How to Help Your Dog Loose Weight, Tips from a Vet

Last Updated on 6 months by Dr. Shannon Barrett

Are you having trouble getting your dog to loose weight?  Don’t worry! There should be a weight watchers support group for pet owners with obese dogs.  Obesity in pets is a major health concern. Just as with people, canine obesity can lead to serious health problems. Diabetes, pancreatitis, arthritis and heart disease are just a few of the problems that we see in our “robust” pets.

While many pets are fortunate to stay naturally slim, there are those who seem to get fat with little effort. And then there are those accomplished actors who make you think they are constantly starving. Trust me – most of them are not. I would love to eat chocolate all day but fortunately I understand the health risks that come with chronic caloric intake. My shepherd does not care about these risks no matter how many charts I show him. It is therefore up to us (as owners) to be strong and ensure we are monitoring how many calories we are feeding our pets so we can keep them at a healthy weight.

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How Do I Know if My Dog or Cat is Overweight?

It can be hard to see if our pets are gaining weight because we see them everyday.  When your veterinarian examines your pet, they will give them a Body Condition Score (BCS). This score is based on a few key things such as the amount of fat over their ribs and how well their waist is defined.  Usually this score is out of 9 where a 5/9 is an ideal body score.  I have included an image of a body condition scoring chart below.

Body Condition Score (BCS)Chart. Image Courtesy of World Small Animal Veterinary Association  
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Here are a few suggestions for offering your pet some healthy alternatives when you want to give them a treat. If your pet has any type of weight problem (underweight as well as overweight) please check with your veterinarian to rule out possible causes. If your pet has dietary restrictions, discuss giving any new food with your vet.

Can My Pet Have Fruits and Vegetables?

Many pets just want to action of being given a treat as opposed to the treat itself. Therefore, if you act like green bean is a delicious food, your pet is more likely to believe you. Try offering your dog some of the raw vegetables below. Many pets love them and you can mix them into their normal diets to help them feel fuller.

  • Raw green beans
  • Raw baby carrots
  • Raw cucumbers
  • Bananas
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Watermelon – avoid seeds

Related Content: 18 Best Healthy Dog Treats

What about Prescription Diets?

If your pet is on a prescription diet from your veterinarian, sometimes treats have to be eliminated. Ask your veterinarian if a canned formulation of the diet is available. Most companies make both canned and dried versions.

**Pro Tip**

  1. Remove the food from the can in one large piece.
  2. Use a cheese slicer or knife to cut 1/4-inch slices.
  3. Place the slices onto a cookie sheet.
  4. Bake them at 300 degrees Fahrenheit until they are crispy, like a cracker.

*This gives your pet a crunchy treat that stays within the diet plan.

What if my pet has Food Allergy?

Many pets have allergies or food sensitivities. In these cases, look for treats labeled “Limited ingredient” or “Hypoallergenic”. Luckily, the ones we recommend are also low calorie. Most dogs are allergic to the protein sources in their food.  The most common allergens are chicken and beef. Therefore treats such as those from Natural Balance, (their limited ingredient line) and Fruitables are good options. These come in several different flavors and are low in calories. They are also easy to break in half so your dog feels as if he is getting 2 treats!

Fruitables Baked Dog Treats

Some of our favorite dog cookies are fruits and vegetables in disguise. Fruitables Baked Dog Treats are rich in antioxidants and vitamins, high in fiber and less than 9 calories each, which means guilt-free indulgence for your pup

Why We Like Them:

  • Oven baked crunchy treats made with fresh pumpkin and a touch of cinnamon
  • Treats are rich in antioxidants & vitamins, high in fiber and less than 9 calories each
  • Pumpkin is rich in antioxidants, vitamins A, C, and E and an excellent source of dietary fiber
  • Low calorie treats that are great for dogs with food allergies
Great Variety of Flavors

Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Treats

These treats are a crunchy delight!  They are the perfect snack or reward for small and large breed dogs. From training to bonding to learning new tricks, these crunchy biscuits will keep the tails wagging! 

Why We Like Them:

  • Sweet potatoes provide grain-free sources of fiber for easy digestion
  • Purposefully crafted using fewer ingredients to complement your dog’s balanced diet
  • Packed with irresistible flavor for all good dogs, not just those with dietary sensitivities
  • Grab the small dog size for any size dog in your life. This keeps the calorie count low and they just know they are getting a tasty treat. 

Rileys Organic Dog Treats

These are another great option. They come in several different flavors and use only human grade ingredients. The sweet potato flavor is one of my dog’s favorites. They come in large and small bones. Again, I recommend the small bones for dogs of all sizes. Your furry friends don’t know the difference and it helps keep them lean!  

Why We Like Them:

  • Low calorie, natural treats made with organic ingredients
  • Sweet potatoes are a healthy alternative to most commercial dog treats
  • Sweet potatoes, cinnamon – everyone loves this combination! 

Greenies for Cats

These are low calorie and most cats like the crunchy texture.

They have a unique shape which helps clean their teeth and reduce tartar, while also serving as a cat breath freshener. Yes, please!

Why We Like Them:

  • Made with natural ingredients plus added vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients
  • They are nutritionally complete and balanced for adult cats but should not serve as your cats main diet.  Yes, we have seen it happen 😉
  • Grernies have no artificial flavors, has no artificial preservatives, and contains less than 2 calories per treat.


How can I Easily Medicate my Pet?

Pill Pockets

Getting your pet to take medication can often be difficult.

A great option for covering up the taste of a pill is Pill Pockets. The Peanut butter and the duck flavors tend to have an odor that dogs and cats enjoy. Although humans may not appreciate the duck ones as much. They also come in other delicious flavors such as hickory smoke and chicken. For those dogs with chicken allergies, avoid the chicken ones. 

Why We Like Them:

  • Your pets prefer taking pills with a delicious treat than a human hand down their throat
  • The capsule size are large enough to be broken into smaller pieces for tablet or you can use an entire one for larger capsules
  • They come in several flavors so if your pet gets suspicious of the peanut butter, you can switch to another flavor 

**Pro Tip**

Bananas are another great option for hiding medications! They are usually tasty enough to cover the flavor of the pill but also low in calories. Healthy, but sneaky!


Are Treat Dispensing Toys Good For Dogs and Cats?

Having toys that deliver food to your pet can be a lifesaver. Everyone needs a break, especially after cooking a great meal for yourself. A treat dispensing toy is a great way to keep your pet occupied while you eat your meal! (And it keeps those cute “begging” eyes away from your plate). These toys also encourage your pet to burn calories while eating.



This toy is perfect for overly eager eaters; use as a kibble-dispensing feeder to make dinnertime fun while encouraging a better meal pace for your dog

Why We Like It:

  • It’s made with durable non-toxic materials for long lasting use
  • My shepherd has used his for years.  You can put treats or kibble in the jug.  
  • The hole at the top allows for a variety of treat/kibble sizes to fall out

LumoLeaf Treat Ball

Another option for eager eaters! Your canine friends roll this ball around and kibble falls out of a strategically placed hole in the ball. My shepherd loves this one as well. There is a dial on the inside so you can control the size of the opening.  This allows you to use food or treats of various sizes. 

Why We Like It:

  • Helps give your dog extra exercise since they have to move the ball around the room to get the treats/kibble out
  • It has an adjustable hole on the inside so you can control the size of the treat and the speed at which it is dispensed. 
  • The ball on the outside protects the ball on the inside which houses the treats.  This makes it more durable if your dog gets rough with it. 
LumoLeaf Dog Treat Ball
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03/11/2024 08:13 am GMT

West Paw Tough Toys

I recommend these to clients who have dogs that are aggressive chewers.  The ones from the Zogoflex line are tough enough for the most aggressive chewers yet the material will not damage their teeth like other toys.  Some of my favorite toys from this line have holes in them so you can Stuff or freeze their favorite treats inside to keep them entertained and stimulated. 

West Paw Toppl Treat Dispensing Toy Bundle 

One of our favorite puzzle toys! The Toppl comes in small and large sizes. We recommend getting one of each size so you can connect them together for an extra challenge! The Toy Bundle includes both the small and large sizes. They can be used independently or connected together. They contain a hollow center which can be filled with your dogs favorite treats or banana or peanut butter – the possibilities are endless! 

Why We Like It:

  • Contains inner “teeth” to hold treats in place
  • Offers different levels of difficulty since the small and large versions can be connected together 
  • Dishwasher safe for easy cleanup  

West paw Qwizl Dog Toy

The Qwizl treat dispensing toy has a brilliant design to help extend the life of treats placed inside. It has openings on both sides as well as a “peek a boo” opening in the middle. This allows you to be creative when putting treats in the Qwizl and gives your pup many options to get to his reward. Fun for both of you!

Why We Like It:

  • Super tough so your dog can chew on it without destroying it
  • As with all West Paw Toys, it’s dishwasher safe and BPA free
  • Can be placed in the freezer so you can use healthy options such as bananas or canned pumpkin as fillers 

West Paw Tux Treat Dispensing Toy

Have a dog that tears up chew toys in minutes! Then this is the toy for them! The Tux is the toughest treat toy that West Paw offers. It’s made to stand up to avid chewers. The Tux has a hollow center to fill with treats, fruit or peanut butter to keep your pup  entertained. Sweet and tough – just like your pup!

Why We Like It:

  • Allows you to add a variety of treats to the hollow center
  • Non Toxic and dishwasher safe
  • Stands up to avid chewers so built to last 

(FAQ) Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Where can I find more quality information about preventing obesity  in dogs and cats?

As we all know, there is a lot of misinformation online about everything and this is especially true about our pets.  I always recommend looking at veterinary organizations or universities for quality information.  For pet obesity and nutrition, there is a great resource founded in 2005 called the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention.

Here you can find articles on calories and energy requirements as well as exercise tips, all from veterinarians.

2. How quickly should my pet loose weight?

We want to be careful when working on weight loss with our pets.  They didn’t gain weight quickly so we don’t want them to loose it quickly either.  This is especially true of cats who can become very sick, very quickly if they loose weight too quickly.  The goal is for dogs to loose  1-3% of body weight per month and cats to loose 0.5% – 2% of their body weight per month for safe weight loss.  It’s recommend to weigh your pets weekly and keep track of these weights for both you and your veterinarian.  We may need to adjust calories based on these numbers.

Dr. Barrett veterinary blogs

Dr. Shannon Barrett brings an exceptional blend of academic excellence and professional expertise to the world of veterinary medicine. With a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Western University of Health Sciences, where she graduated with honors, and dual Bachelor degrees in Biological Sciences and Psychology, her depth of knowledge is extensive. A member of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Dr. Barrett's insights and contributions to pet health have been featured in leading publications such as Rover, MarketWatch, and Newsweek.

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Dr. Barrett veterinary blogs

Dr. Shannon Barrett

Veterinarian with a Passion for Educating Pet Parents

Pets change our lives for the better and we are always trying to do the same for them. This site is a combination of tips and product recommendations to enhance the lives of our pets and the people owned by them.  Thanks for stopping by!

Dr. Shannon Barrett

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