If your dog is overweight, the first thing you’ll want to do is switch them over to a light diet for dogs. The good news is helping your dog lose weight doesn’t have to be challenging or tedious. It all comes down to healthy, low-calorie food and treats (AKA, the light diet). That’s right, no cheats for pup! Luckily there are some options when it comes to what you give man’s best friend.
Did you know that one of the most common health issues in dogs is obesity? About 60 percent of our canines are overweight. Half of that is in the obese range. Some signs of obesity are weight gain, distended abdominal area, troubles breathing, not active, and lethargy.
Not exercising, feeding table scraps, and ignoring that your pet has lost his waistline are all contributing to this. All that extra fluff can cause significant health problems.
Just like in humans, obesity in dogs can lower life expectancy and life quality. It can put your pup at risk for diabetes, breathing problems (especially in short-nosed breeds), decreased liver function, and even heart disease. Your vet can give you the full rundown of the list.
So what do you do if your dog is overweight? You’ve already started doing something! You’re here reading this, and that’s an excellent first step. Kudos to you.
You’ll want to get your dog on a light diet ASAP. A light diet for dogs is higher in fiber and protein but lower in carbohydrates and fat. A high fiber, high protein dog food formula contains less calories than conventional dog food but will keep your dog feeling fuller for longer, thus allowing them to lose weight comfortably.
5 Rules of a Light Diet For Dogs
1. Counting Calories is Important!
Examining the food label is the most important thing you can do for your dog. If your dog is overweight, the main thing you’ll want to look at is the calorie count.
Specifically, you’ll want to look at the kcal count. For dog food, calories are shown as kcals, or kilocalories. These can be shown as cups, lbs., by the can, or even in grams. The lower the calories per serving size, the better.
The recommendations on labels are for maintaining a certain weight, not losing it. It is recommended to look for foods that have between 250-350 calories for dogs that are not obese.
On Dogslim.com they have several articles about weight loss. One of them has a calorie percentage converter. This will let you convert any percentage number on a label over to grams. There is even an article with a chart that helps you figure out how many calories your dog needs for optimal weight loss. It helps take out the guesswork. The idea is to lose weight in a healthy way.
2. Protein, Protein, Protein!
Did I mention protein? Having food low in calories is good, but it also needs to be high in both protein and low in carbs. This combination can be beneficial in weight loss.
High protein, low carb foods tend to have fewer fillers in the ingredients. These fillers cause a feeling of fullness that doesn’t last long. Think of the bread they serve before meals at restaurants. You eat a lot and feel full. By the time your food arrives, like magic, that fullness goes away. It’s the same principle for your dog’s food.
These fillers can also increase how often your dog needs to go out to use the bathroom. Acana Light & Fit dry dog food has high protein with low amounts of fat, carbs, and calories. The calories per cup is 325, so it may not be the best for obese dogs.
Some others to consider are Blue Buffalo Wilderness Healthy Weight dry dog food and Now! Grain Free Senior Weight Management. Blue Buffalo offers different options according to the size of your dog’s breed with a few different flavors. I used the Blue Buffalo red meat large breed for my Akita, and he loved it. Best of all, I saw results with proper portion sizes.
At 1800petmeds, they caution that foods labeled lite, diet, or reduced-calorie don’t always mean they are the best or even a good option for weight loss. Mainly because many of those foods have high carbs or a lot of non-digestible fiber fillers and not enough protein. Again, look at those labels carefully.
3. Consider Custom Tailored Meals When Going Light
If the idea of counting calories has you feeling overwhelmed, then you’re in luck! In this technology-driven world we live in, you can do almost anything. Including having someone make your pooch’s food and sending it straight to your front door. For a fee, of course.
Companies like Ollie can make meals specifically with your dog and their needs in mind. They base it off the age, ideal weight, breed, and activity level. They will even take into consideration any food allergies. They boast high-quality meats and zero fillers.
Nomnomnow is another option for ‘to your door service’ in this ‘make your own food’ trend. They feature restaurant-quality foods that are never frozen. Meals are customized to your pets needs. They have beef, pork, chicken, and turkey meals to choose from. After a few quick questions about your dog and your goals, you’ll be ready to order.
4. Make Your Own Meals
The people over at Petdesigner.com (UPDATE: They are no longer in business. BUMMER!) seem to have this stuff all figured out. They help you make your own recipes and have a database with over 8,000 choices, raw or cooked. You can even add in supplements that will calculate into the recipe nutrition.
Their site claims, “complete and scientifically balanced homemade pet food” and their pet food recipes are more complete than what you can get in stores. They offer a diet tracker which allows you to have a history of what your dog has eaten.
5. Vitamins and Minerals From Meal Mix
Meal Mix is the only “complete nutrition” supplement for dogs that we could find. Meal mix, according to veterinarian, Dr. Karen Becker, makes up for any nutrients you might be leaving out of homemade canine cuisine. It’s a powder that you add to either raw or cooked food you prepare yourself. They even have recipes available to use with Meal Mix to make it even easier. It’s made with human grade ingredients and comes in convenient pouches. If your dog is going to be on a light diet, it’s crucial to supplement with some sort of vitamin mix. Meal Mix is by far the best we have found.
Feeding Frequency on a Light Diet
Now that you know what to look for in foods when putting your dog on a light diet, the next logical question you probably have is how often you should feed them. The simple answer is this…you shouldn’t change the amount of times you’ve been feeding them. If your dog has already adapted to eating one larger meal per day, then stick to that. If they are adapted to eating two smaller meals per day, then stick to those two meals.
The amount of times they eat per day won’t make a difference in their weight loss, what will make a difference is the total amount of calories they consume by the end of the day. If you feed them the same amount of times per day but are feeding them lower calorie food, the weight will begin to come off.
But what if your dog still isn’t losing weight? That doesn’t give you permission to change the eating frequency. Again, you’ll always want to keep that number the same. If you switched over to a light diet for your dog and they still aren’t losing weight, you’ll want to slightly decrease the amount of food you’re giving them per serving.
IMPORTANT: Don’t just assume your dog isn’t losing weight by looking at the waistline. If your dog loses one pound over the course of the week, you won’t see much of a difference in the waistline. However, one pound in a week is really good! That’s why we recommend weighing your dog once per week before their first meal. This will give you accurate feedback on whether or not the light diet is working.
Don’t Forget to Exercise!
All this information can be used to make a more informed decision about what will work best for you and your dog. Even with diet change, it is recommended to make sure Fido is getting enough exercise too. As always, talk to your vet about any concerns or questions you might have about services or products mentioned here.
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