Maintaining a healthy weight for your dog

Overweight dog

With over a third (35%) of dogs in the UK estimated to be overweight, it’s one of the most common – yet preventable - health issues dogs have. As pet owners, we have a responsibility to keep our dogs healthy, which includes managing their weight.

What is the right weight range for your dog?

The right weight for your dog depends on its breed; Whippets, for example, have vastly different parameters to Newfoundlands. There’s a healthy weight range for each breed, and if your dog falls within this, there should be no cause for concern.

Weight changes often aren’t that noticeable, especially if the change is gradual and over time. If you are worried about your dog’s weight, there are some key visual indicators that can help determine if they’re under or overweight.

  • Are the ribs, backbone or other bones visible? Can you see them from a distance? If so, this could be a sign that your dog is underweight
  • Can you barely see the rib cage or not at all? This could indicate that your dog is overweight. There are also other medical issues that could cause bloating, so if this is the case, it’s best to book an appointment with your vet to rule these out
  • Does your dog have a large/bloated looking stomach that hangs too low? This is another sign that they may be carrying a few too many pounds

How can you control your dog’s diet for weight loss?

Here are some tips to start your dog’s weight loss journey:

  • Prevent joint issues. Some breeds have a higher tendency to become overweight, which can cause issues in later life such as hip dysplasia. Prevention is better than cure so if your dog’s breed is known to have joint issues, look for food that has joint care as a particular benefit
  • Book a vet appointment. In some cases, obesity is caused by another underlying health condition such as an underactive thyroid. It’s always best to rule these out with your vet before embarking on a new exercise or dietary routine
  • Up the exercise. Even if it’s adding an extra 10 minutes onto your evening walk or buying a new toy such as a launcher, as long as you and your dog are enjoying it, these extra minutes really can make a big difference in the long run  
  • Feed based on target weight. It may sound simple but feed the right amount for what your dog should weigh, not what they do weigh. Dog food recommendations are based on maintaining their breed’s ideal weight, so if your dog is already overweight, make sure you’re feeding them the right portion size
  • Rule out constant snacking. Over the course of a day, a little treat here and there can soon add up to the equivalent of another meal. If your dog eats dry food, when weighing out their daily portion, set aside some pieces for treats throughout the day. This way, they still feel as if they’re being treated, but they’re not eating extra calories
Big old dog

What is the best dog food for maintaining a healthy weight?

Whilst exercise is a good way to help your dog lose weight, sometimes, due to illness or old age, dogs can be less active.

Senior dogs are often a lotless mobile, meaning they burn less calories, so their food should contain a lower percentage of fats and fewer carbs.

Cutting out carbohydrates can also be helpful, but make sure you cut out the right ones. Grains all contain high levels of carbohydrates which release their energy quickly so are best to avoid, but sweet potato releases energy slowly and is a great source of soluble fibre, so this makes a great addition to your dog’s diet.

Keep a note of your dog’s weight to monitor their progress and remember that slow and steady wins the race – a healthy rate of weight loss is 1% per week. If you begin to see a dramatic change, visit your vet to rule out any other health issues.

If you do switch your dog onto a grain-free dog food, it is quite common for them to appear hungry initially. As grain-free food is often full of higher quality ingredients, this means that the quantity you will be feeding them is less. Their stomach will need time to adjust to this decreased amount of food, but don’t worry, your dog will still be getting all their dietary needs met in the recommended portion size.

How do you stop your dog begging?

Why your dog is begging in the first place? More often than not, it’s because we’ve reinforced this behaviour as we want to give them treats every now and again, but this is a slippery slope.

Here are some top tips to break this cycle:

  • Use toys as a treat. Instead of giving your dog human food as a treat, use their favourite toy instead. This will help them disassociate the food on your plate as a tasty snack
  • Keep them out of the room when you’re eating. When you have a meal, the smells can overwhelm a dog’s sensitive sense of smell, and we all know there’s nothing worse than smelling some delicious food that you can’t have. This will also deter people from feeding your dog from the table and will get rid of their opportunity to beg
  • Break up their meal times. If you’re only feeding your dog once a day, consider breaking this up into two or three separate meals, but make sure you’re still only feeding them the same amount across the day. If you time one of these with your own meals, your dog’s focus is much more likely to be on their own bowl instead of what’s on your plate

*The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified pet health provider with any questions you may have regarding your pet’s health*