Daily Dawgs: What to know about weight management for dogs

May 3, 2023

Hi guys! It’s me, Rufus! I hope everyone has been doing alright! Last time I talked to you, we talked about food – human food to be specific – and how it can be dangerous for us doggos. But did you know that even too much of our regular dog food can be bad for our health? It’s true! Mom is always saying, “It is possible to have too much of a good thing.” She said some guy named Aesop said it first, but I’ve never met him, so I couldn’t tell you.

Anyway, what she means is, even if you eat only the things that are good for you, but eat too much of it, that can be bad! Who would have known? Not me, that’s for sure! Mom told me, and I can’t believe I’m repeating it, that too many treats are bad. Can you believe it? I can’t even imagine what too many treats would look like! But she said too much food and treats, and not enough exercise, can be bad news! I know all about exercise. I run around like the wind and do zoomies every chance I get!

I don’t know if you remember, but I’m 21 pounds of solid muscle. Mom said that’s because she’s always been vigilant about not overfeeding me and not allowing me to have too many treats. Can you believe her, taking credit for my impressive physique? Good gravy! Mmm, gravy sounds yummy! But I’m getting off topic.


Anyway, she said that a lot of dogs struggle with their weight just like humans do and that it can be difficult for both to get back to a healthy weight. And just like for humans, there is a lot of advice on the internet and a lot of different things for sale to help dogs lose weight, but it’s not always easy to know what information to trust. Don’t worry, though, because that’s where me and my mom come in! We’ll help you navigate the information overload! It’s what we do! So Mom put her hands to the keyboard and did some research and found lots of stuff, but I don’t remember everything, so I’ll let her tell you!

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Canine obesity isn’t a simple matter of a few extra pounds; just as in humans, it can cause a wide variety of secondary health issues.

“[Canine] obesity is linked to a whole raft of health problems including arthritis, chronic kidney disease, bladder/urinary tract disease, liver disease, low thyroid hormone production, diabetes, heart failure, high blood pressure, and cancer,” warns the American Kennel Club (AKC).

We all want to do what’s best for our dogs, and being proactive about your dog’s diet is the first line of defense against your dog becoming overweight. There is an overabundance of food on the market, from dry kibble to refrigerated foods, and with so many types available, it can be difficult to know exactly what the right option is.

First, it’s important to know the nutritional needs of dogs.

The AKC website says, “Dogs, unlike cats, are not strict carnivores. While meat makes up the majority of their diet, domestic dogs can also derive nutrients from grains, fruits, and vegetables. These non-meat foods are not simply fillers, but can be a valuable source of essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber. A good dog food will contain meat, vegetables, grains, and fruits. The best dog foods contain high-quality versions of these ingredients that are appropriate for your dog’s digestive system.”


Another important piece of information in regard to dog food is quality. How do you know which food on the shelf, or in the refrigerator, has everything your dog needs? There are a few key things to look for on the packaging. The non-profit organization Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) sets standards in the U.S. for large animal and pet foods, and quality foods will have a nutritional statement printed on the packaging. The next thing to look for is the phrase “complete and balanced,” and there should also be an accompanying “guaranteed analysis” printed on the label, which indicates the content ratio of protein, fat, fiber and so on in the food.

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Note from Mom: For example, the bag of food I feed my dogs contains the words “complete and balanced” in the description with the guarantee analysis listing the amounts of crude protein, crude fat, crude fiber, moisture, omega – 6 fatty acid*, omega – 3 fatty acid*, glucosamine* and chondroitin sulfate* (the * indicates these ingredients are not recognized as an essential nutrient by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles). At the bottom of the bag is the nutrition statement which reads, “[Brand and formula type] is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for All Life Stages including growth of large size dogs (70 lbs. or more as an adult).”

Labels may vary for foods made with puppies, senior dogs or overweight dogs in mind.

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There are many factors that contribute to weight gain in dogs. Overfeeding and lack of exercise are the easiest problems to fix by adjusting your dog’s diet and activity level. But many pet parents may suspect that their dog gained weight for other reasons, like after being spayed or neutered; they might be onto something. The AKC indicates that the shift in levels of hormones and metabolism might trigger weight gain, especially in female dogs.

“Age can also be a factor in obesity. As dogs age, their activity level decreases and they lose lean body mass. Dog owners should work with their veterinarian to adjust the animal’s food intake as it ages,” according to the AKC.

If you believe your dog may already be overweight, don’t panic. If your dog is a fairly common breed, your veterinarian should know the size and weight range for optimum health. If you have an uncommon breed of dog, the AKC suggests checking the breed standard information on their website and taking that information with you when you have your pet seen for an evaluation of their weight.

“Before starting any new diet or exercise plan for your dog, have it approved by your veterinarian,” the AKC warns.

Your veterinarian will be able to evaluate your dog’s specific case, including ruling out other medical reasons for the excess weight. Once the vet has made their determination as to the cause of weight gain, they can help guide you toward the right solutions, such as medication or a combination of altered diet and increased activity, that will work best for your dog.

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Ok, back to me! Gosh, now I’m a little concerned about my boyish figure! I’m eight years old, you know, and not getting any younger! I definitely don’t want to lose my rippling muscles! I wonder if I need to buy a gym membership – start pumping some iron. Mom probably won’t pay for it, though. I can just hear her now, “Rufus, why would you go to the gym when you can run and play outside?” Good gravy! Mmm, gravy sounds yummy! Oh paws, I did it again!

Well, I’m out of time right now – because Mom talked forever again.

Eat right and stay active!


Rufus & Mom


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