Helping dogs maintain an appropriate body weight is one of the best ways to protect their health. Unfortunately, this isn’t always easy. The first step is to identify whether or not your pet has a problem. Learning how to evaluate a dog’s body condition score can let you determine whether your dog is too fat, too thin, or just right. Most dogs with an ideal body condition have:
- an hourglass figure. When looked at above, the abdomen is narrower than the chest and hips.
- a tucked abdomen. When looked at from the side, the chest is closer to the ground than the belly.
- ribs that can be felt with light pressure but are not easily seen.
Consult with your veterinarian if your dog is extremely over- or underweight, but if your dog only needs to lose or gain a few pounds, there’s a good chance you can help them do so yourself.
How to Help a Dog Lose Weight
Weight loss diets should still provide all the nutrition dogs need to thrive. Read the guaranteed analysis to ensure that it has enough protein. To maintain muscle mass and encourage the loss of body fat, dog foods intended for weight loss should contain at least 25% protein on a dry matter basis. Protein sources must also provide the 10 essential amino acids that dogs need to stay healthy. Meats do this, but so can clean, whole food proteins, like Koji, that are more sustainable and better for the environment.
One way to feed for weight loss is to stick to your dog’s current food but reduce the amount that you offer by about 15%. On the other hand, if you are going to change your dog’s diet, you’ll have to do a little math. Dog food manufacturers should provide the caloric content of a diet on the product’s label. Add up how many calories your dog is currently taking in and then determine how much of the new food you’ll need to offer to provide 15% less. Limit treats to 10% of the daily total and be sure to include them in your math. As time goes on, adjust the amount of food so that your dog loses around 1% of their body weight per week.
To keep your dog feeling full, offer food twice or even three times per day. If he resorts to begging, distract him between meals with walks, play time, and other activities. The extra exercise will help with weight loss too!
If you have put your dog on a diet but he hasn’t lost any weight, talk to your veterinarian. He or she will help you determine the best diet for your dog after ruling out underlying medical disorders that can complicate weight loss.
How to Help a Dog Gain Weight
If your dog appears to be a little underweight, you may not actually have a problem. Research shows that thin dogs live longer and experience fewer health problems than do overweight dogs or even those who have an “ideal” body condition. The first step in dealing with an overly thin dog should be a veterinary exam to rule out health problems, but if nothing is found and your vet feels that you should encourage your dog to gain a little weight, a diet change may be in order.
Look for a food that is relatively high in protein and fat and that is made from quality ingredients, like Koji, that provide many health benefits. Once you’ve picked out a good option, gradually mix it in to your dog’s current food until, over the course of a week or two, you’re offering only the new food. A good goal is to increase your dog’s caloric intake by about 10%. Recheck your dog’s weight with your veterinarian in about a month so that you can fine tune your approach and make plans for future weight maintenance.