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10 Science-Backed Dog Weight Loss Tips

Written by Jay
BsC (Hons) Animal Behaviour & Welfare graduate with a passion for advocating for misunderstood animals.
Published on
Monday 31 August 2020
Last updated on
Tuesday 9 May 2023
science backed dog weight loss tips
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Is your dog carrying some extra weight? Our science-backed dog weight loss tips are here to help. Helping your cuddly canine to lose weight can not only add extra years to your dog’s life but can make those bonus years even more enjoyable.

At least 35 million dogs are overweight today. What’s worse, obesity in dogs can be life-threatening if allowed to continue. An overweight dog is more likely to struggle with a disabling medical condition; arthritis, diabetes, and cancer just to name a few. So, let’s take a look at 10 science-backed weight loss tips for dogs to bring up with your vet.

Dog Weight Loss Tips

In order to safely and effectively help your dog to lose weight, you must arrange an appointment with your vet. Your vet will use a variety of science-backed weight loss tips for dogs to put together a weight loss plan for your porky pup.

1. Reduce Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are associated with weight gain for a few reasons. When an animal consumes more carbohydrates than is necessary to meet energy requirements, the excess glucose needs to be stored somewhere. Insulin in the body helps to convert the excess into glycogen, which is stored in the muscles, or into fat stored in fat cells. So, it would make sense that reducing carbohydrate intake would thus reduce the amount of fat that the body stores. As well as this, there is no minimum dietary requirement for simple carbohydrates in dogs.

Commercial dog food contains anywhere from 46 to 74 percent carbohydrates. So, it’s a sensible idea to look for dog foods that are rich in meat-based protein and lower in carbohydrates (e.g. paleo diet, keto diet).

dog weight loss tips
Obesity in dogs is a common problem.

2. Increase Proteins

If your pooch is overweight, you’ll want them to burn fat while preserving muscle mass. Protein is needed for the maintenance and growth of your dog’s skeletal muscle, which is critical for mobility. So, increased dietary protein can help to preserve muscle mass in dogs during weight loss plans!

Protein is great for weight loss for several reasons. For one, protein helps animals to feel fuller for longer. Having more protein slows down digestion, providing a feeling of fullness and satisfaction for longer. In addition, it takes more energy to digest protein than carbohydrates. This means that digesting protein burns more calories. Furthermore, fat cannot be effectively burned and used as energy without help from either protein or carbohydrates. If you want to boost your pup’s protein intake, be sure to look for high-quality dog food with real meat as its protein source. The food should also be complete and balanced.

3. Don’t Overdo Fiber

While it may be tempting to simply give your dog more dietary fiber, doing so can actually hamper their weight loss and cause nutritional imbalances. Eating too much fiber can cause bloating and nutritional deficiencies.

In the long run, this lack of proper nutrient absorption can negatively affect your dog’s muscle gain. As well as this, dietary fiber can also cause bloating, excessive gas production, and abdominal pain.

4. Design a Weight Loss Plan

It’s best to come up with your weight loss plan with a veterinary nutritionist. First, you’ll need to confirm with your vet that your furry friend is in fact overweight. This might sound like an unnecessary step, but many owners mistakenly believe that their dogs aren’t overweight until a vet weighs them during a check-up. Getting confirmation will also help your vet to determine how many calories your dog needs throughout their weight loss plan.

When you take your dog to the vet, be honest about your dog’s activity level and the amount that they eat. This includes mentioning any treats, table scraps, and other extras. You will also need to describe the amount that your pet eats every day. This way, your vet can better help you to establish your pet’s new feeding regime. Only you and your veterinarian can accurately determine how many calories your dog needs per day. Once this decision is made, it’s time for you to figure out the best feeding schedule for your pooch!

5. Reduce Your Dog’s Food Portions

Precise measurements and staying consistent are critical to accurately giving the right amount of calories to your dog. However, many owners will pour food into their pet’s bowl without properly acknowledging the quantity of said food.

As well as this, there’s no standardization for feeding recommendations on dog foods. The numbers vary significantly between different brands. In fact, up to 80 percent of feeding recommendations in pet stores and online may be inaccurate. As such, it’s best to calculate the number of calories in your pet’s food, then check the number per portion.

Make sure that you talk with your vet about your dog’s current portions and how you measure their food. If your vet agrees that your dog should lose weight, it’s best to use something constant to measure the food. Whether this is scales, a cup or a scoop, you can be sure that you are providing your pooch with the same amount of food every day, and adjust this accordingly. Your vet may ask that you use a smaller cup or scoop to measure your dog’s food.

6. Increase Exercise

Of course, more exercise will help your dog to lose weight. If your dog needs to lose weight, it’s best to encourage slow and steady increases in their exercise throughout the plan. Before you do this, however, it’s important that you take your pet for a vet checkup. Starting more vigorous exercise with a dog who has underlying health problems could cause them pain and distress.

The first change to make is to increase the intensity and length of your daily walks. The average dog doesn’t walk at a pace that brings the elevated heart rate necessary for sustained aerobic activity. The average pace of a dog is 20 – 25 minutes per mile. As such, walking your dog for weight loss will be different from walking for pleasure. If your dog has been inactive for a long time, it’s best to begin with brisk five-minute walks. From here, the goal is to work your way up to a brisk 10 to 20-minute walk either once or twice each day. Over time, a brisk 30-minute walk, five days a week, can be considered.

There are situations where you and your dog might not be able to exercise much. For dogs with limited mobility, or if you are unable to provide brisk walks due to your own mobility, speak with your vet about physical therapy and low-impact exercises (as opposed to dog bodybuilding). These might include swimming or even walking on an underwater treadmill!

exercise for weight loss
Increasing your dog’s exercise will help it lose the extra weight.

7. Use Dog Weight Loss Supplements

As with humans, many diet pills have been trialed for weight loss in dogs. However, only dirlotapide, developed especially for dogs, is safe and effective. Dirlotapide inhibits an intestinal enzyme that would normally help to absorb fats. Whilst the unabsorbed fats accumulate in the intestinal cells, a hormonal response is triggered that signals to the brain to stop eating.

In short, it tricks your dog into feeling full after a small meal. During this treatment, it’s vital that your dog continues to eat their normal maintenance food. This helps them to gain enough protein and other essential nutrients. Home-made diets are not recommended during diet pill treatment. This is because they can promote inadequate intake of some nutrients, especially fat-soluble vitamins like vitamins A, E, and K.

We don’t recommend giving weight loss supplements to your pet without veterinary guidance. These can do more harm than good, especially when given in large amounts. Dirlotapide, the only safe and effective diet pill for dogs, can be prescribed by a vet as part of an overall weight loss plan for obese dogs.

8. Cut Back on Treats

Treats count in your dog’s calorie intake and need to be reduced. That’s not to say that your dog can never eat treats again! You can give your well-behaved pooch low-calorie treats. Just remember to account for these treats in your dog’s overall calorie plan. Even better, instead of traditional treats, you can use part of your dog’s daily food portion to reward them after exercise.

For some dogs, safe fruits and vegetables make for new and exciting treats. Green beans not only have a satisfying crunch, but are very low in calories. In addition, baby carrots only contain around four calories each.

9. Weigh Your Pooch

One of the most important parts of your dog’s weight-loss regime is to check that it’s working. This means you need to monitor your dog’s progress. For large dogs, you may need to schedule regular weigh-ins at the vet for the most accurate results. For smaller breeds, weigh your pooch at least every one or two weeks at home with a precise dog scale. You can do this on a regular scale. First, weigh yourself. Then, weigh yourself whilst holding your dog. Subtract the first result from the second result. For more accurate weigh-ins, you can buy pet scales online.

10. Incorporate the Right Fats

It may seem like eliminating fats from your dog’s diet for weight loss is a good idea. However, your dog needs fats to be healthy and happy. There are five essential fatty acids (EFAs) that your dog needs in their diet. These are polyunsaturated fats that your dog can’t make by themselves.

The concept of “good” and “bad” fats doesn’t necessarily translate into dog nutrition. Dogs and cats can eat both types of fats in their diets without undue risk of heart attacks, strokes, and coronary artery disease. The simple reason for this is that dogs have more good cholesterol than bad cholesterol to begin with. This is a mechanism that protects them from cardiac diseases that affect humans. Second, dogs are more resistant to hypercholesterolemia and atherosclerosis than humans. With that being said, saturated fats do cause a slight increase in blood cholesterol in dogs. It’s just not enough to cause the same health problems that we find in humans.

Dog Weight Loss Tips – FAQs

Got any burning questions about science-backed weight loss tips for dogs? Our Frequently Asked Questions section should help to clarify our scientific weight loss tips. If in doubt, always ask your vet for advice.

How Long Does it Take for a Dog to Lose Weight?

Your dog should lose 1 to 2 percent of their initial weight per week. The best way to keep track of your dog’s weight loss is frequent weigh-ins. Once a week, you should weigh your pooch. Small and medium breeds can be weighed at home, whereas large and giant breeds might fare better on the vet’s scales. If your dog isn’t losing 1 to 2 percent of their body weight per week, talk to your vet about updating your pet’s weight loss plan. Your vet may suggest a different number of calories, smaller portions, or a change in the amount of carbohydrates that your dog eats.

Due to the slow progression of weight loss, a dramatic improvement often takes several weeks to months. The key to your dog’s weight loss is your persistence. It’s important that you don’t give in to temptation throughout the weight loss plan – don’t give those extra treats, table scraps, or foods that aren’t included in the plan.

dog weekly weight loss
Do weekly weigh ins to make sure you pup is right on track.

How Much Should I Feed my Dog to Lose Weight?

In order to accurately decide how much to feed your dog to lose weight, it’s best to consult with your vet. A veterinary nutritionist can put together a precise plan for your furry friend. This includes specific portion sizes, calorie counts, and exercises that are tailored to your special pooch. If your dog doesn’t lose weight efficiently, your vet will alter your dog’s weight loss plan for them.

It’s important that you stick to the food measurements set by your vet. This will ensure that your dog is getting just the right amount of calories with each meal. You may use a cup, scoop, or scales to measure the precise amount. In some cases, your vet might give you an appropriately-sized scoop for your pet.

What can I Feed a Dog on a Diet?

Whilst your dog is on a weight-loss plan, your vet will instruct you on how to feed your pet. It’s important that you stick to this plan. This means that you shouldn’t feed your pet extra treats, no matter how much they might beg for some. It also means not giving your pet any table scraps.

If you want to feed your dog treats during their diet, it’s best to stick with low-calorie treats. These treats must be accounted for in your dog’s weight-loss plan. To give the least amount of calories possible, some owners offer safe fruits and vegetables to their pet as a treat. Even better, instead of traditional treats, you can use part of your dog’s daily food portion to reward them after exercise.

Does Walking a Dog Help Lose Weight?

Walking can help your dog to lose weight. However, walking for leisure and walking for weight loss are two very different things. In order to sustain aerobic activity, your dog’s walk must be at a brisk pace, with minimal stops for sniffing. Your vet might suggest that you incorporate brisk walking into your pet’s weight loss plan.

For previously inactive dogs, brisk walks up to five minutes are best. This can be increased to a brisk 10 to 20 minute walk once your dog is comfortable with the five-minute walk. The end goal should be a brisk 30 minute walk for five days of the week. Keeping up a faster pace for longer will help your pooch to burn more calories. Just be aware of their limits, and never push them too far. This is especially true for dogs who were inactive before their weight-loss plan began.

By discussing your dog’s eating habits with your vet, you can design a weight-loss plan that works for your furry friend. While you shouldn’t attempt to change your dog’s diet this drastically without veterinary supervision, it’s advisable for you to bring up these 10 science-backed dog weight loss tips with your vet to find what works for your dog!

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