosamine for better joint health. This is especially useful here as overweight dogs can often get joint pain from pressure on their legs. This food really does aid your dog back to normal.

One of the 82% of customers who gave a five-star review of this product commented about how they were a veterinarian and have used this brand for years. Moreover, none of their dogs had ever gained excess weight on this food. However, multiple one-star reviews argued that their dogs were vomiting from the product.

2. Blue Buffalo Healthy Weight Dog Food

Blue buffalo combined dog’s love of chicken with the health benefits of brown rice to create this healthy mix. Both ‘healthy garden veggies’ and ‘antioxidant-rich fruit’ such as sweet potatoes and blueberries are combined into this healthy mix. Blue Buffalo promises no by-products, artificial flavors, or preservatives are present in any of their dog food. This combination is especially good for fat loss in dogs, according to Blue Buffalo, as it “helps develop lean muscle mass“, “reduce calories from fat”, and “supports joint function and mobility”. Blue Buffalo also details how to healthily transition your dog onto their food without an upset stomach.

77% of the ratings for this product are five stars. One review states all their dogs from their Boxer to their Chihuahua are sleek and healthy on this mix. They further add that it is cheap but effective. This is argued by a user who advises caution and states that her dog had digestive issues whilst on this brand, but only from bags delivered online, those bought in store did not affect their dog.

3. Purina Pro Plan Weight Control Formula

Purina created the pro plan dog food to aid with overall dog health. This mix is based around high protein and quality based chicken alongside rice and animal fat. This mixture targets general health, however, it has low percentages of carbohydrates and fats, hence why it is in our top five dog foods for fat loss.

Furthermore, this food has not only benefited dogs to lose weight and become more muscular and healthy but it also specifically targets a dog’s skin and fur. It also advertises that this product aids joint health which is often needed after the extra pressure on obese dog’s joints.

This product received 82% of five-star ratings, with one of the top customer reviews mentioning how their fussy dog is a healthy weight because of their adoration of this food. However, one single star review argued that the price did not justify the contents.

4. Nutro Wholesome Essentials Dog Food with Chicken

Nutro created their essential dog food with chicken to provide dogs with a healthy, balanced meal that would give them the energy they need without excess fat or carbohydrates to cause obesity. They advertise that their number one source is protein, a nutrient which aids dog digestion more than any others.

Furthermore, protein provides healthy energy, a full feeling after eating, and minimal excess storage, unlike carbohydrates. This product combines oatmeal and brown rice for healthy alternatives to energy and fiber. Furthermore, on the back of every bag, they provide a recommended cup amount per weight of your dog. This is to make sure you are not over or underfeeding your pooch.

Three-quarters of all ratings were 5 stars. One of these concluded that this food is also great for sensitive stomachs. This only furthers Nutro’s claim that this mix aids digestion. It is argued by a one-star review that this food made their dog lethargic and begin to vomit.

5. Hill’s Science Diet for Weight Management

Hills created a diet food to help with digestion and energy levels in adult dogs. They used a combination of chicken, barley, and rice to balance the main required food groups in your dog’s diet, without causing weight gain. Furthermore, they combine a variety of vegetables and fruits for a balanced diet and aid with weight loss. Broccoli, cranberries, and apples are just a few they have added to this mix that your dog will love. The kibble in the mix is of medium size to prevent choking but allow your dog something to chew for enrichment and to keep their teeth clean.

With an overall five star rating of 78%, customers seemed relatively pleased with this. One user titles their review ‘switching to science diet made my dog happier and healthier’ and elaborated that their dog’s weight is exactly where it should be. However, another user argued that you should consult your vet before changing your dog onto this diet as it flared up their pet’s stomachs irritability.

Best Exercises for Weight Loss in Dogs

When your dog is overweight, you want to aim for them to exercise for an hour a day. This can be difficult, especially when you work a full-time job. This is why we have composed a list of activities you can incorporate into your day to day life easily.


Whether you enjoy running, or you have the time to take your dog to a dog field and encourage them to do so, this cardio exercise can be very beneficial. Initially, your dog may not be able to run due to the added pressure on their joints from obesity and low stamina. The more regularly your dog exercises, the further their stamina will increase. This is because it helps strengthen your muscles and improve your dog’s cardio-respiratory function.

Make sure never to push your dog if they appear to be severely out of breath or in pain. However, you cannot just let them stop or constantly refuse to run, they do have to be encouraged to run even for just a little. Daily exercise and play will work off those excess stored calories.


Fetch is a game enjoyable for you and your dog, furthermore, it can be beneficial for their health and aid weight loss. Trying to get your dog to work out alone can be difficult to encourage, especially for an hour. Engaging them in play is a great way to get your dog to exercise. You also have the ease of being able to play at home or at a dog park. Simply toss the toy for your dog, encourage them to go get it and bring it back to you.

For those that are especially busy, there are devices that can throw your dog a ball on repeat as long as the ball is placed into the top of the machine. If you feel you are able to quickly train them to do this trick, then it may be worth pursuing as a long term weight loss plan and enrichment.

Playing Catch

“Catch” is another great game you can play with your dog to enable weight loss. “Catch” will not only require your dog to run after the toy or frisbee to keep up with it, but they must usually jump to grab the item. This means it is engaging your dog’s muscles in different ways, and targeting multiple areas of your dog’s body. The more muscles and areas that are targeted, the more effective weight loss will be. Furthermore, there are in fact dog shows that involve this trick, so it can be both beneficial for your pup’s health and a future goal to aim towards.

Your dog may be initially reluctant to chase far and jump high due to their excess fat. Therefore, start by throwing their toy a short distance and not too high. As they become better at “catch”, you can increase the distance and height of the throw.


There are in fact dog treadmills that you can either buy for your home or take your dog to. This is great if you live in a very populated area or your dog is not great with other dogs, as you cannot let them off the lead to run large distances. Some treadmills simply require you to train your dog to walk on them and stay there, others allow you to put your dog on a leash and keep them on the treadmill. You should not place them on them for too long or at high speeds. A gradual increase in timing will help. Initially, try placing your dog on the treadmill for five to ten minutes walking and then running for five.

Always monitor their behavior while on the treadmill. If they appear to be struggling, look in pain or become distressed, remove them from the treadmill.


Swimming is not only a great method for weight loss, but also the use of hydrotherapy can be beneficial for painful joints and muscles regularly seen in overweight dogs. This sport often puts far less pressure on dogs’ joints and muscles which minimize pain but aid weight loss and cardiovascular function. Swimming is one of the top weight loss methods for dogs due to enjoyment, aid in movement, and of course, fat loss.

Take your dog to specific swimming classes and clubs to make sure that they are not being pushed past their physical limits. Furthermore, those that understand hydrotherapy can provide the most beneficial methods and time constraints for your pup.

Health Problems in Overweight Dogs

Excess weight in your dog can make their life more difficult and unhappy. Here are the most common health problems in overweight dogs.

consequences of excess body fat in dogs
Excess body fat in dogs can have poor health consequences (just like in humans).


The excess pressure on our dogs’ joints from fat leads to the bones and muscles moving inappropriately and rubbing incorrectly. This pressure and friction lead to deterioration of the bones and excess pain. You can detect arthritis from swilling around the affected joint, pain, and problems in movement. Whether you identify the issue through limping or even dragging of the limb, this is always painful for your pup and it is worth taking them to the vet to identify the severity and best course of treatment. Painkillers will be prescribed in milder cases with physiotherapy or hydrotherapy, surgery has to be used to tackle the severe cases.

Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes comes from excess glucose in the body and an inability to produce the required insulin. Fat gain in dogs can lead to diabetes as obesity develops an insulin resistance in cells. Signs of diabetes in dogs include increased thirst alongside excess urination. This is because your dog’s body will be trying to rid itself of excess sugar that cannot be tackled due to their insulin resistance. Further symptoms include your dog being hungrier but losing more weight. This is because your dog’s body cannot properly convert their diet and use all the nutrients provided, therefore their body suffers and they eat more to try and gather what they need. Treatment can only be provided by a vet.


Hypertension is the formal name for high dog pressure, something which is often seen in overweight dogs. Symptoms can be seen in the eyes, such as bleeding inside the eye or constant pupil dilation. However, the majority of the symptoms are internal and can be found through urine and blood tests. If your dog is heavily overweight, share your concerns with your vet to see if they agree the possibility may be likely and if they recommend tests being applied.

Hepatic Lipidosis

Normal liver function can be interrupted in an obese dog’s body leading to hepatic lipidosis, also known as fatty liver disease. It specifically affects your dog’s lipid metabolism and how the body uses lipids. The symptoms are predominantly gastrointestinal such as vomiting, diarrhea, and weight loss. If your dog displays any of these symptoms, they require a vet visit. Treatment may be medication based but often when the liver is affected in your dog’s health, they require their diet to be changed. A vet can advise you how best to do so and what needs to be altered.

Breathing Problems

When your dog is overweight, they not only have excess weight placed on their joints but on their internal organs too. Both the heart and lungs struggle to expand with the pressure from their fat weighing down on them. This causes both the heart and lungs to work extra hard which makes their breathing more strained and they are unable to possess the same level of lung function as a dog of normal weight. Due to not being able to breathe properly, your dog will run shorter distances, exercise less and this leads to a negative cycle of weight gain and minimal exercise.

Fat Loss In Dogs – Guide
Fat Loss In Dogs – Guide

Risk of Cancer

Obesity does not increase the risk of your dog developing tumors, but it does increase the chance that tumors are malignant, a term meaning dangerous which is usually applied to cancer. Most owners know how devastating a diagnosis of this disease can be with a high risk of fatalities. The reason cancer develops when your dog is fat is because less of the chemical adiponectin is secreted when your pup stores excess fat. The chemical adiponectin is responsible for protecting cells from cancer, hence the concern. If you are concerned about a lump on your dog, take them to the vet and have them examine it.

Fat Loss in Dogs – FAQs

Finally, we have composed an FAQ on dog fat loss to make sure you feel comfortable understanding how to pursue this goal in the proper manner.

How to Reduce a Dog’s Fat?

The only true way for your dog to lose weight is for them to burn more calories than they ingest. This will involve a calorie deficit, defined as consuming less than the number of calories required to maintain body weight. However, you should never attempt to decide the appropriate calorie deficit for your dog without professional aid. Whether from a vet or canine nutritionist, asking for their help will make sure you are not providing too little calories for your dog and causing them to feel fatigued or unwell.

Usually, with increased exercise and a low calorie and fat diet, your dog will naturally hit their calorie deficit. An hour a day of exercise alongside a much more controlled diet will help fat loss in your dog as their excess weight is simply stored.

How Much Time Do Dogs Need to Lose Weight?

There is not one time period for dog weight loss, it is dependant on the dog and their individual factors. The most crucial influential element is the amount of excess weight they have. If they are only mildly overweight, they will lose weight much more quickly than a dog who is obese. Furthermore, if you own a larger dog, it is often more difficult for them to lose weight because they are physically carrying a lot more than a small breed of dog.

You should also be aware of your dog’s age, the younger a dog is, the easier it is for them to lose weight. This is because they have a lot more stamina, so their ease to exercise and change onto a new diet is usually much easier. Furthermore, a puppy is usually much more healthy, the older a dog, the slower it will be for them to lose weight due to their capabilities to exercise and play.

Genetic predisposition to obesity in dogs.
Genetic predisposition to obesity in dogs.

Are Green Beans Good for Dog Weight Loss?

Green beans are a safe and tasty treat for your dog that can aid weight loss. It is not a stand-alone cure, your dog will need to have a good diet and exercise plan in place first, but this can help towards fat loss. As they are so full of fiber and low in calories, you can use them as a treat for training or just rewarding good behavior. This treat will have far less fat and calories in them, which can not only prevent weight gain but aid weight loss.

You have to be careful to only provide natural green beans with no additives or flavorings though. These can be harmful to your pups, so be aware of extra salt, spices, or vegetables toxic to dogs.

Does Walking a Dog Help it Lose Weight?

Walking a dog can help them lose weight because it is a form of exercise. When you exercise your dog, they are burning calories and increasing fat loss. This is because the stored fat in your dog will be used as energy when they are exercising as long as they are also on an appropriate diet. Diet affects around 70% of a dog’s weight loss, that does not mean that exercise is still not crucial in this process. Walking your dog is a brilliant start on a journey to a healthier dog.

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