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, as well as 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.
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 also a good starting point. Your pet may need more or less food for varying reasons, such as:
- Activity Level
- 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 a key part of any weight management diet so your dog hits the ideal body weight.
Below is a sample feeding guideline for a 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 individual pet's needs, and depending on the type of 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.
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 Hill's Science Diet or Royal Canin Weight Care, while others prefer to stick to natural options like, Farmina Weight Management or Nulo Adult Trim dog food.
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 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. To hit their ideal weight they need to consume a healthy adult dog food and exercise.
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 bowls, treat 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.
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 properly balanced diet with appropriate calories needs to 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 dogs 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.
Why is My Dog Picky Eater?
If your dog is a picky eater, then you have probably spent some time trying different foods, adding tasty toppers, and maybe even cooking your dog's food at home just to coax them into eating at least some of their dinner.
The problem with this is that picky pets often struggle to maintain a healthy weight. They may be underweight because they aren't eating enough or they may be overweight because they are only eating junk food.
We know it's frustrating, but don't give up. Once a bad habit has been built, it takes time and patience to rebuild a healthier eating routine for your dog.
Maybe your dog will only eat if some tasty table scraps have been added to the meal. Or perhaps he demands variety day-to-day. Either way, your dog's picky eating habits are likely caused by one or more of these common situations:
- Over-treating and table scraps – if your dog knows that he gets a tasty snack anytime he gives you his puppy dog eyes, then he'll quickly learn to ask for those things instead of his doggy chow.
- Overfeeding – For dogs that eat some meals but turn their nose up at others, they could be telling you that they aren't hungry. He might be overeating at one meal, leaving him too full for the next.
- Lack of Variety – Dog food is designed to be fed as a sole diet, and over the years, we've been tricked into believing that dogs don't need any variety in their diets. Your dog may be feeling bored over the same old kibble day in and day out.
- Behavioural – This one is a little vague because it can cover a lot of underlying issues. Anxiety, stress, excitement, and even a good old-fashioned hissy fit can cause your dog to lose their appetite. Consider any recent changes to your dog's routine or environment. Acting out could be a response to an unwanted change in their life, like a new family member or a missing one.
- Illness - There are a number of illnesses or diseases that can affect your dog's appetite. Sudden or extreme changes to your dog's eating habits should be addressed by your vet.
If any of these sound familiar, then we have some tips to help reignite your dog's love of food and help get you and your dog back to a normal eating routine.
6 Tips for Getting Your Picky Dog to Eat Dog Food
The following tips can help you build healthier eating routines, but they won't always be easy. You won't see immediate results, and it will take time to change your dog's picky eating habits. However you proceed, you need to be patient and consistent, just like any other aspect of training
1. Tough Love
This one is hands down, the hardest tip for pet owners to wrap their heads around. That's why we started with it. If your dog is holding out for a bite of your dinner, or a handful of treats, then you need to eliminate temptation.
This means cutting out or limiting goodies and snacks. Treats and table scraps should only be used for training, if at all. No more “just because” treats. If you feed kibble, try switching your dog snacks for pieces of kibble instead.
No matter how much they beg, or how sad they look, you and everyone in your house need to stay strong! It will take some time to rewrite this routine, but you will adjust.
If this poor eating habit continues, your pup may end up with weight issues. Eating high-calorie, fatty, or sugary treats and snacks too often can cause your pet to gain unwanted weight, store fat, and interfere with proper digestion. Make sure your dog's calories come from a complete and balanced diet to help manage his weight properly.
2. Stop Switching
The first time they walk away from their food, it seems innocent to try offering them something else. Maybe it's just a new flavour of the same food, or perhaps you added a little bit of broth to spruce up the meal.
For most dogs, that's fine, but dogs are smart. They learn through repetition, so when it happens again, and they get something new, something tastier, that's how you create a snack addict. Now they know exactly which heartstrings to tug to get the good stuff.
Stop switching up their diets at the drop of a hat. It's safe and recommended to change animal proteins routinely, but trying a new food every week, or even every day, can contribute to this behaviour issue.
Sticking to one type of food in any of the weight loss diets not only helps you feed your dog fewer calories but also prevent food allergies.
3. Make Meal Time Great Again
One often-overlooked solution is to make their food fun. Just like kids, pets can be easily convinced to eat if the food is exciting. Puzzle feeders and games can be used to make your dog's dinner an exciting event instead of a boring old bowl of kibble.
Make sure that you are showing excitement too. Your dog feeds off your energy, so show some enthusiasm when you are setting up the puzzle and celebrate when they find the food and eat it.
If the standard puzzles don't seem to be exciting enough, it's time to get more creative. Make your dog work for their food and work up an appetite. Try some indoor exercises before meals to help get your dog in the mood to eat. This will burn some calories, making them hungry, and help to build healthy muscle tissue.
4. Careful of Competition
For multi-pet households, you need to be aware of how your pets interact at mealtimes. The competition may not be so friendly, and your pooch may feel bullied away from his food bowl. Feed your pets apart from each other so that everyone feels safe.
When it comes to dog/cat households, your dog may be more interested in what's in the cat food bowl, as cat food tends to be higher in protein and fat. He could be ceding his meal to leave room for theirs. Keep other pet food out of your dog's reach to eliminate the temptation.
5. Don’t Dine With Your Dog
Most of us schedule our dog's meals around the same time as our own. While that schedule is handy for most of us, it means that your dog is given his food around the same time that you'll be sitting down to your delicious-smelling meal.
Your dog knows that he'd rather eat what you are eating, so it's that much more challenging to convince them to focus on their own dish. Try adjusting your dog's feeding schedule to be offset from yours. If there is nothing better to beg for, then their own food is going to look more appealing.
6. Schedule your dog's Feedings
Having a strict feeding schedule is essential. We don't just mean putting food out at a certain time, either. Most picky eaters are holding out for something better, so they'll let their food sit until they are sure that you won't give them something different.
First - Don't offer them anything else. This is their food, and if they are hungry, they'll eat it.
Second – Only leave the food out for a short amount of time. 30 minutes is typically a reasonable time frame. It gives them a chance to try to woo you into upping the stakes (or steaks), and it also gives you time to say no.
Once that 30 minutes is up, take the food away. At their next scheduled feeding, put the food back out for them, again using the 30-minute time limit.
By now, your dog should be feeling hungry enough to have a few bites at least. Your dog may not be happy with this system, but it is the most effective way of breaking a picky dog of their poor eating habits.
One of the biggest challenges with picky eaters, especially if they've been fussy for a long time, is making sure that they are getting all the nutrients that their bodies require.
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
- Nutrient Deficiencies
- Weight Problems
No matter the quality of dog food, if your pet is basically inhaling it, then it's most likely going to 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:
- Slow Feed Bowls
- Puzzle Toys and Treat Balls
- Foraging Mats
- Cookie Sheet Method
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 size and style that are best 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 that have a raised track pattern or raised pegs that separate 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.
For some pets, this can be frustrating at first, but they should get the hang of it pretty 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.
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 if 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.
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. Let Them Play With Their Food
Sometimes is it just that simple! Let your pet play with their food and not only will they enjoy themselves, but it will slow them down enough to give their bodies a chance to properly digest.
One final way to encourage this is to simply toss your pet's food directly onto the floor, preferably a clean floor. This will give you a maximum spread and will increase the time that your pet will have 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 totally free, and it works for many pets.
Many puzzle feeders and slow feed bowls are relatively basic, and your pet is eventually going to figure out the fastest method of getting 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
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; if you can't easily feel them, your dog might be exhibiting weight gain. 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. Your dog's vet will also create a custom plan to showcase complete and balanced nutrition.
Is dog food alone enough for weight management?
Diet plays a significant role, but can be unsuccessful if your dog is lazy. Encourage regular exercise and playtime to complement their weight loss dog diet.