Health is an extremely important aspect of life. Every organ, cell, and part of the body should be in working condition and every part of the body should be flourishing. The nutrition that goes in the body largely contributes to that health.
In canines, part of having great overall well-being is weight management and weight control.
Although that is important in all creatures, it is extremely important in canines, especially those who have adjusted largely to a man’s world. Weight can have a large affect on the body’s ability to process foods, utilize nutrients, and it can affect the body’s ability to work as a unit to promote happiness, high energy, and balanced goodness.
Why it’s important your dog maintains a healthy weight
Depending on your dog’s size (small breed, medium breed, large breed, or giant breed), weight will vary. Yet, maintaining a healthy weight for your dog’s body type is extremely important. In fact, all creatures need to maintain weight control and most humans know this already.
Around half of the nation’s dogs and cats are overweight – 54% to be specific, which is quite alarming, when we consider the side effects.
Overweight issues in dogs can lead to bigger illnesses such as:
- type 2 diabetes
- high blood pressure
- heart disease
- respiratory disease
- kidney disease
- short lifespan
- lack of energy
- and other serious issues.
Yet, why exactly are our dogs overweight?
Well, as most people know, weight control usually is linked to the nutrition that fuels the body and the exercise that is given. The nutrition issue is a bit large with dogs because of money and quality of ingredients.
Over time as our society has progressed, so has the food industry and the desire for better quality ingredients. This means that all food that is nutritional, natural, and organic is going to be a lot more expensive. Food that is on the significantly cheaper side, on the other hand, usually contains many fillers, pesticides, and other questionable ingredients which are not meant for canines.
Unfortunately, this can cause your dog to gain weight and it may also alter their immune system as well as their organs. Take us humans for example, our bodies have changed and evolved over time and many people nowadays have auto-immmune diseases from GMOS and other foods that are a bit processed.
There is absolutely little to no difference in dogs! In fact, as owner we sometimes even neglect our dogs more than we neglect ourselves (1).
As owners, we know our dogs are not going to live until 100 as some humans do. Usually, we think that our dogs have a good eight to fifteen years, if we are lucky. Not very long compared to us, but enough to develop a serious illness.
Our canines have sensitive bodies and they need to be properly monitored. There are so many issues in this world that can affect the health of a dog such as the pesticides that exist in food, the uneducated decisions, and even the toys our dogs are given. Typically, what follows is weight gain, as a result of the dog not being able to move around and meet their daily physical needs.
Beyond the usual issues that occur in the food industry, most owners are guilty of loving a little too much. If this is you, it may sound familiar that you give your dog treats whenever they do a good deed or just because they are…cute. Yet, this can be a big issue in your dog’s weight. If you are constantly feeding your dog treats, that is going to contribute to their sodium amount and to their dietary needs. If you provide excess food, you are also providing an easy ticket onto the weight-gain train.
Lack of exercise
You may also not want to take your dog on daily walks because you do not want to go on walks or because you just do not have the time. But please remember, exercise is important for dogs! They are animals that have the ‘wild’ bred into their bones which means getting fresh air, sniffing their surroundings, and running around is a required activity for your dog.
Now: This is why monitoring your dog’s dietary needs, exercise, and weight is important. Their health will make all the difference in the world to their energy, their well-being, and their happiness (dogs get sad too you know!).
How to determine your dogs ideal weight
If you have a dog, you know that their size, lifestyle, and personality is going to contribute to their weight and to the food they eat. For instance, a Chihuahua is not going to eat or exercise in the same way that a Golden Retriever will.
So: Breed matters and so does the lifestyle you and your dog conduct each day.
Most times, you could look up your dog’s breed, their age, and the other contributing factors that you find necessary to determine what your dog should weigh. Yet, that may not feel accurate because not every dog has the exact birth date written down and not every dog is a pure bred. You could also take your dog to the veterinarian to get an accurate number, but there is a simpler way you can do this.
Using the Body Condition System: Determine your dog’s weight based off of the Purina Condition System. Can you see their ribs? Can you feel extra weight over their ribs? Can you find their waist? Is there a ton of extra weight covering certain aspects of their body?
This system will help you determine and measure your dog based on the actual looks, height, and proportions of your dog. In fact, this may actually be the method your veterinarian uses.
A balancing act: How to keep the good stuff while limiting the bad
Exercise is important. Depending on your dog’s lifestyle and breed, you want to get them out as much as you can each day. Even if you only go for a short walk, get your dog to move and run around. This will help with utilizing the energy that their body wants to utilize from the nutrients you are feeding your dog.
Secondly, you want to keep your dog’s meal plan balanced and you can even follow the meal guidlines off of AAFCO’s standards. There is a minimum and maximum amount of nutrition you are going to want in your dog’s food. When you go to purchase dog food, make sure that you monitor the correct amounts. You do not want to overfeed your dog based on their size and you want to make sure that they receive the correct amount of protein, carbohydrates, and other food sources in their meal (3).
Remember: Every food item will contribute to your dog’s weight. So make sure that you limit the amount of scraps and treats you give your dog.
Weight Loss: Low Carb & Low Fat Dog Food
Each nutrient will contribute to your dog’s health. Protein, carbohydrates, fats, and other nutrition sources are going to help certain organs in your dog’s body and they will also contribute to your dog’s weight. If you are trying to manage and control the weight of your dog, you may want to limit certain nutrients.
Most times, you will probably want to understand carbohydrates and fats a little better.
Now: What is the relationship between my dogs weight, carbohydrates and fats? How do these nutrients change my dog’s body and how do they help my dog’s body?
Dogs & carbs: The relationship between the two
When you think of carbohydrates, you are probably thinking of grains. But, there are so many dog foods on the market that are grain-free? However, does that mean that they are carbohydrate-free? No!
Although dogs do not require carbohydrates in their meal, they can be beneficial. Carbohydrates that contain grains and gluten are not that beneficial for your dog, especially if your dog has a sensitive tummy. But, there are other carbohydrates that come in the form of vegetables that are highly beneficial for your dog’s health and actually help with maintaining weight.
There are simple and complex carbohydrates and your dog will use carbohydrates as a source of glucose, which helps with processing, utilizing, and digesting other nutrients. It also helps with the nervous system as well as the brain function. However, going into the smallest of details might not be too necessary because your dog does not actually need the nutrients of carbohydrates to survive!
Yet, they do help with ‘holding together’ commercial dog food and they are great fillers. Carbohydrates help your dog process other plant-like materials that their system may struggle with. They provide fiber for your dog’s body, which is definitely a positive material in their nutrition and it can help with weight control and maintaining proper health (4).
When you hear of carbs, you most likely may be thinking:
Yet, don’t forget about other nutrients, such as:
- Starch – like vegetables
Carbohydrates have been known to cause weight gain but that is only if you feed your dog too much of the carbs that do not assist them. Try and add starch – like vegetables and even a little bit of grain, but do not overdo it. Remember: Carbohydrates help but are not a food item that is essential, and definitely not needed in excess.
Which dogs can benefit most from a low fat diet?
Beyond the carbohydrates, you may be wondering about fat.
What is the purpose of fat in my dog’s diet?
As a metric, 10-15% of fat is a great amount for your dog and they should strive to maintain that amount in their daily diet. Fat assists your dog in ways that don’t affect their cholesterol, but too much can cause weight gain and health issues. Fat is necessary for your dog in some regard. Without it, your dog may develop dry skin, itchy skin, and a dull coat.
Additionally, fats are a form of energy that support your dog even more so than proteins and carbohydrates, so you definitely want some form of fat in your dog’s diet (5). This nutrient helps normal development and it contributes to the function of the body’s cells, nerves, muscles, and tissues.
Now: A low-fat diet could be beneficial for your canine. Low fat would start around 10% in the range of normal fat levels and it can go lower than that. This absence and limitation can benefit dogs that cannot process fat or need help in maintaining their weight. Fat and oil is what makes food taste good and it can be what your dog loves, which is a problem when it comes to weight management because your dog will want to eat any and all fat!
Body issues such as hyperlipidemia and pancreatitis require low fat diets and each dog will need a specific dietary standard, according to their health.
What to look for when buying low fat dog food?
If you decide to put your dog on a low-fat diet, then you are going to want to look for certain things. First off, make sure your dog gets high quality fat because it will make a huge difference in their diet. Stick to fats that are from animals for the most part and if you would prefer, you can also add in plant fats. However, animal fat will be the most beneficial.
As mentioned earlier, fat contains more energy than proteins and carbohydrates, which means it is harder for dogs to digest. If your dog has health issues, fat is going to be difficult on the digestive system. Look for the right amount of fat in the dog food you purchase, which can be on the low amount of normal or less (10% or less) or you can have your veterinarian specifically prescribe your dog with the correct amount of fat that they need.
That being said, here’s our top pick: Royal Canin Gastrointestinal Low Fat
Notable Ingredients: Wheat, barley, brewers rice, chicken meal, salt, chicken fat, fish oil
Flavors: Chicken (low fat)
Packaging: 1.5 lb, 6.6 lb, 17.6 lb, 28.6 lb
Calorie content (ME): 3237 kcal or 240 kcal per cup
Guaranteed Analysis: crude protein (min) 20%, crude fat (min) 4.5%, crude fat (max) 8.5%, crude fiber (max) 3.6%, moisture (max) 10%, eicosapentaenoic acid (min) .09%, docosahexaenoic acid (min) .04%
Why we like it: Dogs with stomach sensitivities usually need a low-fat diet and that is exactly why we like this diet. It promotes a healthy balanced meal for dogs needing low fat for easier digestion. Whether your dog needs this type of food because of stomach issues, health concerns, or just because of weight control, this is a great option. It is balanced, good for digestion, and is supported by nutritionists and veterinarians.
Weight Gain: Food to Help Dogs Gain Weight
When people talk about weight control, they usually are concerned about weight gain. Most will want to put their dogs on the proper diet and they will want to maintain their dog’s weight by managing said diet and their exercise.
But, what about dogs that are underweight?
Not many think that could be an issue because dogs are creatures that absolutely love food. In fact, most dogs jump in excitement when it is time for their meal. Therefore, if your dog is underweight, there is a good reason for it, and their health probably needs your attention (7).
There are many reasons why your dog may be underweight. Here are the most common reasons that your dog may not eat as much or may be losing weight, rapidly.
- your dog is picky with the food that they eat
- loss of appetite from
- unnecessary nutrients in their food
How to help your dog gain weight
Once you determine why your dog is losing weight or why your dog is underweight, you will want to make the necessary changes to bring their weight back up to proper health. Your veterinarian might be helpful in this, if the issue has to do with illness or even parasites. Sometimes lack of appetite can be a negative attribute when you’re trying to help your dog. But, once your dog has re-gained an appetite, you are going to want to help them gain weight.
Feed them their faves
First off, feed your dog the foods that they like or at least make those ingredients visible to your dog. This will help your dog in the weight gain process. Secondly, you are going to feed your dog more often. Increase the amount of meals they have each day. If you were feeding them twice a day, increase it. Feed your dog another meal, so they are getting even more nutrients.
Protein packed ingredients
If you feed your dog raw food, you can add certain ingredients that will help their body. Usually, ingredients that are protein packed are what you will want to go after. Yogurt, cottage cheese, green tripe, and any other foods you find necessary can help. You may even want to go after certain fruits and vegetables like sweet potatoes or you can give your dog treats that are beneficial throughout the day. (Fun fact: Some owners have their dogs on a vegetarian dog food diet).
Need help? Check out our handy Dog Food Calculator which you can use to determine your dogs daily energy requirements and curate your own handy homemade recipes.
You can also check up on the quality of your dog’s food and their environment.
Is your dog’s environment stressful? Is the quality of their food good enough to support their lifestyle?
Now: Once you decide what your dog needs, you can also change their food type. There are many dog foods that help with weight gain and help with certain health concerns. Once you decide what your dog needs, the necessary changes can be made and your dog will hopefully return to their ideal weight.
What to look for when buying food to help your dog gain weight?
When you decide that your dog needs a new meal plan for weight gain, you want to find the right type of dog food. You are going to want to provide your dog with a plan that has a good amount of calories and a good amount of protein.
This will keep your dog full and it will help your dog gain weight. You may also want to look for a dog food that has ingredients that will support any health concerns you have for your dog. If your health concerns involve the liver, the kidney, or even the digestive system, you may want to find a dog food that is touted to support as an aid formula for those health issues specifically.
Our top pick: Royal Canin Gastrointestinal High Energy
Notable Ingredients: Chicken meal, brown rice, brewers rice, egg product, fish oil, vegetable oil
Flavors: chicken (high energy)
Packaging: 8.8 lb and 22 lb
Value: 4.54 per lb
Calorie content (ME): 3902 kcal or 394 kcal per cup
Guaranteed Analysis: crude protein (min) 23%, crude fat (min) 18%, crude fiber (max) 3.2%, moisture (max) 10%, eicosapentaenoic acid (min) .18%, docosahexaenoic acid (min) .08%
Why we like it: This is a great option for dogs that are looking to gain weight or need a lot of food for their high energy levels. This dog food will provide the proper calorie amount as well as the proper protein and fat amounts needed for weight management. We recommend this food because it provides a balanced formula.
Dogs are sensitive creatures that need love, attention, and the proper nutrition. As owners, we need to help our dogs maintain proper health. Regardless of their health concerns, dogs need nutrients that supply great nourishment and weight management, and it is prominent that we love our dogs in the best way that we can through providing them with the right nutrition.
Another diet to consider: Natural, Holistic & Organic Dog Food Diets