We’ve often come across concerned dog owners who have overweight pooches and ask us if it’s safe for them to reduce the food by half
Just like in humans, crash diets may work for the first three to four days or maybe even a little longer, but the weight you’re reducing in your buddy is from the loss its lean body mass (i.e. organs, skin, body water, muscles). With proper weight loss, body fat is what you’re aiming to reduce. That’s why being slow and steady is the key to helping your dog lose weight safely and in all the right areas.
Fit or flab?
First off, we recommend that to get your buddy to his or her ideal weight, you’ll want to score your pooch against the body condition score for dogs. If you pal’s score falls within the range of six to nine on the chart, it’s time to kick start on mission ‘Weight Loss’.
Photo credit: Royal Canin
Next, weigh your dog at home to find out what its current weight is – one easy method to weigh your pooch is for you to first get on the scale and weigh yourself, and then pick up your dog to find out what the difference in weight is.
Think long term, not short term
Even dogs’ bodies don’t like sudden changes, that’s why you’ll want aim for a 10% weight loss over ten weeks, which is about 1% reduction of body weight per week. Remember that we’re aiming for a gradual change in feeding because drastic changes in how you feed your buddy can result in the loss of lean body mass that includes organs, which are the main drivers of metabolism. The body goes into starvation mode and to help preserve fat and energy fuel, overall body metabolism is slowed down, locking in all that extra weight you’re desperately trying to help your buddy to lose.
Despite any well-intentions to help your dog loose weight fast, crash diets can also cause malnutrition as the amount of nutrients in your dog’s meal often falls short of what it needs, which can lead to a weakened immune system.
No messing with guessing
For dog owners looking into serious weight loss, gather all the treats, meals and other foods you feed your dog every day and add up the total daily calorie count. It’s easy to find out how many calories your dog’s eating every day with The Grateful Dog meals as we provide a calorie count on each of our recipe cards. Other commercial foods may also list their calorie information, but for others, you’ll need to take the initiative to get in contact with them to find out the missing information. Try to be as precise as you can and remove the guesswork from your calculation.
Do a quick search on the ideal weight range for your dog based on its breed, age, sex, and whether it has been spayed/neutered. The next step will be to find out how many calories your dog should eventually be consuming. Find out what this ideal calorie count is here.
**Some calculations are required, but it’s nothing too tricky to wrap your head around.
Step 1: Jot down the calorie count of your dog’s current daily consumption (totaling the calories from all the food and treats your dog is now receiving).
e.g. Current number of calories = 675k/cal
Step 2: From the online calculator link provided above, subtract the ideal daily calorie amount from the first calorie count in Step 1.
e.g. Ideal number of calories = 487kcal
675kcal (current) – 487kcal (ideal) = 188kcal (total calories to reduce)
Step 3: Once you’ve determined the number, divide it further by 10. This is the number of calories you will need to try and reduce in your dog’s daily food/treats each week.
e.g. 188kcal (total calories to reduce) ÷ 10 = 18.8kcal/week (amount to reduce weekly)
You’ll want to reduce this number incrementally over 10 weeks to reach your dog’s final ideal amount of calories.
675kcal (current) – 18.8kcal (amount of reduce weekly) = 656.2kcal (new daily calorie for Week 1)
656.2kcal (new daily calorie for Week 1) – 18.8kcal (amount to reduce weekly) = 637.4kcal (new daily calorie for Week 2)
Repeat this until you complete week 10 and remember to do a weigh in for your dog every 1 to 2 weeks. With the recommended guidelines above, obese or overweight dogs would be losing between 1-2% of their body weight weekly. If you find that your dog is not losing weight, decrease the daily calories further by 3-4%.
The complete cooperation across all members of your household is needed, make sure no one is secretly feeding your dog extra food or treats.
Lastly, an active dog is a happy and healthy dog. Paired with at least 30 minutes of active and brisk exercise every day, whatever you choose to do with your dog, whether it is climbing the stairs, playing fetch in the field, brisk walking, it’s going to surely improve your dog’s chances of losing weight effectively.