Skip to Main Content

Starting your search for a healthy dog food for weight loss

If your dog is carrying more weight than he should, it’s time to take steps to help him get back to a healthy weight – including switching to a dog food for weight loss.

Your dog can realize many benefits from maintaining a healthy weight. Purina® conducted a groundbreaking canine lifespan study* to better understand the benefits of feeding to an ideal body condition. Conducted over the course of 14 years, the study found that feeding dogs to maintain an ideal body condition throughout their lives can help extend their healthy years (by an average of 1.8 years for the dogs in the study).

Before starting your dog on a weight loss program you should visit your veterinarian, who can help you determine your dog’s body condition score (BCS). BCS is the most widely recognized and trusted method for determining whether a weight loss dog food would be right for your dog. Purina® has a nine-point BCS system which includes descriptions and reference visuals to help veterinary professionals and pet owners verify canine body condition.

Using the Purina® Pro Plan® Body Condition Tool, (LINK TO CHART) you can evaluate your dog’s body condition by selecting from a range of options, from one (too thin) to nine (too heavy). A score of four or five denotes ideal body condition. A dog with a score of five is described as: Ribs easily felt with minimal overlying fat layer. Clear waistline behind ribs and noticeable tummy tuck when viewed from side.

It’s important to remember that simply reducing the amount of food you give your dog may not be the best way to help him lose weight. To help your dog reach his ideal body condition score, a dog food for weight loss should support a realistic weight reduction goal of one to two percent of body weight every other week. What should the food provide? First, for healthy weight loss it should supply less food energy than an adult maintenance food Because fat is the most energy-dense nutrient (and therefore the most highly caloric), generally diets that are low in fat can help dogs achieve weight loss.

Second, a weight loss dog food should provide adequate protein to help your dog maintain lean body mass as he is losing weight. This is why many veterinarians recommend a purpose-formulated weight loss dog food that is restricted in fat and energy, but supplemented with protein and micronutrients.

The way you feed your dog can also have an impact on his weight loss. Traditional weight loss method uses an approach known as Continuous Calorie Restriction (CCR), which involves reducing the amount of calories he takes in each day. This method can leave dogs feeling hungry and owners feeling guilty. However, a new weight loss system called Purina® Pro Plan® Simply FitTM offers an innovative and effective option for the challenge of reducing calories, using a system called Intermittent Calorie Restriction (ICR). Unlike the traditional CCR weight loss method, the Simply FitTM system works by changing the calorie intake, not portion size. Patented by Purina®, ICR varies calorie intake over time through an alternating weekly feeding schedule involving two foods—one with a base calorie amount and one with 25% fewer calories. Preserving this system promotes continuously active metabolism, helping dogs lose body fat, maintain lean muscle mass and reach an ideal body condition, without changing the amount of food in their bowl.

Once you’ve chosen a dog food for weight loss and have a plan for your dog, be sure to stick with it. Whether you choose a CCR or ICR method, be patient and consistent, and you will see results. Just remember that healthy weight loss takes time. Follow the prescribed feeding guidelines, limit treats and treat your dog to extra attention and praise instead. Also, with your veterinarian’s approval, make sure your dog is getting appropriate daily exercise. Remember, every step you take to help your dog reach a healthy weight can also add to his enjoyment of a long, fulfilling life.

Laflamme, Dottie. “Development and Validation of a Body Condition Score System for Dogs.” Canine Practice 22 No. 4 (1997): 10-15. Print.

“Intermittent Caloric Restriction (ICR) As An Effective Means To Manage Obesity.” Purina Institute Scientific Review.

“With overweight pets, there’s more to love.” Purina Life Span Study brochure.

*Kealy, et. Al. Effects of Diet Restriction on Life Span and Age-Related Changes in Dogs. JAVMA 2002; 220: 1315-1320.