Across the country, pet obesity is becoming a serious problem. In fact, in a 2019 study published in Veterinary Emerging Topics Report, more than half of all adult dogs seen in Banfield Pet Hospital locations across the United States were considered overweight or obese. Unfortunately, overweight dogs are at significantly greater risk of health complications ranging from cardiovascular disease to joint disorders, chronic inflammation, and decreased immune system function.
With all this in mind, it's easy to see why maintaining a healthy weight for your dog is so important. In addition to getting your dog the appropriate amount of exercise based on your vet's recommendations, choosing the right weight management dog food is also vital.
What Is Healthy Weight Dog Food?
As its name suggests, healthy weight dog food refers to dog food specifically designed and formulated to help keep dogs at a healthy weight. These foods can be used not just to help an overweight or obese dog lose weight, but to assist in keeping the weight off indefinitely.
When this type of healthy weight formula is combined with increased activity levels (such as regular walks and other exercise), dog owners can help their canine companions shed excess weight that could be causing health complications, such as:
- Joint damage
- Lowered immune function
- Heart disease
- Respiratory compromise
- Diabetes or insulin resistance
Before beginning any kind of diet or exercise plan for your dog, it's a good idea to consult with your veterinarian. An experienced vet can assess your dog's current weight, recommend an ideal weight goal for your dog, and provide you with additional guidance that may be specific to your dog's breed, life stage, or other factors.
Proteins To Look for in a Healthy Dog Food
As you begin looking for weight management dog food, the most important thing you can do is to scrutinize ingredient labels carefully. Specifically, look for protein sources in a weight management formula. The best option for healthy dog food is leaner meat, such as chicken, turkey, fish, lamb, or lean beef. Opting for lean proteins in your pet's food can provide your dog with essential amino acids without piling on the calories.
In fact, according to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), adult maintenance dog foods should contain at least 18% protein as the main ingredient.
Fats To Look for (and Watch Out for) in Dog Food
Contrary to popular belief, a low-fat diet isn’t the best way to help a dog maintain a healthy weight. In addition to high protein content, any high-quality and balanced dog food formula should contain fat (about 5.5% fat, according to AAFCO guidelines). However, dog owners need to understand that just as not all protein is the same, neither are all fat sources.
Fat plays many important roles in a dog's health: It's an energy source and aids in absorbing fat-soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids that can reduce inflammation and maintain a healthy coat.
When looking at fat sources in a weight control dog food, it's best to avoid saturated fats. These are often found in dairy-sourced fats and high-fat beef. Ideally, the amount of these fat sources in your dog's food should be less than 10% — although 5%-7% is ideal for an overweight dog.
Unsaturated fats, on the other hand, are the better fats that can actually help to reduce the risk of heart disease while easing inflammation. When looking for unsaturated fats on a dog food ingredient label, look for monosaturated, polysaturated (such as omega-3 fatty acids), and vegetable-derived sources such as:
- Olive oil
- Canola oil
- Nut/seed oil (like flaxseed and pumpkin seed)
Why a Complete and Balanced Meal Is Ideal for Healthy Weight Management
You'll see and hear the phrase "complete and balanced" a lot in your search for a healthy weight dog food formula — but what does it actually mean?
When you see this phrasing on a bag of dog food, it means that the food meets or exceeds AAFCO standards for protein, fat, carbohydrate, vitamin, and mineral content. These guidelines are based on a pet's life stage. For example, the adult maintenance formula for dogs based on AAFCO guidance is:
- 18% protein
- 5.5% fat
- Minerals (including calcium, potassium, magnesium, and zinc)
- Vitamins (including vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin E, and riboflavin)
By feeding your dog a formula that meets or exceeds these recommendations, you can set them up for the best chances of success in reaching a healthy body weight while meeting all their nutritional needs.
It's important to note that AAFCO does not require protein to come from a specific source — so it will be up to you as a pet owner to look for an animal-based lean protein source as the first ingredient. Likewise, you'll want to look for a formula that contains the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and probiotics to support your dog's weight loss journey, such as:
- Vitamins A, D, and E
How To Tell if Your Dog is a Healthy Weight
In some cases, all you have to do is look at your dog to know they're overweight. In other cases, it may not always be so obvious. Ultimately, the most reliable way to determine whether your dog is a healthy weight is to consult with your veterinarian. Your vet can weigh your dog during a routine wellness exam to get an accurate reading. From there, your vet can use tools like the AAHA's Body Condition Scoring (BCS) system to determine how much weight (if any) your pet needs to lose.
You can review the BCS system for yourself to get a better idea of what your veterinarian will be looking for during an exam. Likewise, there are a few indicators you can look for at home that may help you get a better feel for whether your dog is at a healthy weight.
You Can Feel the Contours of the Ribs With Your Palms
When you reach and feel your dog's sides, you should be able to feel the contours of your dog's ribs with your palms. If there is too much body fat around your pet's waist, it is unlikely that you'll be able to feel the ribs easily (or at all). However, being able to feel the contours of the ribs without applying much pressure is a good sign that your dog is at (or close to) a healthy weight.
Your Dog's Waist is Visible From the Side and Above
When viewing your dog from above, you should notice an obvious waist. This should be the narrowest part of your dog's torso and should be located just behind the ribs. If your dog's waist is absent or difficult to see, this could be a sign that your dog is carrying some excess abdominal fat that needs to be addressed.
Your Dog Has a Normal Activity Level and Enjoys Walks and Playtime
Dogs with a healthy weight tend to have normal activity levels and enjoy physical exercise in their everyday lives. If your dog easily perks up when you initiate playtime and enjoys going on walks, this is a good sign. Unfortunately, dogs who carry excess weight may suffer from lower activity levels; they may not enjoy playing with toys or going on walks — or they may become quickly winded during physical activity.
Best Dog Food for Maintaining a Healthy Weight
Ultimately, it will be up to you and your veterinarian to decide the right weight loss plan for your dog. There's a good chance that your vet will recommend switching to a dog food specifically designed for weight loss and weight management. As you shop around, you'll want to look for a balanced formula that contains quality ingredients and zero preservatives while being low-calorie.
Fortunately, The Honest Kitchen offers several options to help your dog achieve the perfect weight.
1) Whole Grain Chicken Clusters
The Honest Kitchen's Whole Grain Chicken Clusters dry dog food is a human grade, minimally processed dog food. It features cage free, real chicken as the number one ingredient, delivering the lean protein your dog needs to maintain a healthy weight without feeling deprived. Other wholesome, natural ingredients in this recipe include oats, barley, carrots, ground flaxseed, and pumpkin.
Meanwhile, Whole Grain Chicken Whole Food Clusters is loaded with essential amino acids your dog needs to build lean muscle and boost immune function. Vitamins and minerals, including potassium chloride, vitamin A, vitamin D3, and vitamin E, support essential nutrients while improving immunity and promoting healthy digestion — which can help you achieve your dog's weight loss goals. Your dog can enjoy all these benefits and a delicious taste at just 428 kCal per cup.
Learn more about The Honest Kitchen's Whole Grain Chicken Clusters dry dog food, its ingredients, and how it's made — then consider trying a bag for your dog. This recipe is available in a 1lb bag, 5lb bag, and 20lb bag to suit your needs!
2) Grain Free Turkey Clusters
Looking for a grain free formula for your dog? Check out The Honest Kitchen's Grain Free Turkey Clusters dry dog food, a human grade option made with nutrient-rich and natural ingredients. At just 427 kCal per cup, this formula features turkey as its main ingredient. This delivers the lean protein your dog needs to achieve and maintain an ideal weight.
Other ingredients in this delicious and nutritious food include egg and fruits and vegetables like potatoes, peas, lentils, carrots, pumpkin, and apples to keep your dog satisfied. Added vitamins and minerals, including calcium carbonate and L-carnitine, promote healthy digestion and give your dog steady energy to power through each day.
What sets this formula apart from some other adult dry dog foods isn't just what it contains, but what it doesn't include. This recipe is free of by-products like chicken meal, and common fillers like corn, wheat or soy. The result? Higher energy levels that can fuel your dog's weight loss.
All our dry dog food ingredients are always cold pressed, roasted, and dehydrated to preserve nutrients while maintaining the best aroma and taste for your canine companion. Learn more about The Honest Kitchen's Grain Free Turkey Clusters and consider grabbing a bag for your pup to try. This food is available in 1 lb, 5 lb, and 20 lb bags.
3) Dehydrated Grain Free Fish
Another excellent grain free option is our Dehydrated Grain Free Fish recipe. Our dehydrated foods are gently processed to maintain more flavor and nutrition than many traditional dry dog foods, making them a great option for even the pickiest eaters.
You won’t find any artificial flavors here — this high-protein recipe is packed with dehydrated natural whole food ingredients: white fish, sweet potatoes, eggs, pumpkin, coconut, salmon, apples, and vitamins and minerals. Like all of our recipes, these ingredients are thoughtfully sourced in the USA and processed to human grade standards.
Serving up this recipe is easy: Simply add warm water or bone broth to a serving, wait three minutes for the recipe to rehydrate, and your pup has a fresh, healthy, and delicious meal!
Find out more about our Dehydrated Grain Free Fish recipe and pick up your bag today.
Keep Your Dog a Healthy Weight With The Honest Kitchen
Whether your dog is a large breed, small breed, or any size in between, maintaining an ideal weight is essential to your pet's long-term health and wellness. By knowing how to spot signs of obesity in your dog and what to look for in dog food for weight management, you can make informed decisions for your pup's well-being. And, of course, it's never a bad idea to consult with your vet for more guidance on how much weight your dog needs to lose, how to create a weight loss plan, and how to select the right food for your pup's unique needs.
At The Honest Kitchen, we're here to support every dog on their journey to a healthy weight with our high-quality, human grade recipes. Just look at the many testimonies from real dog owners who have helped their pets lose weight eating our foods. Try one for your dog and see the Honest difference for yourself!
*Health Disclaimer: This post is educational in nature and doesn’t constitute health advice. Please consult your pet's veterinarian or other healthcare professional for specific guidance on this topic.