Overweight dogs: how to help your dog lose weight

Updated 01 November 2023
Read time: 8 mins
article author
Written by Guy Blaskey

Did you know?

According to a recent survey of 1,192 vets conducted by pharmaceutical company MSD Animal Health:
  • 1 in 300 dogs are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes throughout their lifetime.
  • 30,000 dogs are currently suffering from diabetes

According to the PDSA 1 in 3 UK dogs are now overweight.

Much like human type 2 diabetes, poor dog diet and lack of exercise are largely to blame.

We all want the best for our pets. However, many of us are guilty of spoiling our dogs. While an extra treat or two may be enjoyable for them in the short term, it can have a negative impact on their long-term health. As extreme as it sounds, we may just be killing them with kindness. 

A fat dog can experience severe health problems including diabetes, heart disease, respiratory diseases, high blood pressure, cancers and more. An obese dog is likely to have a poorer quality of life, compared to a healthy dog maintaining a healthy weight.

Your pooch is happiest when they are active! A fat dog will struggle to lead an active life.


Why are more dogs getting obese?

Obesity is a complex condition and there will inevitably be several factors involved. It is important we look at the whole picture and tackle the issue head on.

  •  We know that some dogs (including Labradors and Beagles) are genetically predisposed to piling on the pounds. Some breeds are hard-wired in their DNA to constantly seek food and their appetite seemingly does not have an off switch.
  • A lack of exercise and outdoor access is commonly an issue, particularly when an owner is elderly or disabled. We’ve also found that many dogs’ weights have increased during lockdown, when some owners simply did not feel safe to leave their home.
  • Over-feeding is often the biggest problem. Whether it be feeding the wrong food, overly large portions or offering too many dog treats and chews. Dogs only need a certain amount of calories and when we feed too many, they get converted into fat.
  • The media has a tendency to use over-weight dogs in their campaigns. This is seen time and time again when it comes to breeds such as Pugs and French Bulldogs in advertisements. Sadly, seeing one with a slim waist is almost a rarity. When we are bombarded with images of portly pooches, we can begin to think that they are ‘normal’.


How to tell if your dog is overweight

As weight gain tends to happen slowly over time, many owners are unaware that their dog has gained weight and is over-weight. This can happen at any age but usually occurs when a dog is fully mature, so over the age of one or two.

We should all get in the habit of assessing our dog’s weight each month using the ‘Body Condition Score’ tool. This is a simple chart that allows us to assign a number to our dog, based on their body shape. The scale goes from a 1 to a 9 and we are aiming for a 4 or 5.

  • Simply stoke the side of their body and note if you can feel their ribs. You should be able to feel each individual rib, with a small layer of padding. If you cannot feel your dog's ribs they are overweight and you need to do something about it.
  • If there's no padding there's a chance they may be too slim.
  • They should have an obvious waist when looking from the side and above.
  • Also when stroking the back the backbone can be felt with a light touch using the flat of your fingers, but you shouldn't be able to see it. (except for on breeds like greyhounds and whippets).

It isn’t sensible to focus on the scales alone. Owners often ask me questions like ‘What weight should my three year old Springer Spaniel be?’. However, each dog is an individual and should be treated as such when it comes to their ideal weight.


How do we help overweight dogs?

It’s important to get that a dog weight loss journey happens gradually and it starts with a nutritionally appropriate dog diet. Much like humans, fad diets can affect dogs negatively, leading to skin, weight and behavioural problems.

We've outlined some ways to help a fat dog below. Use these tips to help kickstart a dog weight loss journey and take the steps towards seeing a happy, healthy dog.


Dog food for weight loss

Making sure that your dog consumes less calories than they expend is one of the first pieces of advice you will be given if you have a fat dog. This is true, but it is not the whole truth.

Weight management with dog food

  • Smaller and more frequent meals will help battle your dog’s hunger and elevate the metabolism. A fat dog will also benefit from having a regular food routine.
  • Ensure you are feeding your choice of healthy dog food based on their target weight, rather than current.
  • Weigh out portions on scales to ensure accuracy.
  • Stay away from low-quality foods which are often bulked out with wheat and grain, as this spikes insulin levels and increases the amount of stored body fat. A dog diet should consist of high quality, balanced ingredients.
  • Ignore feeding guidelines. OK.... don't totally ignore feeding guidelines, but remember that they are just guidelines. They should be the starting point when you feed. Each dog is different, does different exercise, has a different metabolic rate, so the amount you need to feed is different. If your dog is not losing weight when fed the amount on the feeding guide you will need to reduce the amount given.

  • Consider ditching the food bowl and switching to alternate feeding methods. This can include scatter feeding (sprinkling kibble in e.g. grass for your dog to seek out) and the use of food puzzles. Getting your dog to ‘work’ for their food is also a great way for them to unwind and to keep their minds busy.

  • Keeping a food diary can help you understand where you may be over-doing it.

Food for overweight dogs

Like when humans make healthier diet choices, there's no need to deprive a fat dog of tasty meals. Pooch & Mutt's range of healthy dog food means your dog can enjoy food and still lose weight.

Slim & Slender is a complete, grain-free food is designed to help dog weight loss and general weight management. Perfect for helping your dog maintain a healthy weight and getting an obese dog on the right track!

The food is packed with active ingredients, including 45% lean, free run, British chicken, sweet potato as a digestion-aiding fibre, pea protein to lower hunger, CLA to support fat metabolism, and psyllium which promotes satiety. 

If your pooch prefers a wet variety in their diet, take a look at our Fish, Potato and pea grain-free complete wet food carton. With 64% sustainably sourced white fish, an easily digestible protein source, alongside fibre rich potatoes and seaweed, this low fat recipe is perfect for pooches that need to lose weight.

Treating your dog can be essential, particularly if you are training them. Over-treating though, can often get the blame for dogs being obese, and this is often the case. One report has shown that a single Bonio treat has the same equivalent calorific load as a Chunky Kit Kat does for humans... and they recommend feeding 3 a day!! Dieting doggies should really keep treats to a minimum, but our range of Tube Treats are hand baked and just 3 calories per biscuit so the perfect solution.

We even offer a Bundle of all of the above to help your dog kick start their weight loss journey.

Supplements can help

Although it can be counter-intuitive to think that adding to a dog's diet can help them lose weight, but there are some natural ingredients that can help a dog lose weight. These include; CLA and L-carnitine - which help burn fat, Psyllium - which helps dogs to feel fuller, Probiotics and Prebiotics which help digestion. These supplements can all be purchased individually, however they are all contained within Pooch & Mutt's weight-control food, Slim and Slender.

Exercise for dog weight loss

It’s necessary to give your dog exercise for their general well-being, but also because they love to be active! A healthy dog needs exercise, but a fat dog shouldn’t do too much too soon.

  • Start slow, 5 to 10 minutes is good for an obese dog while they get used to the exercise.

  • For a small obese dog - they may be able to get used to exercising by chasing a toy around the house.

  • As dog exercise becomes more regular, your pooch will become used to increased activity and you can gradually increase the level of exercise.

A fat dog can experience a huge strain on their joints. If your dog is severely overweight, you may want to consider swimming, as this will alleviate some of the pressure on the joints. Our Mobile Bones dog joint supplement is designed to support and maintain healthy dog joints - especially important for older dogs and those who are highly active, as well as obese dogs due to the extra pressure on the joints.

While Hydrotherapy is often used to aid post-surgery recovery, or dogs recovering from traumatic injury, it’s another fun way to get dog exercise into your routine with a range of health benefits. It’s also commonly used to help manage weight in obese dogs. A doggy swimming session can help improve muscle tone, cardiovascular stamina, and improve the range of movement in the joints.


 All in all it really is diet and exercise that's the key.

As always if you have any questions, drop a comment below;

Comments (4)

My Son ,has got to go on a Rinall diet, do you make one also is your food made in England.

LINDA - May 31 2022

I have a rescued Doberman, he has trouble gaining weight and is still far too slim, has put on some muscle but needs robs and spine covered, what do you recommend? He has IBS.

Julie Wisker - Dec 07 2022

Hi, we have a 2 year old WCS. He is chemically castrated (implant) -long story.
We are guilty of too many treats, so that has been sharp dealt with as he is gaining too much weight.
Do you have a downloadable Body Condition Tool?
fyi he is well exercised and always has been. It’s not lack of activity, it’s us 🙈
We are currently feeding Butternut 300gm pouch of either lamb / turkey / salmon + 60 gms of Pooch & Mutt Joint Care. His weight is 19.8kgs. We are using the kibble as treats/rewards/scatter feed/search games. He also gets a lamb rib or small marrow bone fresh from butchers – mainly for keeping his teeth clean and also occupies & calming.
Are we doing the right things to help him reduce weight?
Many thanks, Linda & Douki 🐾

Linda Treadgold - May 16 2023
Pooch Admin

Hey Linda, a member of our team will reach out to you directly to discuss your pooches needs! :)

Team Pooch - May 16 2023

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