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How to Help Your Dog Lose Weight Safely and Effectively

Is your dog overweight or obese? You're not alone. A recent survey by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) found that 56% of dogs in the United States are overweight - that's more than half of all dogs!

However, obesity in dogs is not just a cosmetic issue. It can have negative impacts on their health and well-being, increasing the risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, joint injuries, elevated blood pressure, and certain forms of cancer.

Moreover, overweight and obese dogs tend to have shorter lifespans, less energy, and lower quality of life.

To help your dog lose weight safely and effectively, you can make some basic changes to their diet and lifestyle.

In this article, Bestforpets'll provide tips and techniques for helping your dog shed extra pounds and live a healthier, happier life.

1. Determine your dog’s ideal weight and body condition

The first step in helping your dog lose weight is to determine their ideal weight and body condition score (BCS).

The BCS is a scale of 1 to 9 that measures the amount of body fat your dog has. A score of 4 or 5 is optimal, while a score of 6 or higher indicates that your dog is overweight or obese.

To determine your dog’s weight and BCS, you’ll need a scale and a visual guide. Here are the steps:

  • Weigh your dog on a scale in pounds or kilograms.
  • Stand behind your dog and look down at them. Do they have a visible waist and a slightly curved shape? If not, they may be overweight.
  • Feel your dog’s ribcage with your fingertips. Can you feel the ribs without pressing too hard? If not, your dog may have too much fat.
  • Look at your dog from the side. Does their stomach bulge out behind their ribs? If so, your dog may have excess abdominal fat.

Based on these observations, assign a BCS score of 1 to 9 to your dog. If your dog’s BCS is 6 or higher, they need to lose weight.

Once you know your dog’s ideal weight and BCS, the next step is to determine how many calories they need each day to reach that weight.

This will depend on factors such as their breed, size, activity level, age, and spay/neuter status.

Before starting a weight loss program for your dog, it is important to consult with your veterinarian.

They can confirm your dog’s ideal weight and BCS, rule out any medical conditions that may affect their weight or metabolism (such as hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease), and prescribe an appropriate diet and exercise plan.

2. Choose a high-quality, low-calorie diet for your dog

Choosing a high-quality, low-calorie diet that is specifically formulated for weight loss or management is one of the most important factors in helping your dog lose weight.

These diets are designed to provide your dog with all the necessary nutrients while reducing their caloric intake.

Low-calorie diets for dogs are widely available, but not all of them are created equal. When selecting dog food, be sure to check the label and ingredients for the following characteristics:

2.1. Excellent protein content

Protein helps maintain lean muscle mass, promotes satiety, and aids in waste removal.

2.2. High fiber density

Fiber improves digestion, regulates blood sugar levels, and promotes satiety.

2.3. Low fat percentage

Reducing fat intake helps dogs lose weight faster, but some fat is still necessary for their health.

2.4. Low carbohydrate percentage

Reducing carbohydrate consumption can help dogs burn more fat and lose weight faster, but they still need some carbs for energy.

2.5. Low calorie content

Low-calorie diets contain fewer calories per cup or gram, allowing you to feed your dog the same amount of food with fewer calories.

When transitioning your dog to a new diet, do so gradually and carefully to avoid digestive upset or refusal.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions or your veterinarian’s guidance on how to transition your dog’s diet over several days or weeks.

  • For those looking to assist their dog on their weight loss journey, our article on the best dog foods for weight loss is a must-read. It recommends nutritious and satisfying food options that will help your pet lose weight safely and efficiently.

3. Control your dog’s portion size and feeding frequency

Controlling how much and how often you feed your dog is also essential for helping them lose weight. Overfeeding or free-feeding can lead to weight gain, obesity, and other health problems.

Control your dogs portion size

To control your dog’s portion size and feeding frequency, follow these methods:

  • Measure your dog’s food accurately using a scale or measuring cup. Do not estimate or guess how much to feed your dog, as this can lead to overfeeding or underfeeding.
  • Divide your dog’s daily food allowance into two or three smaller meals. This will improve digestion and prevent your dog from becoming too hungry or overeating.
  • Avoid overfeeding or free-feeding your dog. Leaving food out all the time can contribute to excess weight and obesity. Stick to a consistent feeding schedule and discard any leftover food after each meal.
  • Observe your dog’s appetite, hunger cues, and satiety signals. Observe how much your dog eats, how quickly it eats, how eager it is to eat, and how satisfied it is after eating. Adjust the portion size or feeding frequency as needed.

4. Reduce or eliminate treats and table scraps from your dog’s diet

Treats and table scraps may seem like harmless indulgences for your dog, but they can add up to a significant number of calories and contribute to weight gain.

Some treats and table scraps are also high in fat, sugar, sodium, and other ingredients that can be detrimental to your dog’s health.

Examples of high-calorie snacks and table scraps that should be avoided or given in moderation include:

  • Cheese: One ounce of cheese contains approximately 100 calories, which is equivalent to one-third of a 10-pound dog’s daily calorie requirements.
  • Peanut butter: One tablespoon of peanut butter contains approximately 90 calories, which is equivalent to one-fourth of a 10-pound dog’s daily calorie requirements.
  • Bacon: One slice of bacon contains approximately 40 calories, which is equivalent to one-eighth of a 10-pound dog’s daily calorie requirements.
  • Bread: One slice of bread contains approximately 70 calories, which is equivalent to one-fifth of a 10-pound dog’s daily calorie requirements.

Instead of these high-calorie treats and table scraps, you can give your dog low-calorie alternatives that are also high in nutrition, such as:

Dog eats fruit

  • Carrots: One medium carrot contains approximately 25 calories, which is equivalent to one-fifteenth of a 10-pound dog’s daily calorie requirements. Carrots are also an excellent source of beta-carotene, fiber, and vitamin A.
  • Apples: One medium apple contains approximately 80 calories, which is equivalent to one-fourth of a 10-pound dog’s daily calorie requirements. Additionally, apples are high in fiber, vitamin C, and antioxidants.
  • Green beans: One cup of green beans contains approximately 30 calories, which is equivalent to one-tenth of a 10-pound dog’s daily calorie requirements. Additionally, green beans are high in fiber, vitamin K, and manganese.
  • Plain yogurt: One cup of plain yogurt contains approximately 150 calories, which is equivalent to half of a 10-pound dog’s daily calorie requirements. Additionally, yogurt is high in protein, calcium, and probiotics.

Only use these low-calorie treats and table scraps for training or as a reward for your dog.

Do not give your dog more than 10 percent of their daily calorie requirements in treats and table scraps, and adapt their regular food intake accordingly.

5. Increase your dog’s physical activity and exercise level

Exercise and physical activity are essential for your dog’s weight loss and overall health.

They help your dog burn calories, gain muscle, improve cardiovascular health, enhance temperament and behavior, and prevent obesity and boredom.

There are numerous physical activities and exercises that are appropriate for dogs of various ages, sizes, species, and fitness levels. Some examples include:

5.1. Walking

The simplest and most accessible form of exercise for dogs is walking. It can be done anywhere, at any time, with anyone, and can be tailored to your dog’s speed and endurance.

As your dog becomes more physically active, you can gradually increase the distance and pace of their walks.

5.2. Jogging

Jogging is a more strenuous form of exercise than walking and can help your dog burn more calories and increase their endurance.

However, not all dogs are suited for jogging, particularly those that are very young, very old, or have joint issues. Before beginning a jogging routine with your dog, you should consult with a veterinarian.

5.3. Swimming

Swimming is an excellent form of exercise for water-loving dogs. It can help your dog burn calories without causing excessive joint stress and can also help your dog cool off during hot weather.

Swimming is not safe for all dogs, particularly those who are not accustomed to the water or who have health problems. Always supervise your dog while they swim and provide them with a life vest if necessary.

5.4. Retrieve and tug-of-war games

Playing retrieve or tug-of-war with your dog is an enjoyable and interactive way to exercise. It can help your dog burn calories, strengthen muscles, improve coordination, and stimulate the mind.

You can use a ball, frisbee, rope toy, or any other object your dog enjoys chasing or pulling. You can play either indoors or outdoors, depending on the available space.

5.5. Agility training

Agility training involves teaching your dog to navigate obstacles like tunnels, hurdles, ramps, weave poles, etc. It can help your dog burn calories, build muscle, improve balance, and boost confidence.

You can enroll your dog in an agility class, or you can create an agility course at home or in a park.

To make your dog’s exercise enjoyable and safe, you should follow these guidelines:

  • Start gently and gradually increase the exercise’s intensity and duration. Do not exceed your dog’s limits or force them to do something they dislike.
  • Choose appropriate weather conditions for the activity to prevent dehydration, heatstroke, and hypothermia. Provide hydration breaks and shade as needed.
  • Check your dog for signs of fatigue or overheating, such as heavy panting, excessive drooling, slowed movement, or lying down. Immediately stop the exercise and allow your dog to rest and cool down if you notice any of these symptoms.
  • Use a pedometer, activity monitor, or smartphone app to track your dog’s activity and exercise level. This can help you determine how much your dog is moving and burning calories so that you can adjust their exercise regimen accordingly.

6. Make some lifestyle changes to support your dog’s weight loss

Weight loss involves more than just diet and exercise. It also involves making adjustments to your lifestyle that will aid in your dog’s weight reduction and improve their overall health and wellbeing.

Here are some adjustments to your lifestyle that will help your dog lose weight safely and efficiently:

6.1. Maintain a consistent feeding schedule

Feeding your dog at the same time every day can help regulate their metabolism and appetite. Additionally, it can prevent them from begging for food or scavenging between meals.

6.2. Avoid leaving food available for your dog

If your dog has constant access to food, they may indulge or graze on unhealthy foods. Keep your dog’s food in an airtight container or on a high shelf, and clean up any spills or leftovers.

Additionally, keep your dog out of the kitchen or dining area when you are preparing or consuming your own food, as they may be tempted to beg or steal.

6.3. Limit your dog’s exposure to loud noises

Loud noises can cause stress in dogs, which can affect their appetite, metabolism, and behavior.

Try to provide your dog with a calm and comfortable environment, and avoid situations that could cause them stress, such as thunderstorms, fireworks, or construction noise.

Consult your vet or a behaviorist if your dog is exhibiting signs of stress.

Support your dogs weight loss

6.4. Encourage your dog to get adequate rest

Sleep is vital to your dog’s health and wellbeing, as it allows them to recover from their daily activities. In addition, it helps regulate their hormones and metabolism, which can affect their weight.

Ensure that your dog has a comfortable and quiet place to sleep, and avoid disturbing them while they are resting.

Aim for a minimum of eight hours of sleep per night for your dog, taking into account their age and breed.

6.5. Spend more quality time with your companion

As social creatures that thrive with human companionship, dogs require your affection and attention.

Spending more quality time with your dog can make them feel happier and more secure, which can improve their mood and motivation.

It can also provide them with more opportunities for physical and mental stimulation, keeping them active and engaged.

You can spend quality time with your dog through activities such as playing with them, grooming them, training them, cuddling with them, and talking to them.


Having excess weight is harmful to a dog’s health and quality of life, as it can lead to serious health issues and reduce their lifespan.

Weight loss is beneficial for dogs since it can enhance their health and well-being and extend their lives. Diet and exercise can be utilized to create a calorie deficit for weight loss.

It’s important to monitor the progress of weight loss and make adjustments as necessary.

If you want to help your dog lose weight safely and effectively, follow the tips and techniques in the BestForPets article. First, determine if your dog needs to lose weight and how much.

Then, create a weight loss plan for them by reducing their calorie intake and increasing their physical activity.

Regularly monitor their progress and adjust their strategy as needed. Celebrate and recognize their accomplishments and milestones along the way.

You don’t have to do this alone. You can seek assistance from your veterinarian, trainer, or other professionals who can provide guidance and support throughout the process.

You can also join online communities or groups with other dog owners experiencing the same issue.

Helping your dog lose weight may be challenging, but it’s well worth the effort.

Not only will you help your dog live longer and be happier, but you will also strengthen your bond with them and spend more quality time together.

So why wait? Start helping your dog lose weight today by following the advice in this article. Your furry friend will surely thank you!

Author Image

Dr. Barry Buttler

Dr. Barry Buttler, DVM, MS, DACVIM, is an experienced veterinarian who specializes in the care of small animals, specifically dogs. Dr. Barry K. Buttler is a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association and holds multiple certifications in small animal emergency medicine and geriatric pet health.

Veterinarian (DVM) Dr. Barry Buttler


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