When to Change Your Dog’s Diet
How much your dog should weigh is not a magic number and is something that should be determined by your vet. However, using a Body Condition Score chart is a great starting point to see if your pup is close to the size they should be at. A Body Condition Score (BCS) is a rating that is typically on a scale of 1-5, with 1 being too thin, 5 being obese, and 3 being the idea score that your dog should be at. Some versions also use a rating of 1-9. To measure your dog’s BCS, you can use the chart below. PetMD recommends the following method to help you decide which area on the chart your dog lands:
“To begin, gently press your hands over the rib cage. Individual ribs should be evident without having to press hard, but they should not be readily felt. There should be no overlying fat, and they should not be seen readily.
“There should be a nice, seemingly proportionate “abdominal tuck” or “hourglass” when palpating your dog’s waist from the side or along his back. Physically palpating is particularly important in dogs with excess fur. Dogs that are too thin will have bony prominences, particularly over the hip bones, shoulder blades and ribs. Dogs who are obese will have excessive soft or fatty areas that are evident, and it will be more difficult or impossible to feel their ribs or hip bones.”
If your dog lands in the upper range of the BCS chart, it may be time for some lifestyle changes to get your pup to a healthier weight. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, osteoarthritis, type 2 diabetes, respiratory and heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, chronic inflammation, and many forms of cancer are all common chronic conditions in dogs that can develop if your dog is even as few as five pounds above their ideal weight.
A change in food or an increase in activity–or both!–may be exactly what your dog needs to get to a healthier weight and avoid some of these potential health issues. Making the switch to a weight management dog food is an easy way to cut the calories your dog is intaking, but when looking into how to change your dog’s food it’s always recommended to use the seven-day switch method to avoid any stomach upsets.
If you think your dog may be overweight and are interested in how to change your dog’s food to a weight management dog food recipe, make sure to discuss this and any exercise changes you hope to implement with your vet.
Weight Management Dog Food
When looking for weight management dog food, the main thing you want to look for is fat content. A low-fat and low-calorie dog food will be a much better option for your dog if they need to lose a few extra pounds. Our grain free Weight Control recipe is a low-fat dry dog food recipe that comes in at 315 kcal per cup, making it a great low-calorie option for your dog. This recipe is even listed as one of the best weight loss dog foods and is highly recommended by Dog Food Advisor!
The important thing to note here is that even when feeding a dog food for weight loss, going strictly off the feeding guidelines on the back of the bag probably won’t be much help. Feeding guidelines are made to be a starting point when figuring out how much to feed your dog, but you should always consult your vet to determine exactly how much to feed, especially when you’re trying to help your dog lose weight.
Since senior dogs are more likely to be overweight with a decrease in activity as they age, our Weight Control low-fat dog food recipe is a great food for senior dogs, too! It’s fortified with Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate to support healthy joints–something that’s important for seniors, but is even more important if your dog weighs more than their ideal body weight. If your dog is overweight, the extra weight can put extra stress on their joints so making sure your dog’s food is supporting that is important. For a little extra push, our EarthBites Hip & Joint treats are also fortified with Glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate. Just make sure not to feed too many!
Dog Exercise Tips
While weight management dog food is a great start to keeping your dog healthy, it’s not the only piece of the puzzle. Just like humans, dogs need a healthy balance of diet and exercise to keep them in shape. How much exercise your dog needs every day differs from dog to dog–your energetic puppy will need much more exercise than your senior dog.
While the exact amount of exercise you should aim for is a great topic to discuss with your vet, this handy calculator is a great starting point. It takes into account your pup’s breed, age, temperament, and size to give you an estimate of how many minutes of activity your dog should be getting each day. Make sure that if your dog has any health problems not covered that you discuss your exercise routine with your vet to make sure your dog’s needs are being met.
Once you figure out how much activity time your dog needs every day, the next step is figuring out how all of that time will be spent. From outdoor or indoor dog exercise to dog exercise toys, there’s all sorts of ways to get your dog’s blood pumping. It can be as easy as buying a good frisbee and getting your dog outside for an hour to play with it, or as complex as signing your pup up for some agility classes nearby.
If you’re wanting to spend some extra money on your dog’s weight loss journey, you can purchase some exercise equipment for your dog! A great option for dog exercise equipment that isn’t as complex as you might think would be an agility kit. This indoor agility kit is a simple option to get your dog moving, even if the weather is looking a little dreary. With a tunnel, weave poles, and a high jump, this kit is an easy way to introduce your dog to agility while also getting them in shape.
While agility may be fun for you and your dog, you don’t have to go all-out on crazy equipment to keep your dog moving. A simple toy that just keeps your dog occupied may just do the trick. A treat dispensing toy that your dog has to move around to get all of the treats out of will keep them up and moving but also keep them entertained at home. You may also try a treat dispensing ball that way they can push it around even more to get the treats out and burn a few more calories in the meantime. Get some weight management dog food kibbles or break up some EarthBites, stuff them inside, and let exercise time commence!
If the weather is cooperating, there are all sort of outdoor exercise activities you can do with your dog as well to keep them in shape. Agility is an activity that, while it can be done inside, is also a great outdoor activity. You can get more equipment and spread it out more in your yard so your dog can get a good run in between all of the obstacles. A good game of fetch with a tennis ball or frisbee is another simple idea to get your dog moving, as well as going for a good old-fashioned walk around the neighborhood.
While walking is a great outdoor dog activities option, tracking just how much your dog is walking and making sure they’re getting in all their steps is another struggle. If you’re wanting to track your dog’s daily steps and more, the Fi dog collar is a great option to get your pup in shape! This GPS collar tracks your dog’s walks, steps, miles, daily goals, and is a life saver if your dog should ever get lost. They have an app where you can track all of these things and compete with other dog owners to motivate you to get outside and get your dog (and even yourself!) in great shape.
More Dog Weight Loss Tips
While diet and exercise are the main driving factors in weight management for your dog, there are a few other easy tips and tricks you can use to help make sure you’re helping your dog’s weight loss progress.
Portion control is a big factor when it comes to weight management for your dog, even if you’re feeding a weight management dog food. As mentioned earlier, while the portions listed on the back of dog food bags are great starting points when figuring out how much to feed your dog, it’s always recommended to talk to your vet to see exactly how much you should be feeding your dog. This is especially important when trying to help your dog lose weight, as feeding too much of a good food can hinder your pup’s progress.
If you typically let your pup have table scraps, you could be slowly but surely aiding in added weight for your dog. Stick to your dog’s daily food routine as recommended by your vet and avoid table scraps, as these little “treats” can add up in calories fast. Instead, find some healthy treats for dogs like our EarthBites soft treats. However, even if you’re feeding healthy dog treats, if your dog is significantly overweight it may be best to cut treats altogether. In these cases, you’ll need to find other ways to reward your dog. If they love playing with certain toys, use toy rewards instead of treats when you want to show your dog some love for good behavior.
Keep It Up
Just like a human’s, a dog’s weight loss journey can be just that–a journey! Finding a routine that works for you and your dog is the first step in helping your dog become healthier. If a certain activity doesn’t work with your lifestyle, try something different to get your dog up and moving. Make sure to keep in close contact with your vet to continuously track your pup’s progress and, most importantly, don’t give up! It may take several months to get your dog to the point he needs to be at, but don’t let that discourage you. Keep it up and your dog will be well on its way to being a healthy weight and healthy pup for years to come.