Buying the best low-fat dog food can be a terrifying experience because of how deceitful most dog food manufacturers are. They want to convince you because if they do, you will embark with them for months, if not years. They use all the tricks in the book to convince you that their special low-fat dog food formula is the best.
Reduced-fat diets for dogs are a way of offering the owner a weight control instrument to keep the calorie count low while keeping the satiety high. Dogs are hungry beasts and if you don’t feed them enough, they will find something else to chew on (yep, that would be dramatic for your furniture.)
We’ve put together this comprehensive article split into three parts:
- Buying Guide — how to choose the best low-fat dog food
- Reviews — our top low-fat dry dog foods for all budgets
- Cons — nothing is perfect, and a low-fat diet isn’t either
Fat is not the devil and you should still monitor how much carbs you are feeding your dog; however, a gram of fat represents 9 calories while a gram of protein or carbohydrate is only 4 calories. Therefore, low-fat dog food will naturally reduce the dog’s calorie intake throughout the day.
Choosing The Best Low Fat Dog Food
A low-fat diet is just one of the most popular diet choices along with gluten-free, low carb and grain-free diets; but will it work on your dog? Some other diets will aim at reducing carbohydrates instead of fats, this is the case with grain-free dog foods, for example.
Surely, our canine friends might tend to be overweight when not exercised properly, and this is the reason why most people begin to think that low-fat dog food can be necessary for them. But is it?
Why Obesity is a Threat to your Dog
As with humans, dogs are at a big risk if you feed them with too many fatty foods. Over 35 million American dogs are overweight, which is a whopping 45% of the entire population. You don’t want your dog to add up to the numbers, right?
Here are some health problems that can occur on an obese or overweight dog:
- Diabetes — Like humans, when dogs tend to have a sweet tooth combined with excessive amounts of food every single day, diabetes is more likely to come for them and once dog diabetes affects your dog, it’s a lifelong battle of everyday tests and effort.
- Mobility Problems — Arthritis and joint pains may also occur if a dog is overweight. This is mostly because dogs will have less time for exercise due to eating habits and obese physique. The repercussions can be severe at a later stage in life with important problems targeting your dog’s joints.
- Cardiac and Respiratory System — We are all aware that obesity in the human world may lead to heart attacks – this is the same for dogs. Difficulty in breathing is not too far if your dog doesn’t live a healthy lifestyle.
- Pancreatitis — Pancreatitis is also a product of a high-fat diet and an outcome of dog obesity, which leads dog owners to switch to low-fat dog foods. When the pancreas gets inflammations, it becomes painful for the dog because the pancreas becomes the spot for the digestive enzymes instead of in the small intestine. This health problem is commonly known through symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, loss of appetite, lethargy, back-arching, swollen abdomen and much more.
Obesity takes months of consistent effort in order to be cured; sometimes years. Dieting is the main lever but not the only one since calories can also be burnt through activity and regular exercise. If you have to stay at home for whatever reasons, perhaps invest in a dog treadmill.
The Right Low Fat Formula For Dogs
Around 15 to 20% of fat is most likely inside Fido’s high-quality dog food nowadays, despite the fact that the recommended amount of fat should only be 5% for adult dogs who aren’t very active. In fact, protein-based and grain-free foods may contain higher amounts of fat which can be beneficial if you are after the best dog food for a pitbull, for example.
Sticking to about 10% fat on a diet plan for your dog is likely the best choice, mostly for dry matter. Moreover, “lean” dry dog foods should be less than 9% in fat content and moist foods should be below 4% in fat content. It is important to take a look at the nutrition facts before you purchase any food.
Low Fat or Low Calorie?
Sometimes, it’s not the fat content that you should be targeting and focusing all your attention on. Ideally, what you want to feed to an obese dog should be 250 to 300 calories per 8 oz. Higher calorie foods should be fed in smaller portions or controlled so that your dog doesn’t strain on those calories and have a quicker potential of obesity.
For a dog (or human) to lose weight, it has to be in a calorie deficit at the end of the day (there are some online calculators); regardless of what these calories are made up of like that last part is more about health than weight.
Additionally, if you are buying on bigger bulks of dog food, make sure it has less than 3,100 kilocalories per kg (dry food) and less than 900 kilocalories per kg (wet food). This is a rule of thumb for avoiding too dense dog foods.
More Protein For Better Weight Loss
Putting 30% or more protein in your dog’s daily meals actually helps in faster weight loss. Satiety (a.k.a. feeling full) will most likely take place with dogs on a high protein diet, leading to less chow time. Dogs and humans also both lose muscle mass when going on a strict diet, so they must replenish with protein-rich foods.
While fiber is a more popular way to induce satiety, some experts like it better when the feeling of fullness comes from high protein products.
What to Avoid
Because low-fat diets are becoming a craze to both humans and pets alike, some companies tend to reduce on resources and budget by giving you unhealthy and rushed ingredients of low quality.
Here are things you need to avoid when choosing the best low-fat dog food:
- Preservatives, such as BHA and BHT
- Artificial flavorings, such as dyes and coloring
- Animal fat that has not been indicated
- Fillers that are not necessary for the dog food
- Regular or processed vegetable oil
- Horrible leftovers from a slaughterhouse
- Trimmings of fat
- Anything else that is not natural
You want to keep the quality of each ingredient high to not just focus on the final calorie count, but also on how nutritious the meal will be for your dog. Macronutrients matter for weight loss but micronutrients matter for a dog’s overall health.
Top 5 Best Low Fat Dog Foods
To cut your browsing time, here is a list of the top 5 best low-fat dog foods for overweight and obese dogs.
1. BLUE Buffalo Healthy Weight
Made in the United States, BLUE Buffalo Healthy Weight range is the best low fat dog food from a well-respected pet food brand. This low-fat formula is produced without any extra calories from fats and will help any dog reach better control over its weight.
Satiety is a big problem with dogs… Dogs are big eaters and reducing quantities as a reflex to fight obesity is often detrimental to your dog’s mental health: a hungry dog is an unhappy dog. In order to assure satiety for your pet, BLUE Buffalo Healthy Weight is making sure fibers are present in high amounts thanks to the use of quality vegetables. Brown rice is a healthy grain providing a sustainable source of energy for a dog.
There are a lot of added benefits to this low fat dog food such as:
- L-carnitine enhances bone mass, brain function, and muscle protection
- Amino Acids helps the dog’s body to gain muscle mass and lose body fat
- Omega 3 and Omega 6 are fatty acids that ensure healthy skin and coat
- Fruits increase the amount of fiber and vitamins in your dog’s diet
Sure, it’s not perfect and some people will dislike the fact that it’s not grain-free but for the price, it’s a no-brainer and we all love it! Overall a great low fat dog food at a very reasonable price.
2. Wellness CORE Low Fat Dog Food
As a high-quality natural formula, this Wellness CORE dry dog food is full of quality proteins and premium ingredients — it uses real chicken, turkey, and salmon oil while totally removing soy, corn, wheat, and meat by-products.
Made in the USA, this protein-focused low fat dry dog food is packed with micronutrients such as antioxidants, omega fatty acids, glucosamine, and probiotics. This reduced fat formula also has some trace elements, vitamins and minerals added to make it complete.
There are low-fat dog foods, grain-free dog foods, natural dog foods, and there is Wellness CORE encompassing these three diets altogether. Priced very decently, this dog food is ranking high in most bestselling lists because it offers both weight control and a lot of health benefits. When transitioning to this new low fat diet, do it gradually otherwise you may have to cope with some dog farts for a few days or weeks.
3. Natural Balance Original Ultra Reduced Calorie
This low-fat recipe is specially designed for overweight, senior and less active dogs who find it hard to maintain a healthy weight, and body fat level. Even with reduced calories, this low-fat dog food is complete and balanced thanks to the use of brown rice, chicken, potato fiber, barley and salmon meal.
Natural Balance is a respected brand in the dog food industry; they put each batch of dry dog food and treats through 9 safety tests. Microbiologists and chemists are used to making sure this dog food is up to the most demanding standards out there.
This formula is made using quality ingredients and meats including:
- Carrots for its high levels of vitamin A and beta-carotene
- Brown rice for complex carbohydrates and fibers
- Lamb and Chicken for quality proteins from different sources
- Oatmeal for thiamine and vitamin E
A great cheap low fat dog food that will do just fine for weight control with most dogs; however, it is neither all-natural nor grain-free.
4. Castor and Pollux Organix Healthy Weight
Fully made in the United States without any ingredients from China, the Castor & Pollux Organix range offers low-fat dry dog foods that have a complete and balanced nutrition profile. There are no “bad ingredients” such as corn, wheat or soy. With organic chicken as the first ingredient and organic peas and brown rice, this low fat dog food will fill up any hungry dog’s appetite while keeping the calorie count low.
Here are the best benefits of using this delicious Castor & Pollux Organix range:
- loaded with healthy fats to promote a shiny coat
- organic vegetables for better digestion and satiety
- absence of antibiotics, synthetic fertilizers or chemical pesticides
- organically certified kitchen without added growth hormones
- tested before, during and after production to ensure high quality
Obviously, this isn’t priced as low as dog owners would like but the quality is always paired with a higher price tag. At roughly $20 the 5lbs, you can feed your dog with a weight control low fat dog food of the highest quality.
5. Rachael Ray Nutrish Zero Grain Natural
This Rachael Ray formula is a natural and grain-free recipe and unlike the other low fat dog foods reviewed, it is not labeled as low fat. Yet, it has its place here because of the brand’s very high quality of meats and ingredients used:
- gluten-free and grain-free for dogs with allergies or sensitive tummies
- only farm-raised poultry used and it’s the first ingredient on the list
- just natural ingredients without artificial colors, preservatives or flavors
- absence of any kind of fillers which boosts the overall nutrition
Most fancy dog food brands, even vet-recommended, cannot afford to produce and sell such a premium dog food with added vitamins and chelated minerals. The cost is simply too high and the margins not appealing to investors. Fibers and lean turkey are used to make sure the satiety level is high while the fat content is kept as low as possible.
The Rachael Ray Nutrish range is one of the best dog foods currently available and they need your support to keep going! There are beef and salmon versions also available.
Cons of Weight Control Dog Foods
Still, many people believe that, like all foods in excess, too much low fat dog food for Fido can be bad as well. It is still good to check with your vet if your dog’s new fat-reduced diet might threaten your dog’s health. Low-fat dog food may work for normal dogs with regular diets but may have some adverse effects on pets with underlying health issues.
Dogs have been domesticated for such a long time that their digestive system has adapted to a human-like diet instead of a high-in-protein diet they had when still in the wild. Therefore, too many proteins to compensate a lower fat content could cause kidney problems in the long run.
Good and Bad Cholesterol
In humans, cholesterol exists in two sides: good and bad. The bad cholesterol, or LDL cholesterol, is what we want to avoid because it blocks arteries while the good cholesterol, or HDL cholesterol, is what we want to take to help with removing the bad cholesterol from our body, thus reducing the risks of heart diseases.
However, canine cholesterol is mostly the good one — the HDL cholesterol. Indeed, the canine’s digestive system is much better than ours at metabolizing dietary cholesterol into the good HDL type. So dog owners can relax and not worry about it.
What About Dog Treats?
Calories, carbs, fat and protein content should be observed just the same for dog treats. Only 10% of your pet’s daily meals should be comprised of dog treats, which are usually calorie-packed. Dog treats are cheap so expect horribly processed carbs and fats as main ingredients thus making them high in calories and low in health benefits.
When you know the calorie content of the dog treat, make sure you balance it with your dog’s regular meals. For instance, if your dog treats contain a lot of calories, lessen your dog’s regular food. Always have a dog treat pouch filled with tasty goodness but pay attention to what’s inside because it’s still food that is being digested by your pooch.
Avoid these Foods
You should also watch for the following human foods and don’t give them to your canine friends:
- Ice cream — Ice cream contains lactose, which may not be easily digested by your dog. Go for frozen yogurt instead. Calcium helps strengthen your dog’s bones, probiotics promote healthy bacteria for better digestion and protein helps your dog stay fit by burning fat faster.
- Almonds and Macadamia nuts — Both these nuts may block the esophagus of your dog or increase water retention. They may also affect the nervous system of your dog. Give peanuts and peanut butter instead – they are rich in protein and various vitamins respectively.
- Hotdogs and Bacon (in moderation) — Human food is for humans! And dog foods are specially formulated for dogs. These human foods may be too much for your dog so consider giving them in moderation.
Anything you would fry for yourself should obviously be avoided regardless of your dog’s diet, low fat or not. Keep the foods and meals you give to your dog as plain and simple as possible and do not use any salt, condiments, sauces. Use some dog food toppers to enhance the taste if need be.
There is no “right” way of lowering your dog’s obesity – every single dog breed is different from their eating habits. Some dogs are picky eaters while some naturally eat voraciously. While a low-fat dog food may not cater to all dogs in the world, it will surely be a great addition on your dog’s journey to weight loss.
Remember those key factors to pick the best low-fat dog food the next time you shop for Fido’s treats or meals so that you don’t compromise his health and well-being. For those only giving their dogs homemade meals, here is a video of a home-prepared recipe.