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How To Put Your Dog On A Diet

Written by Ella White


Slightly overweight Golden Retriever

While we might love to spoil our dogs with snacks and table scraps from time to time, it's crucial to strike a balance between treats and nutritious meals to ensure they live their best, happiest lives. Because, just like humans, dogs can face weight-related challenges if they’re not fed an appropriate diet. In this article, we'll uncover why dogs may need a diet, addressing obesity and health issues, and how to make informed choices for a happy and healthy life. 

Understanding Your Dog's Weight

Every dog breed has an ideal weight, which often varies depending on their age and sex. So whether you’re the owner of a tiny Chihuahua or a huge Great Dane, it’s vital that you know exactly how much they need to eat and exercise to maintain a healthy weight.

Beyond knowing the ideal weight range for your dog’s specific breed, there are some quick and easy ways to identify whether your dog is over- or underweight. Firstly, check their rib area. If it’s difficult to see or feel where their rib bones are, then they might be carrying some extra pounds. On the other hand, if you can see the definition in this area and their ribcage appears gaunt, then they might be underweight. This is a very rough guide and is obviously breed dependent, a sighthound/learn/dog-lifestyle/your-guide-to-sighthounds like a Whippet or Greyhound for example should always have prominent ribs - it doesn’t mean they’re underweight. 

The first course of action if you think something is wrong is to check with your vet and get their expert opinion. They will be able to set your mind at ease about your dog’s weight and, if your pet does need an adapted diet plan to help them lose or gain weight, your vet will be able to give you safe, expert advice on how to implement this.

Just like humans, the time frame over which weight is lost or gained is crucial. If your dog gains weight too quickly, it could do long term damage to their joints/learn/dog-health/what-is-hip-and-elbow-dysplasia-in-dogs. If they lose weight too quickly, it could be hard to keep off. 

Creating a Balanced Diet Plan

A balanced diet isn’t just about avoiding a pudgy pooch; it's the key to giving them a vibrant, active life. Since a proper balance supports their immune system, skin, coat, and overall vitality it is not a luxury; it's a necessity.

Dogs thrive on well-rounded meals/learn/dog-food, much like we do. Proteins/learn/dog-health/animal-protein-vs-plant-protein-whats-best-for-dogs, fats, carbohydrates/learn/dog-food/is-wheat-bad-for-dogs, vitamins, and minerals are the building blocks of a nutritional diet that keeps them both physically and mentally healthy. Proteins keep their muscles strong, fats provide energy, and the right vitamins and minerals keep everything ticking along, helping to ward off diseases and other health issues.

When it comes to choosing the healthiest food for your dog, scrutinize the labels/learn/dog-food/your-guide-to-understanding-dog-food-labels and look beyond the flashy promises. Seek out dog foods with quality protein sources/learn/dog-food/the-95-rule-how-is-pet-food-named, minimal additives, and a balance tailored to your pup's needs, like Front of the Pack’s air-dried food/food that is vet-approved, and made with everything your dog needs to support their lasting health.

The same goes for their treats, a diet doesn’t mean they’re not allowed the occasional snack or reward. Luckily the market for dog treats is almost as extensive as the human treat market. Just like their main food, check the packaging of their favorite treats. If the ingredients list is full of additives, preservatives and words you can’t pronounce, they’re probably not good for your dog. Don’t forget, dogs don’t have the same breadth of taste buds we do/learn/dog-food/do-dogs-get-bored-of-eating-the-same-food, they don’t care about lots of salt or sugar/learn/dog-lifestyle/10-facts-about-your-dogs-tongue. Go for a natural treat like dried chicken feet (which are great natural dental sticks btw) or sprats (perfect for training rewards/learn/dog-training/dog-training-tips-why-you-should-use-healthy-dog-training), they’re usually cheaper than fancy packaged treats and much healthier.  

Portion Control

Unlocking the secret to a balanced diet begins with precise portion control. The size, age, and activity level of your dog will dictate how much they need to stay healthy. For smaller breeds, less is more while active dogs may require extra fuel. A small set of weighing scales for a few dollars means you’re not trying to eyeball their portion.  

for accurate portioning, consult your dog’s food packaging. It typically provides guidelines based on their weight, so you can adjust as needed, monitoring your dog's weight and activity. For this reason, it can be easier to maintain your dog’s healthy weight through pre-made foods rather than making your own food for them at home which can pose the risk of overfeeding and inaccurate calorie counting. Speak to your vet or a canine nutritionist to make sure you’re tailoring their portions accordingly.

Once you know how much food your dog needs, establish a consistent feeding schedule. This is a cornerstone of weight management as it helps to regulate calorie intake, and prevents accidental overfeeding. 

Exercise and Activity

As well as a healthy diet, exercise is key to your dog's overall health. As well as daily walks, dogs need to be engaged with activities throughout the day. Think interactive toys/learn/dog-training/your-guide-to-brain-training-and-mental-stimulation, agility sessions, or even a game of hide-and-seek/learn/dog-lifestyle/do-dogs-get-bored. Variety in their exercise/learn/dog-health/physical-vs-mental-exercise-for-dogs---whats-the-difference keeps them engaged and contributes to a healthier weight, as well as a healthy mind.

Be sure to recognize your dog’s breed traits and individual preferences. A high-energy Australian Shepherd demands more intense activities than a laid-back Bulldog who thrives on leisurely walks. Knowing your dog and their needs will help dictate a healthy regimen.

Monitoring Progress

Maintaining your dog's wellbeing is an ongoing commitment that hinges on regular weight and health monitoring. Even when your dog isn’t on a weight-loss or weight-gain plain, this should be one of the most important elements of pet ownership. You might think you can easily spot if your dog has lost or gained weight, but by the time you’ve noticed, there could already be an underlying cause that could have been addressed sooner. 

Regular checks are about recognizing progress and identifying potential issues, as well as monitoring numbers on the scales. Check their body condition, energy levels, and overall demeanor. Positive changes signal success, while unexpected shifts could indicate underlying concerns. And don’t forget that good health leads to a good mood. If your dog seems down, it could be a sign that they’re not feeling their best.

If your dog doesn’t seem to be responding to their diet plan then it's time to reassess. Consult your vet, who will be able to guide you whether it’s adjusting portions, tweaking the nutrient balance, or exploring alternative diets that they need.