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Weight Loss for Dogs

The following items represent some of The Dog Food Advisor’s most frequently asked questions about dog weight loss.

Mike Sagman

By Mike Sagman

Updated: March 7, 2024

What’s the secret to canine weight loss?

In her article, How to Help Your Overweight Dog Lose Weight, Dr. Donna Spector, a well-known veterinary specialist, shares her secret to predictable weight loss…

Dogs that consume fewer calories than they burn… lose weight.

What about a senior or lite dog food? Can one of these help my overweight pet?

We’re not a big fan of senior or lite dog foods. Most (but not all) of them achieve their lower calorie content by cutting protein (meat) and increasing carbohydrates… a diet that works no better for dogs than it does for us humans.

Good weight loss isn’t just about cutting calories. It’s also about restricting carbs.

How can carbohydrates contribute to weight problems?

Just like with humans, carbohydrates (especially the refined type) cause the pancreas to produce more insulin. And insulin induces a dog’s body to store fat.

So, if you decide to switch dog foods, try favoring recipes with lower carbohydrate content. Think “Atkins for dogs”. Look for a product with more meat and fewer grains or potatoes (fewer carbs).

Although calories per serving are important (too), you can always cut back on serving size.

My dog has become overweight with his current food. Should I switch to a different brand?

Excessive weight in dogs is nearly always a matter of calories… and not the brand of food. Each recipe contains a different amount of calories.

In most cases, simply cutting back on the number of calories fed should allow most dogs to lose weight.

How can I cut back on the number of calories fed?

There are two ways to reduce the number of calories fed…

  • Reduce the size of each serving
  • Use a food with fewer calories per serving

How can I determine my dog’s ideal weight?

The best way to determine your dog’s ideal weight is to use the exact same 9-point scale used by veterinarians… the Purina Body Condition System.

The technique works by comparing your dog’s appearance to a standardized diagram and feeling for your dog’s ribs and frame.

After examining your dog, simply choose one of these three basic categories…

    • Too thin

    • Ideal

    • Too heavy

Adjust your dog’s current weight up or down to estimate what you believe might be your pet’s ideal weight.

You can also visit the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention for some suggested weight ranges for specific breeds.

Or read our article, How to Find Your Dog’s Ideal Weight.

How can I estimate the number of calories required for weight loss?

Once you know your dog’s ideal weight, you can use the Advisor’s dog food calculator to determine this important number.

What should I look for in a quality weight loss dog food?

Dr. Spector suggests feeding your pet a dog food containing…

  • Above-average protein1
  • Below-average fat2
  • Below-average calories3

Where can I find a list of suggested dog foods for weight loss?

To see a list of The Dog Food Advisor’s current recommendations, be sure to read Dog Foods for Weight Loss.

Can low-fat dog foods help my dog lose weight?

Recent research suggests that dog foods low in fat may also be helpful in canine weight loss. Unfortunately, most low-fat recipes are also low in meat content, too.

For a list of dog foods that are not only low in fat but also high in protein, please visit our article, Suggested Low Fat Dog Foods.


1: Average protein: 29% (dry) and 40% (canned)

2: Average fat: 16% (kibble) and 23% (canned)

3: 250-350 calories per 8-ounce cup kibble or per 13-ounce can

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