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Low Fat Dog Foods: What You Need to Know and How to Choose the Best One for Your Pup

If you are a dog owner, you likely want to feed your pet the highest-quality food available.

But what if your dog requires weight loss, has a health condition, or simply cannot tolerate high-fat foods? In this case, you may want to consider switching your dog to a low-fat diet.

Low-fat dog foods are specially formulated to provide balanced nutrition while reducing your dog's fat consumption.

This can assist your companion in losing weight, managing certain ailments, and enhancing their quality of life.

However, not all low-fat dog diets are created equal, and some may not be appropriate for your pet.

In this article, we will explain what low-fat dog diets are, why they are advantageous for some canines, and what potential risks they may pose.

BestForPets will also provide guidance on how to select the best low-fat dog food for your pet.

icon Vet Approved
icon Reviewed & Fact - Checked by

Deborah R. Fletcher (DVM)

Veterinarian

The information provided is current and up-to-date, in line with the latest research conducted in the field of veterinary medicine.

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1. Benefits of Low Fat Dog Foods

Healthy Food Ingredients

Low-fat dog food has several benefits for canines that need to reduce their fat intake. Here are some of the most important advantages of low-fat dog food:

1. They can aid in weight loss for your companion.

One of the most common reasons why dog owners switch to low-fat dog food is to aid in weight loss.

Obesity is a significant health issue that affects many dogs and can lead to a variety of complications, including diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and others.

By providing your dog with low-fat dog food, you can reduce their calorie consumption and increase satiety, helping them achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

2. They can help with pancreatitis and other digestive problems.

Some dogs may also require low-fat dog food if they suffer from pancreatitis or other digestive disorders that impair their ability to metabolize fats.

Pancreatitis is a condition in which the pancreas becomes inflamed and produces an excessive amount of digestive enzymes, which can cause organ damage and severe pain.

Feeding your dog a low-fat dog food can reduce pancreatic stress and inflammation, aiding in recovery and preventing future episodes.

3. They can reduce the risk of other health issues.

Low-fat dog food can also be beneficial for canines that are susceptible to other health problems associated with high-fat diets or obesity.

By modulating blood sugar levels and insulin production, low-fat dog food can aid in the prevention or management of diabetes.

They can also benefit cardiovascular health by decreasing blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Additionally, they can aid in reducing joint pain and inflammation by relieving pressure on the bones and cartilage.

There is ample evidence supporting the benefits of low-fat dog diets for canines that require them.

For example, a study published in the Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine found that feeding dogs with chronic pancreatitis a low-fat diet decreased the frequency and severity of their symptoms.

Another study published in the Veterinary Record found that feeding obese dogs a low-fat, high-fiber diet resulted in significant weight loss and improved metabolic health.

2. Risks of Low Fat Dog Foods

Risk concept with wooden blocks, High Low Medium

While low-fat dog food can be very beneficial for some dogs, it is not appropriate for all dogs and may present certain disadvantages or difficulties. Here are some potential dangers associated with low-fat dog food:

1. They may result in a lack of essential fatty acids.

Fats provide dogs with both energy and essential fatty acids, including omega-3s and omega-6s. These fatty acids are necessary for the health of your dog’s skin, coat, brain, and immune system, but their body cannot produce them.

If you feed your dog a low-fat dog food that is deficient in essential fatty acids, you run the risk of inducing a deficiency that can lead to parched skin, a lackluster coat, cognitive decline, and an increased susceptibility to infection.

2. They could contain additional carbohydrates or additives.

Some low-fat dog food manufacturers may increase the quantity of carbohydrates or fillers in their formulations to reduce the fat content of their products.

This may compromise the nutritional value or flavor of the food, as carbohydrates or additives may not contain as much protein or essential nutrients as fats.

Additionally, they may cause digestive problems or allergies in some dogs, particularly if they contain grains or other allergens.

3. They may require vigilant monitoring and alterations.

You should not switch your dog to a low-fat diet without first consulting your veterinarian.

Your veterinarian can assist you in determining whether your dog requires a low-fat diet, how much to feed them, and which low-fat foods to choose.

You should also monitor your dog’s health and weight regularly to determine how they are responding to the diet and if any adjustments are necessary.

Some dogs may lose weight too rapidly or too slowly or develop other conditions that require dietary adjustments.

3. What dogs need low-fat dog food?

A lazy cute fat dog lying down

Veterinarians frequently recommend low-fat diets for dogs suffering from digestive issues, liver disease, or pancreatitis.

It is common for dogs to struggle to metabolize fats, as excessive fat and a lack of fiber are two of the most common causes of digestive problems.

These formulas typically contain probiotics, minerals, and other nutrients that are readily absorbed and ease digestive tract tension. In some cases, low-fat dog foods can also aid in weight loss.

However, it is crucial not to equate the fat in dog food with the fat in human diets.

Due to perceptions about human food, owners may view fat as harmful for canines, but dogs require fat, and a deficiency can lead to health issues.

Fat from healthy animal sources provides vitamins and minerals and contributes to a healthy skin and coat.

4. How to Choose the Best Low Fat Dog Food for Your Pup

Dog Biting a Watermelon

If you determine that your dog would benefit from low-fat dog food, you should be able to select the best one.

Some low-fat dog diets may be better than others, depending on your dog’s dietary requirements and preferences. Here are some of the most important factors to consider when purchasing low-fat dog food:

1. Type of food

When it comes to low-fat dog food, there are two main categories to consider: weight management and glycemic index (GI) formulations.

Weight management options are ideal for overweight dogs and are typically high in protein while being low in fat and calories.

These dog foods are designed to help dogs lose weight and maintain a healthy weight without sacrificing essential nutrients. On the other hand, GI formulations are tailored to address gastrointestinal sensitivity.

These dog foods typically omit ingredients that are known to cause adverse reactions and are difficult to metabolize. They also contain high levels of fiber, which promotes healthy digestion.

While both types of low-fat dog food can be helpful for managing weight and promoting healthy digestion, it’s important to consult with a veterinarian to determine which type is best for your dog’s specific needs.

Additionally, it’s worth noting that low-fat dog food should never be used as a replacement for veterinary care or treatment of a medical condition.

2. Dry vs. wet

Dog food comes in two primary forms: dry and wet. Dry dog food, or kibble, is more commonly available due to its affordability, convenience, and appeal to dogs.

Kibble has the added benefit of being odorless and can help promote dental health by cleaning teeth. However, some dogs with dental or gum problems may require wet food, which is softer and easier to chew.

Wet food is also beneficial for dogs that don’t drink enough water daily. It has a strong aroma that may not be pleasant to humans but is often more attractive to picky eaters.

Ultimately, the choice between dry and wet dog food depends on your dog’s individual needs and preferences.

It’s important to consult with a veterinarian to determine which type of food is best for your dog’s specific dietary and health needs.

3. Fat content

The most obvious consideration is the food’s fat content. Check the label for the percentage of fat on a dry matter basis, which is the amount of fat after the food’s moisture has been removed.

According to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), a low-fat dog diet should have less than 10% fat on a dry matter basis.

Depending on their condition and tolerance, some dogs may require even lower levels of fat. Your veterinarian can advise you on the optimal fat content for your dog’s diet.

4. Protein content

Just because your dog requires a low-fat diet does not mean they also need a low-protein diet.

Protein is necessary for the growth, maintenance, and repair of your dog’s muscles, organs, and tissues. Additionally, it keeps them full and satisfied.

You should look for a low-fat dog food with at least 25 percent protein on a dry matter basis, derived from high-quality animal sources such as meat, poultry, fish, and eggs.

Avoid low-fat dog diets that source most of their protein from plant-based proteins or by-products, as they may not be as digestible or complete as animal proteins.

5. Calorie content

The calorie content of the food is another important factor to consider. Your dog needs a certain number of calories per day to maintain its body functions and activity level.

However, your dog will gain weight if it consumes more calories than it burns. If your dog needs to lose weight, you should serve them low-fat, low-calorie dog food.

This means that the food contains fewer calories per cup or serving, allowing you to serve your dog more food without increasing their calorie intake.

Depending on your dog’s size and weight goals, you should look for a low-fat dog food that contains between 300 and 400 calories per cup or serving.

6. Fiber concentration

Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that is not metabolized by your dog’s body but instead helps regulate their bowel movements by passing through their digestive tract.

Additionally, fiber can help your dog feel full for longer, preventing overeating and promoting weight loss.

However, excessive fiber can cause flatulence, bloating, and diarrhea in some dogs, so you should avoid feeding them a high-fiber diet.

To promote digestion and satiety without causing discomfort, you should look for a low-fat dog food with a moderate amount of fiber, about 5 percent.

7. Ingredient quality

Finally, you should consider the quality of the ingredients in the low-fat dog food you select. Look for natural, nourishing, and fresh ingredients to provide your dog with the best nutrition and flavor.

Avoid artificial additives, such as colors, flavors, preservatives, and sweeteners, which may be harmful to your dog’s health or appetite.

You should also avoid common allergens like wheat, corn, soy, and dairy, which may cause allergic reactions or sensitivities in some dogs.

To find the best low-fat dog food for your dog, carefully read the label and compare various products based on these factors.

You can also use online tools or calculators to determine your dog’s caloric requirements and ideal weight based on their age, breed, size, level of activity, and health condition.

8. Quantity

Low-fat dog food is available in dry form in a variety of sizes. Smaller 5-pound containers are ideal for smaller dogs or for owners trying out a new formula. Medium-sized bags weigh between 15 and 20 pounds, while larger options can weigh 30 pounds or more.

Larger bags of low-fat dog food are often more cost-effective, provided that your dog can consume the food within a reasonable amount of time. It’s important to ensure that you have enough space to store large bags and a secure container to keep the food fresh.

Wet dog food typically comes in packs of six or twelve cans, weighing either 6.5 or 13 ounces.

When choosing the quantity of low-fat dog food to purchase, consider your dog’s dietary needs and eating habits, as well as your own budget and storage capabilities.

9. Price

Prices for low-fat dog food can vary depending on the type and quality of the food.

Inexpensive options include smaller portions of low-fat dog food, such as powdered cereals or kibble, which can be found for less than $20 per pound.

Mid-range options, including medium-sized bags of dry kibble and packets of wet food, are typically priced between $20 and $40.

For the largest bags of low-fat dog food, prices exceed $40, with premium gastrointestinal formulations costing $50 or more.

When considering the price of low-fat dog food, it’s important to prioritize quality and nutritional value over cost.

Consult with a veterinarian to determine which type of low-fat dog food is best for your dog’s specific needs and budget.

Additionally, some pet stores offer loyalty programs or discounts for repeat customers, which can help offset the cost of higher-priced dog food options.

5. Tips

Quick Tips

1. Introduce new foods slowly

When introducing a new low-fat dog food, it’s important to do so gradually to avoid digestive upset. Start by incorporating a small amount of the new food into your dog’s current food, gradually increasing the amount over one to two weeks.

2. Be wary of generic ingredients

When looking at ingredient lists, be cautious of generic terms such as “animal byproduct” or “meat meal.” Opt for dog food that specifies the source of its meat ingredients.

3. Avoid common allergens

Common allergens such as corn, soy, and gluten can be difficult for some dogs to digest, so it’s best to choose a low-fat dog food that avoids these ingredients. Additionally, it’s important to choose dog food that is free of potentially harmful artificial preservatives and flavors.

4. Avoid cheap options

While it may be tempting to choose cheaper, low-fat dog food options, it’s important to prioritize quality and nutrition for your dog’s health and well-being. Investing in healthy dog food options can ultimately save you money on veterinary bills in the long run.

For a list of the best low fat dog foods that prioritize quality and nutrition, check out our article on the topic.

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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