Weight Loss Dog Food: Managing Your Dog's Weight

21 Minute Read
Updated January 20, 2022

You're sitting on your couch, enjoying a relaxing snuggle with your pooch, and suddenly you think, "Wait?! Fido is feeling a little squishier than normal... Is my dog getting fat?" Losing weight is a challenge.

Or maybe you're experiencing the opposite. As you give your doggo a well-deserved belly rub, you notice that you can feel more of her rib cage than usual. Maintaining a healthy weight with some dogs is just as much of a struggle.

In this article, we will explore what you feed your dog, such as foods that help your dog lose weight or gain weight, depending on their unique needs.


Choosing Appropriate Dog Food

Obesity in pets can be a very serious and potentially life-threatening issue, and in a 2017 clinical study, an estimated 60% of cats and 57% of dogs were either overweight or obese! Animals with weight problems are more likely to develop diabetes, hip dysplasia, and arthritis, all of which lower their quality of life and leave pet owners with hefty vet bills.

Having weight problems will decrease your pet's lifespan and damage their well-being.

Just as with people, dietary requirements are not as simple as "calories in" vs. "calories out." What and how much you feed your dog will depend on the type and size of your dog, their activity levels, their life stage, any genetic predispositions and the type and quality of their food.

Here are a few things to consider when choosing the best dog food for your fat pooch, even if your  dog is a picky eater:

1. Foods for Different Life Stages


Using the appropriate type of dog food for your pet's life stage can make a huge difference. It can help prevent obesity and assist an overweight dog in shedding pounds. 

The standard timeline to switch your puppy off of growth formulas is around 12 months, and even later for larger growing breeds.

Puppy formulas are often higher in calories, protein, and fat and have the potential to cause your pet to gain a few pounds if fed for too long. If your pet is still growing into its adult frame, juvenile foods are an important source of quality nutrients to build muscle and provide energy for them to develop.

Using the 9-point Body Conditioning Score, you can routinely check your pet's weight and development to indicate if you are ready to change from a growth formula to a maintenance dog food.

2. Avoid Foods with Filler Ingredients


Foods high in fillers, salt, animal by-products, and other poor-quality ingredients can lead to chronic digestive problems, including dehydration, increased stool output, and the feeling of never being satisfied, causing your pet to keep returning to the food dish.

High-glycemic foods are digested quicker than lower-glycemic foods, even though they may contain the same amount of calories. In this way, you may find your pet consuming more calories throughout the day, feeling more hungry, and therefore gaining more weight on foods with high filler content.

If you want to encourage weight loss in dogs, you'll want to avoid fillers in dog food.

3. Grain Free Dog Food

A grain-free diet is often linked to the term low-glycemic and is recommended as ideal weight management food, but watch out! Some grain-free formulas are still very calorie-dense and not any lower in carbs than formulas with grains.

Simply replacing grains with white rice or potatoes will not lower the food's effect on your dog's blood sugar levels. A carb-heavy food is not a good idea when picking weight management dog food.

Instead of going with only grain-free diets, try going grain-friendly. Choose food with healthy, lower glycemic, whole-grain choices such as oats, barley, grain corn, whole-grain brown rice, or rye. These ingredients will still provide energy but will digest slower and distribute more evenly over time.

Grain-friendly foods can be just as healthy as grain-free formulas. With any diet, look at each ingredient individually to determine if they're right for your pet.

Blanket terms like low-fat dog food and grain-free dog food are often used to give you the impression that the food is better for your pet than another, but the quality of the individual ingredients needs to be assessed to determine if they are right for you.

4. Diet Dog Food Formulas

One fairly simple option is to try a dog diet specifically designed for weight loss. These foods are typically lower in calories and fat and have a higher fibre content to encourage slower and more efficient digestion.

Foods rich in peas, lentils, oats, barley, or sweet potatoes are a better choice to improve digestion and help your pet feel fuller after mealtime, reducing cravings and begging.

Not all weight loss dog foods are ideal for every dog's weight management needs. It's important to understand that how much you feed and how many calories are in each meal are just part of the solution to obesity and not the only factor.

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5. The Less-Processed Difference

Processed foods just don't compare with whole food ingredients. In addition, less processed foods have a much higher moisture content than standard kibble, which ensures proper hydration and can help your pet feel more full.

While a homemade cooked or raw diet is not for everyone, the difference it can make in your pet's health and weight can be significant. Even if you don't have the time or tools to ensure your pet is getting all the proper nutrients in a homemade diet, there are ways to make less processed, whole food choices when it comes to your

Here are a few commercially made options:


Dog Weight Loss Goes Beyond Food

Choosing any of these options, or incorporating them into your pet's diet, even as a supplement, can help your pet use calories and nutrients more effectively. These typical dog foods lose fewer nutrients during processing and, as a result, can help your pup maintain a healthy body weight.

If you have a dog who is overweight, even by a little bit, it's time to change. Check how much you are feeding your pet. Feeding guidelines on your dog food label are only recommendations but they are a good starting point. Your pet may need more or less food for varying reasons, such as:

    • Activity Level
    • Mobility
    • Age
    • Breed
    • Anxiety
    • Health Conditions

All of these factors can change how much you should be feeding. When adjusting feeding portions, go slow. We recommend cutting or increasing your dog's meals by no more than 10% at a time. Portion control is key to any weight management diet so your dog hits the ideal body weight.

Below is a sample feeding guideline for premium weight management dog food. Notice that there are two sets of guidelines, one for maintenance and one for weight loss. Weight management foods are marketed for weight loss but are also a great tool for maintaining healthy weight in pets that are prone to weight issues, seniors and pets with very sedentary lifestyles.

These guidelines are a great tool to start with and can be adjusted as needed to suit your pet's needs, depending on the dog food you decide to feed.

Feeding Guidelines for Weight Management Dog Foods

Weight of Dog (kg/lb)

Weight Maintenance (g/cup)*

Weight Loss (g/cup)*

 5kg / 11lb

 60g / ½ cup

 60g / 1/2 cup

10kg / 22lb

120g / 1 cup

90g /  ¾ cup

20kg / 44lb

180g / 1½ cups

180g / 1½ cups

30kg / 66lb

270g / 2¼ cups

240g / 2 cups

40kg / 88lb

320g / 2⅔ cups

300g / 2½ cups

50kg / 110lb

360g / 3 cups

360g / 3 cups

60kg / 132lb

420g / 3½ cups

390g / 3⅓ cups

*120 grams = 1 cup

The regular dog food guidelines better help you control your dog's weight loss. They outline what you can do for better health, and weight loss maintenance to weight loss may not seem like much, but weight loss requires small changes.

Check out our calorie calculator to help find the most appropriate feeding guidelines for your doggo's weight control. Also, take into consideration your dog's breed, size, and life stage. You'll also need to decide if you want to feed dry or wet food.Dog Food Calorie Calculator

Remember to pick the right weight loss dog food for your pet's needs. Some pet owners opt to go with Vet formulated brands, such as Vetdiet Weight Control or Royal Canin Weight Care, while others prefer to stick to natural options like, Farmina Weight Management or Nutram Ideal Solutions Weight Control

At Homes Alive Pets, we carry a wide range of weight management, weight loss, and low-carb dog food diets to help your pet trim down and stay healthy.


Weight loss diets for dogs often require you to adjust portions as your dog starts to shed pounds. Be careful not to put your pet on a starvation diet. It's better to slowly decrease meal sizes than to drastically cut meals. 

Cutting calories or reducing feedings too much, too fast will not help your pet lose weight and keep it off, or worse, you could be dropping weight off of your dog too quickly, which can lead to malnutrition and muscle depletion.

Remember that diet works best in combination with exercise and balanced nutrition, and you can't expect your dog to increase activity levels if they don't have enough energy to expend. They need to consume healthy adult dog food and exercise to hit their ideal weight.

Slow Feeding

Many pets, especially food-motivated ones, will often gorge themselves. Either they get too excited at the prospect of eating, or they feel that another animal in the house might sneak in and steal a few bites of their precious food.

How they digest their food can be affected by how quickly they are "inhaling" it. Dogs who skip chewing or take enormous mouthfuls at a time are much less likely to properly digest and utilize the calories.

Slowing them down will improve their digestion and maximize their weight loss program. Slow feed bowlstreat puzzle toys, and a variety of other feeding toys can be very useful to help your dog take smaller bites and encourage chewing. Learn more about how to correct your dog's behaviour of eating too fast.

Treats are Calories Too

Cutting back portions and choosing lower calorie diets is one part of weight loss, but don't forget that dog treats contribute to their daily calorie intake too. Treats typically offer less balanced nutrition than food, so if your goal is to cut back, then treats are a good place to start.

How many treats a day for a dog is a common question asked by pet parents, and the answer depends on the type of treat. You have to look at the overall calorie content to decide where to start trimming. Larger treats, like bully sticks and other natural chews, serve a functional purpose but may have to be fed less frequently to accommodate your dog's diet. 

Treat training is highly effective but loaded with extra calories. Switch to smaller treats or break up your dog's regular training snacks into smaller pieces. This will allow you to continue training effectively without compromising their weight management journey.


Lifestyle Changes for Dog Weight Loss


Food is not the only thing to consider when managing your pet's weight. While it's a big part of your pet's healthy weight, food is just one part of the equation. A balanced diet with appropriate calories must be combined with a healthy and active lifestyle.

An active lifestyle is recommended for all pets as a necessary step to weight loss and maintenance. If your pup is carrying excess weight, then you'll need to start feeding low fat dog foods and modify the adult dog's lifestyle with exercise.

Getting into a routine of physical activity is not always easy for overweight pets, but every little bit counts. Find fun ways to increase your pet's daily physical activity.



Picky Dogs Will Struggle With Weight

It may seem a little backwards to think that dogs that frequently refuse to eat their dog food might become overweight, but it's actually a common cause of dog weight issues. Inconsistent or poorly balanced diets can lead to gorging, poor calorie distribution, and even low energy levels.  

When your dog turns their nose up at their regular dinner, you may think the best course of action is to offer them something "tastier" or try to spruce up their meal with treats or human foods. In moderation that can be effective, but it can quickly escalate into extreme pickiness and very bad eating habits.

In most cases of picky eaters, dogs will learn that if they hold out long enough, they will get something better. Each time you give in, you reinforce this behaviour, making it more and more difficult to correct. 

Good Eating Habits Lead to Healthy Dog Weight

One of the most effective ways to help your dog achieve and maintain a healthy way is to build a consistent and balanced meal plan and stick to it. Here are a few tips for encouraging good eating habits:

    • No Substitutions - Your dog refuses his food because he hopes you will offer him something better, like table scraps and treats. The more you give in and try to bribe them into eating, the more stubborn they are going to be about getting what they want. 
    • Don't Give Up Too Quickly - Changing dog foods every time your pup refuses his dinner will also lead to more picky eating behaviours. Find a complete and balanced dog diet and stick to it. 
    • Play a Game - Making meals fun is a great way to encourage better eating habits without changing their diet. Use puzzle toys, snuffle mats, or challenging games to make their plain old kibble exciting.

These simple tricks are often effective if you stick with them. By building better eating habits in your dog, you can help ensure they are eating appropriate portions regularly and help support activity levels and digestion. Feeding a complete and balanced diet will support all systems of your pet's body and will contribute to fat loss and muscle maintenance.


My Pup Eats Dog Food Too Fast

It's dinnertime, and your pet is chomping at the bit. You barely get the bowl to the floor before they voraciously start eating their food way too fast. You think to yourself, "Slow down! Don't you need to breathe?!?" but before you can intervene, your pet has basically inhaled their entire meal.

For many pet owners, this is an all too familiar routine. If you are concerned that your dog eats too fast, or if you notice that your cat is regurgitating their food shortly after meals, then slow feeder bowls, or other slow feed methods, might be the perfect choice for you.

Side Effects of Eating Dog Food Too Fast

Lots of dogs and cats love food, and they often gorge themselves as if food is going out of style. It may seem cute or funny, but this poor eating habit can actually cause more problems than you think!

These are some of the most common repercussions of your pet eating too fast:

    • Bad Breath
    • Loose stool
    • Gas
    • Bloat
    • Regurgitation
    • Nutrient Deficiencies
    • Weight Problems

No matter the quality of dog food, if your pet is basically inhaling it, it will most likely cause at least a few of these problems.

4 Tips to Help Your Dog Eat Slower


Now that we understand some of the reasons to take our pet's hurried eating seriously let's take a look at some of the most fun and engaging slow-feed options for dogs and cats- as well as some of the coolest and easiest DIY versions.

Here are our favourite ways to feed dog food and treats:

Keep in mind that most of these methods work best with kibble or similar textured foods. Although other dog foods can be used, like canned and raw, they will create a much bigger mess and may not be suitable for all slow feed options.

1. Slow Feed Bowls

Slow feed bowls come in all shapes and sizes, all with the purpose of helping your pets pace themselves during mealtime. Try to choose the best size and style for your pet's face shape and food format.

Offering a slow feed bowl that is the wrong size or style may result in your pet becoming frustrated and refusing to eat, or on the contrary, it may defeat the purpose by not being challenging enough.

Most commonly, we see dishes with a raised track pattern or raised pegs separating portions of food in the bowl, encouraging the pet to use their tongue and only allowing for a small portion of food to be grabbed at a time.

This can be frustrating for some pets at first, but they should get the hang of it quickly! Another benefit to slow-feed bowls is that they also provide some welcomed mental stimulation for your playful pet!

DIY Slow-Feed Bowls

It's really quite amazing how many ways you can create a slow feed bowl using simple household items. The most basic method is to grab a tennis ball, a rock, or even a smaller bowl and place it in your pet's food bowl. This eliminates the majority of the space that would allow them to grab food by the mouthful.

Some sneaky pets will figure out your tricks by simply picking up the object and removing it from their bowls.

That's OK, we're even sneakier! Simply use non-toxic hot glue or silicone to permanently adhere the object to the bowl, and your pet will have to figure out how to work its way around the obstruction.

2. Puzzle Toys and Treat Balls



Contrary to their name, treat balls can be used for more than just snacks. For pets suffering from obesity, a treat ball is a great way to feed a full meal (kibble being the ideal format) and really make them work for their food.

This will encourage more mental and physical activity, while still dropping their eating speed significantly.

Puzzle toys tend to have more steps than a treat ball, providing even more of a challenge for smart pets. Offering meals or even snacks in a puzzle toy will encourage your pet's problem-solving instincts, allowing them to use their nose and paws to figure out how to reach the food.

DIY Puzzle Toys

Depending on your creativity, DIY versions of either treat balls or puzzle toys can be as simple or as complicated as you want. Here are a few for you to try:

Tennis Ball Treats

A really simple method to make your own treat ball is to make a few incisions in a tennis ball and stuff it with kibble. This will be slightly more challenging than a typical treat ball because your pet may have to move the ball a little more aggressively to get the food out.

Muffin Tin

Puzzle toys can actually be quite simple to make too. Grab a muffin tin and put some food in each of the empty cups. This will force your pet to empty each cup separately, limiting the amount of food they can grab at one time.

To make a more challenging game out of it, cover each muffin cup with a tennis ball. This way, your pet will have to use their mouth or paws to remove the ball before they can start chowing down on the food. This method is best used with larger dogs.

Plastic Bottles

For an option that is a little more cat and small-dog-friendly, rinse out a plastic bottle and make 1-3 holes of varying sizes. Try not to make the holes too large; you don't want the kibble to pour out of the holes too easily!

3. Foraging Mats

Foraging mats also called snuffle mats, are a unique way to slow feed your pet. These mats are typically square or rectangular grated mats, made of plastic or rubber, with thin pieces of fabric tied in between each grate.

Pour your pet's dog food right onto the mat and give it a little shimmy to allow the kibble to sink down in between the strips of fabric. Your dog or cat's natural foraging instincts will tell them to head to the mat, nose first, and start foraging for buried treasure.

DIY Snuffle Mats

Snuffle mats are actually pretty simple to make, but they are a bit more time-consuming than most of our DIY projects. Plastic or rubber pieces of grated mats can be purchased from hardware stores by the square foot, and strips of fabric can be recycled from old t-shirts, towels, or socks.

Each piece of fabric can be tied in a simple knot around each grate in the mat, and Ta-Da! You've got yourself a foraging mat.

The closer together or thicker the fabric is, the more challenging the activity will be. To encourage your pet to really dig, try adding a few small pieces of their favourite treats, preferably something with a strong scent to catch their attention.

4. Cookie Sheet Method

Dog eating kibble off floor

Like a slow feed bowl, you can slow down your pet's voracious eating by spreading the food on a large cookie sheet. This forces them to eat slower and makes meals a bit of a hunt as they chase each morsel down.

An even easier way to try this trick is to simply toss your pet's food directly onto the floor, preferably a clean floor, and ideally with dry foods like kibble. This will give you a maximum spread and increase your pet's time to hunt for each piece of kibble.

This method may require supervision and some cleanup, so it may not be the best option for you, but it's free and works for many pets.

Many puzzle feeders and slow feed bowls are relatively basic, and your pet will eventually figure out the fastest way to get to their snacks. To keep the excitement fresh, rotate your toys and slow feeders to prevent them from losing their appeal.

Your pet will be more excited to “play with their food” when they frequently have new and challenging formats to choose from.


Frequently Asked Questions About Weight Loss Dog Food

What is the best food for dog weight loss?

Dog foods that are high in protein and low in carbs are ideal for weight loss and muscle development. Brands like Orjien, Vetdiet, go! Solutions, and Carna4 are all excellent options for supporting healthy weight.

How do I know if my dog is overweight?

You can check by feeling their ribs; your dog might be exhibiting weight gain if you can't easily feel them. Your vet is an excellent resource for deciding the appropriate weight and muscle mass for your pooch.

What health problems can result from canine obesity?

Overweight dogs are at risk for diabetes, joint issues, and heart disease, among other conditions.

What's the first step in helping my canine with healthy weight loss?

Consult your vet to determine a safe weight loss plan tailored to your dog's needs. This can include diet changes, portion control, exercise, supplements, and in extreme cases, medications.

Is dog food alone enough for weight management?

Diet plays a significant role but can be unsuccessful if your dog is sedentary. Encourage regular exercise and playtime to complement their weight loss dog diet, and talk to your vet.


Written by

Krystn Janisse

Krystn is a passionate pet nutrition enthusiast. She has worked in the pet industry for over a decade and loves to share her passion for animal welfare with others. She is currently working for one very rebellious cat, Jack, and hanging out with a goofy but loveable doggo named Roxy.


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