How To Help Your Dog Lose Weight, According To A Vet

He’ll be fit in no time 🏋️‍♂️

fat dog on the couch with food

If you recently noticed that your pup gained a little bit of weight, there’s no need to worry.

Helping him lose weight isn’t that difficult if you just follow a few simple steps.

The Dodo spoke with Dr. Zach Marteney, a veterinarian and medical director at Meadowlands Veterinary Hospital in New Jersey, to get tips on how to help your dog lose weight (and keep it off).

Rule out medical conditions

The first step for any dog’s weight-loss plan is to make an appointment with your vet. This is important so you can make sure he doesn’t have any underlying medical issues that could be making him gain weight. If he does, he’ll keep gaining weight until it’s treated.

For example, hypothyroidism is a condition that causes weight gain in dogs.

“Some dogs suffer from hypothyroidism, [which is] decreased function of the thyroid gland that results in a much lower baseline metabolic rate,” Dr. Marteney told The Dodo. “This slower metabolism results in weight gain.”

Conditions that can cause your dog to gain weight include:

If your dog has a medical condition, your vet will let you know how it should be treated and then will help you come up with a weight-loss plan from there.

Feed your dog smaller portions

If your dog’s been gaining weight, it’s possible you’ve been feeding him too much at every meal (a scoop and a half instead of one scoop, for example). Dogs can easily become overweight if their owners feed them too much food, which is why it’s important to follow the feeding guidelines on your pup’s food packaging.

“Pay close attention to the feeding recommendations on your pet's food,” Dr. Marteney said. “These recommendations will tell you how much of the food you should be giving every day.”

Keep in mind that these are only guidelines, and you may need to adjust them based on your individual dog. “I think about it the same way as a 2,000-calorie recommendation on human food packaging,” Dr. Marteney said. “It's a great place to start but should be adjusted as needed to maintain a healthy body condition.” Your vet can help you figure out how much of your dog’s food you should be feeding him daily.

It can also be helpful to use a measuring cup for your dog’s food so you know exactly how much you’re giving him instead of just eyeballing it.

Cut back on treats

Feeding your dog a few too many treats can make him gain weight. Most vets recommend that treats make up only around 10 percent of a dog’s caloric intake.

“Make sure to pay close attention to any treats or table food your dog is receiving — those are calories, too,” Dr. Marteney said.

Try to find ways to reward your pup other than just treats, like extra playtime and pets or even taking him on a super long walk (plus, that’ll give him some additional exercise).

Try these Purina Pro Plan Lite Snackers treats for dogs on weight loss or management programs from Chewy for $10.49

Try diet dog food

You can try feeding your pup weight-loss dog food, too, but be sure to talk to your vet before trying out a dog food for weight loss to make sure you pick one that’s good for your dog. “Just make sure to discuss any diet change with your veterinarian,” Dr. Marteney said.

Diet dog foods generally have fewer calories and carbs and more fiber and protein compared to regular dog food.

Some brands Dr. Marteney recommends for diet dog foods include Purina Pro Plan, Hill’s Science Diet, Royal Canin and Blue Buffalo.

Try this Hill’s Prescription Diet weight management dog food from Chewy for $41.99

Give your dog lots of exercise

Making sure your dog gets enough exercise is just as important as watching what he eats. If your pup just lies around all day, he won’t burn any calories and will still likely gain weight, even if you’re feeding him diet dog food.

“In addition to a healthy diet, exercise burns extra calories and helps maintain lean muscle mass,” Dr. Marteney said. “Even an extra 15- to 20-minute walk every day adds up, and it's a great way for you to spend more time bonding with your pet.”

If you give your pup fun activities to do, he’ll learn to like exercising, which will help him lose weight and keep it off.

Take him on long walks, throw the ball for him or get him an interactive toy to tire him out. Or if you like to run, make your pup your running buddy. There’s even dog exercise equipment you can buy if you want to get him in tip-top shape.

Why does my dog need to lose weight?

You might think your pup looks kind of cute when he’s a little chubby, but being overweight can actually cause a bunch of health problems, such as:

  • Arthritis
  • Joint problems
  • Diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver problems
  • Breathing problems
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart problems
  • Cancer

Plus, because of their greater susceptibility to illnesses, overweight dogs often have a shorter life expectancy than dogs who are at a healthy weight. So if your dog’s overweight, you should talk to your vet to work on a weight-loss plan ASAP.

Remember to be patient — your pup won’t lose the weight all at once. But as long as you make an effort to help him out, he’ll get back to his energetic and healthy self in no time.

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