Feeding a Dog to Lose Weight

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Every other dog, and then some, in the United States is overweight according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP). That means that there are around 44 million overweight or, worse, obese dogs in this country. These dogs need help and that help needs to come from their family in the form of a methodical portion control schedule that uses daily calories as a guide.

feed your dog to lose weight

One of the challenges with feeding a dog to lose weight is that it requires time, a lot of time, to implement a safe weight loss regimen. Simply cutting back on the dog’s kibble for a week or two will suffice. How much time will it take for an overweight dog to reach their target weight? A numerical example can help to illustrate.


Assume that we have a normally active 52 lb. dog that is about 10 lbs. overweight. This dog is very overweight, almost 20% overweight, although not yet obese. This dog would burn about 1,150 calories each day at 52 lbs. At its target weight of 42 lbs., the dog would burn about 1,000 calories per day. To feed a dog for weight loss, a common guideline is to feed about 75% of the calories that the dog would burn at its target weight until the dog reaches its goal. In our example, that means feeding the dog 75% of 1,000 or 750 calories per day. This works out to be an initial calorie deficit of about 425 calories on the first day of the new ‘diet’. As the dog loses weight over time, the calorie deficit will slowly shrink as the dog is losing weight and their daily calorie needs are slowly shrinking as well.


The graph below depicts the theoretical weight of our 52 lb. dog who is fed 750 calories per day.


dog weight loss feeding


You will notice a few things from this chart. First of all, it will take 106 days for this dog to lose 10 lbs., even on a diet that is rather calorie restrictive. Second, the speed of weight loss is not consistent, even in a theoretical world. The rate of weight loss will change (slow) over time as evidenced by the fact that the line is not straight but slightly curved. In reality, the rate of weight loss is even more non-linear due to a multiple of factors (including owner’s compliance or lack thereof, to the diet program). The graph below shows a more realistic scenario, where the weight loss, while steady over the 106 days, is variable day to day. Those of us who have tried to lose weight ourselves can appreciate this.


actual dog weight loss


The lesson from this analysis is that pet parents with overweight pets need to adjust their expectations when it comes to their pet’s weight loss. Reaching the dog’s target weight will not happen overnight, and will require weeks and weeks of diligence. Obviously, the more overweight (in percentage terms) the pet is, the longer it will take to safely reach their goal. For reference, the table below shows the time it will take for a dog to lose one single pound of body weight while being fed a different daily calorie deficit scenarios.


Daily Calorie Deficit Days to lose 1 lb.
50 70
100 35
150 23
200 18


Lastly, be aware that weight is proportional so a small dog, say 12 lbs. would only need to be 2 lbs. overweight to be as ‘fat’ as in our example. This smaller dog will also need many weeks of dieting in order to lose those 2 lbs.

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  1. Sydney has lost 8 pounds over the past 6+ months and I’m so proud of her. I have restricted her diet, replacing 1/3 of the raw with a fresh, pureed vegetable mix. I’ve also added ground kelp for thyroid health. She hates the cold, but loves solo walks. Since we live on a large property, she and I walk the perimeter daily. It’s been fun watching her waist show up again and seeing her behave playfully with me and her siblings.

    Thanks for the great information you share on your blog. I knew where to go to get the inspiration I needed to help Sydney.
    Kimberly Gauthier recently posted…I Feed My Dogs Raw Because…My Profile

  2. We currently try to remove the christmas sins. by now Easy lost 2 lbs, now we work on the next two. I still reached my goal (a miracle, ha!)… no idea what I will do for the remaining 11 months lol

    • Congrats on reaching your goal. Now all you have to do is maintain the rest of the year!
      mkob recently posted…Feeding a Dog to Lose WeightMy Profile

  3. Slow and steady wins the race in pet dieting. Finding a good life style with good food in the correct amount, limited healthy treats now and then, and exercise. Sure wish more pets would lose weight. It’s so sad to see dogs waddling around because of their big bellies!
    Emma recently posted…#MixItUp At Mealtime With Instinct Raw Boost MixersMy Profile

  4. This was a great post explaining how to calculate calories and weight loss. You don’t want to do it to fast so it’s ok to do it slowly over time. Keep it up and you will see the pounds come off.
    Sand Spring Chesapeakes recently posted…Jones Natural Chews Does It AgainMy Profile

  5. Here’s to consistency and a disciplined feeding & exercise routine! It’s also important that everyone around a dog in need of weight loss in on the same page – to include doggie grandparents and pet sitters!
    Barbara Rivers recently posted…2016 Pet Blogger Challenge – Behind The Scenes at K9sOverCoffee!My Profile

  6. Great post. Setting proper expectations is invaluable. Have to be in it for the long haul.

  7. A good dog food and more exercise-the same formula for overweight uprights. 😉

  8. One of the best things about getting Bentley at his ideal weight was the vet telling me that she seldom sees a Basset Hound with a waist! LOL!
    M. K. Clinton recently posted…Instinct Raw Boost Makes Raw Feeding Easy #mixitupMy Profile

  9. I don’t have to think about this with Miss Cocoa but it is so good to learn. I worry about Cocoa being too thin!!
    Julie recently posted…Perfection!!My Profile

  10. I would like for Haley to lose 2-3 pounds to get to her ideal weight. Hopefully that should come off quickly now that she’s feeling better and not having the arthritis pain issues now.
    Elaine recently posted…Our Success with Adequan for ArthritisMy Profile

  11. Being a pet owner I completely understand the importance of Maintaining a dog’s ideal weight. Moreover, this is one of the most essential things we can do to help our dogs live long, active and happy lives.

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