If you weren’t in control of when you ate, what you ate, or how much you were served, do you think that you’d be able to maintain a healthy weight? For some people, the answer may be yes – but for others, depending on who was behind their meals, the answer could be a resounding no. Dogs have this exact issue, and it’s why pet obesity has become a huge problem.
The Dangers of Obesity for Pets
Overeating, or eating food that isn’t formulated to maintain a healthy weight, can cause dogs to live up to three years less than they would have on average, according to multiple studies. For many dogs, three years represents 20% of their total lifespan – all gone if obesity-related diseases and health issues are allowed to develop.
There are a lot of ways to help a dog lose weight and maintain a healthy weight. However, paying attention to how much your dog is eating, and what kind of food, is probably the easiest way to ensure that your dog is staying trim. Did you know that most dogs are being over-fed an addition 25% what they truly need for a healthy weight?
If you aren’t sure if your dog is overweight, it’s easy to tell. Reach around your dog’s middle and feel their ribs. While most breeds shouldn’t have visible ribs to the eye (although some lean breeds, like Whippets, do have visible ribs when healthy), you should be able to feel the ribs on any breed. You should be able to easily feel and even count the ribs with your hands, even if you can’t see them.
Another way to check is to look at your dog while standing over them. Right behind the shoulders and ribs, before the rump starts, your dog should have a very defined waist. And if you look at your dog from the side while they are standing, the ribs should be the most prominent thing hanging down – the stomach should taper back up towards the spine.
The Right Kind of Food for Healthy Weight
There are several characteristics of a food that you should pay attention to when it comes to your dog’s weight. These characteristics are for dry food, which is the healthiest for any dog because it aids in dental health.
- The primary ingredient should be protein, and the food formula should be more than 30% protein overall.
- The food formula should be less than 15% fat overall.
- One cup of the food should have fewer than 400 calories.
If your dog can only eat canned, wet food, make sure that the protein is over 40%, the fat is under 23%, and the calories are fewer than 400 calories per cup.
Ideally, any kind of food you pick for your dog should have animal protein listed as the first ingredient, followed by real vegetables. Look for foods that don’t include many binders and starches – dogs simply don’t need them when they are trying to watch their weight.
Excellent Brands to Try
Some of the best brands of dog food for an overweight dog include:
Acana Dog Food
Acana is one of the most well-known natural dog foods for weight loss. The formula checks off every characteristic listed above, with high-quality animal protein as the first ingredient, no fillers or artificial ingredients, a very low fat content, and a low calorie count per serving. The line also offers a ton of flavors, something that other brands like Hills Science are lacking in.
Blue Buffalo Dry Dog Food
Blue Buffalo is a dog food formulated with a variety of supplements, including antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and so on, that help to make your dog healthier. The formula is “cold-firmed”, a process that makes these supplements last longer without added preservatives in the food. The rest of the formula is made up of animal protein and natural ingredients, in a low-calorie serving. This food is more than just a weight-loss formula, but truly focuses on helping reduce toxins and improving the immune system in a dog.
Halo Spot’s Stew Dry Dog Food
Halo Spot’s is a dog food that is specifically formulated for overweight dogs. It is an easy-to-digest food that includes ingredients like turkey, duck, and vegetables. It is GMO-free, preservative-free, and free of all artificial flavoring and colors – all great things for your dog. It’s also a very low calorie food, which keeps your pup lean. What makes this food stand out is the L-carnitine in the formula, which is a bio-available nutrient that helps boost a dog’s metabolism.
Hills Science Diet Dry Dog Food
Hills Science is a brand frequently recommended by vets for dogs that are overweight. This food is carefully formulated to give dogs all their nutritional needs in a lower-calorie serving. Supplements are added to this food to ensure that your dog still has plenty of energy and maintains good health while they are losing weight. The ingredients otherwise are high-protein, low-fat ingredients.
Orijen Dry Dog Food
Orijen Dog Food is a low-calorie dog food that is known for using only natural ingredients to boost a dog’s nutrition. Instead of incorporating supplements, the formula is made with meat ingredients, vegetables, and fruits that help give a dog a balanced diet. There are no fillers or grains in any of their formulas, and they have several very low-calorie recipes like fish and chicken flavors.
Purina Pro Plan Dog Food
This is one of the few weight-loss dog foods on this list that can be easily found in most supermarket pet aisles. The special Pro Plan line of Purina Dog Food is a line specifically made for athletic dogs who need quality nutrition. You do have to be careful to follow the portion size directions, because this food is not as low-fat as other brands. However, the brand offers high-quality meat and simple starch formulas, like lamb and rice.
Taste of the Wild Dry Dog Food
Taste of the Wild has made its name by offering a dog food that gets your dog back to a diet that their ancestors would have eaten. Extremely high in quality protein, typically turkey and chicken, this dog food is totally grain free, and free of preservatives. The meat ingredients are smoked to help them stay fresh, and the formula doesn’t use any meat by-products. All of the ingredients are human-grade quality, meaning there’s nothing in this food that you yourself couldn’t eat (though we don’t recommend the taste).
Victor Dog Food
Victor Dog Food was specifically designed for senior dogs that need to lose weight when they can’t exercise as much as they used to. It’s a grain-free, artificial ingredient-free formula, that includes plenty of protein, but not a lot of fat or calories. Your dog stays full thanks to the big helping of protein, so they don’t feel deprived while they lose out on some calories that they no longer burn off.
Wellness CORE Dry Dog Food
This dog food is another that was specifically designed for dogs that need to lose weight. The formula is primarily high-quality meat, along with vegetables, plant ingredients, and supplements to boost a dog’s nutrition. And that’s it! There are no corn ingredients, soy, wheat, or any other grains, and no artificial additives. Just like other fat-loss dog foods, it has a ton of protein and L-carnitine to get the metabolism going.
How Much Should I Feed My Dog?
All dog foods have a weight chart on the back that indicates how much your dog should be eating. Choose the weight range where your dog should be if they were healthy, and feed them that amount. So if your dog is currently 80 pounds, but the healthy weight for their breed and size is about 60 pounds, feed them the amount of food that is listed on the portion chart for a dog of 60 pounds.
You don’t have to feed your dog all at once. You can try splitting their food up into multiple meals a day if they tend to scarf their food down and then mope all day about the smaller portion. Be sure to ask your vet if you are choosing the right portion size for your dog’s weight management strategy.
Remember that treats count as part of a dog’s daily calorie count. If they’ve had their allotted calories for the day, giving them a treat will not help your goal to keep their weight down. Choose low-calorie snacks that will keep your dog motivated but also protect their health.
One Thing to Remember
It’s hard to resist the begging puppy eyes. Your dog wants that food because food is great. But just remember that the more you overfeed your dog, the more time you may be stealing from their life with you. Keep a firm hand on portion control and calorie count for your dog to ensure that they’ll be around for as long as possible.
Ash Babariya is the co-creator of Simply for Dogs and a life-long dog lover. Ash’s many adventures at the local dog park with her Boxers, Janice and Leroy, have turned her into the local “crazy dog lady”. She shares those adventures, as well as her research into the world of dogs, around the web to promote well-informed pet owning. Ash, Janice, and Leroy share a home in the Midwest with a brood of hens, all sorts of wild critters, and the occasional litter of puppies.
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