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How to Help Your Dog Lose Weight

by Lauren Samet

Most dogs love food just as much as their owners, and sadly dogs can put on weight just as easily as us when a big appetite is combined with too little exercise. Being overweight is no joke for dogs, as it can negatively impact quality of life and increase the risk of all sorts of unpleasant (and potentially expensive) conditions and diseases. 

Read on to find out why watching your dog’s weight is so important, how you can help them avoid piling on the pounds, and what to do if they need to shed a few too. 

How to Tell If Your Dog Is Overweight

Regularly weighing your dog can allow you to easily monitor patterns in weight gain or loss. It also allows you to compare your dog’s weight with the average for that breed type. The table below gives some approximate average weights for different breeds.


Average Weight Dogs (kg)

Average Weight Bitches (kg)

Airedale Terrier 20 - 23 20 - 23
Australian Terrier 6.5 6.5
Basset Hound 18 – 27  16 – 23
Beagle 13 – 16  11 – 13
Bichon Frise 8-9 7-8
Collie 20-29 18-25
Miniature Dachshund 4.5 4.5
Dachshund 9-12 9-12
Doberman 34-41 29-36
Foxhound 32 32
French Bulldog 12.5 11
German Shepherd 34-38 27-32
Great Dane Min. 54 Min. 46
Greyhound 30-32 27-30
King Charles Spaniel 3.6-6.3 3.6-6.3
Llasa Apso 7 6-7
Mastiff 57-89 57-89
Norfolk Terrier 6 6
Old English Sheep Dog 27-41 23-27
Pug 6-8 6-8
Flat-Coated Retriever 25-35 25-34
Rottweiler 45-54 36-41
Miniature Schnauzer 7-8 7-8
Cocker Spaniel 12.5-14.5 12.5-14.5
St Bernard 73-78 63-73
Staffordshire Bull Terrier 13-17 11-15.5
West Highland Terrier 8-9 7-8
Yorkshire Terrier 3 3
(Source: https://adelaidevet.com.au/pet-library/weight-the-ideal-bodyweight-range-for-your-dog-by-breed)

Most vets have scales in their reception area and if you ask politely they are happy for you to pop in and weigh your dog. If your dog is small there’s also the option of picking him or her up before you step on the scales at home - just remember to subtract your weight to get an accurate reading.

A dog ‘size-o-meter’ or body condition score chart can also be a useful tool to help monitor your dog’s weight by studying the fat distribution on your dog.

These charts can still be useful even if you regularly weigh your pet, because all dogs are slightly different, just as we owners are. A small dog, for example, might seem underweight if only the scale method is used. 

Ideally, you should be able to see a waistline and feel the hips, the last few ribs and the spine but not see them. Getting hands-on with a dog and feeling your pet’s body composition can also be very useful if your dog has a heavy long coat.
Here is an example of a Body Condition Score Chart: https://www.pfma.org.uk/_assets/docs/pet-size-o-meter/pet-size-o-meter-dog.pdf

How to Help Your Dog Lose Weight

The dangers of obesity in dogs include an increased risk of arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, respiratory distress, high blood pressure and cancer. Consequently, even if your dog is only a few pounds overweight it’s really important to start altering your dog’s lifestyle and diet as soon as possible. 

Here are some tips to help overweight dogs lose weight:

1.    Start by removing treats from your dog’s diet. If you have to give your pet treats (such as for training etc.) try offering kibble taken from their next meal to maintain a suitable calorific intake. 

2.    Feed 10% less food. This modest change will decrease the number of calories consumed each day by your dog without leaving them too hungry or deprived of necessary nutrients. If little difference has been noted after a month then speak to a vet or nutritionist for further advice, its important not to deviate from feeding guidelines on complete feeds too much because it can lead to a decreased intake of vitamins and minerals too, but as most owners tend to be overly generous with portion sizes, the 10% rule can be useful. 

3.    Portion control. If you don’t already weigh or measure how much food you give your dog then now would be a great time to start. You can then compare the amount your dog is eating with the feeding guidelines on the pack to ensure you are not accidentally overfeeding your dog.

4.    Get family and friends on board. Let your family and friends know that your pet is on a diet and why it is important that they lose weight. If you have a family member that regularly spoils your dog then ask them to redirect their affection to an extra walk or a new toy instead of food. 

5.    Get moving. More frequent or slightly longer walks can all help burn calories if you build up your dog’s fitness gradually. Ball games and playing with other dogs can also involve a high level of activity and can be useful if you don’t have time to go out walking more often. 

6.    Stop scavenging. Put bin bags in solid bins and avoid walking your dog in areas where leftover food may be encountered. Placing cat food out of the dog’s reach also stops them getting extra meals and keeps the cat happy too!

7.    Is there such a thing as a healthy snack? A carrot can make a healthier alternative to a bone or stick-style treat. You can also freeze them on hot days for an ice lolly-style treat!

8.    ‘Light’ diets. If your dog is severely overweight then your veterinarian may recommend transferring them onto a ‘light’ or ‘low fat’ dog food. Ask a vet for advice or speak to your favourite pet food brand to see if they can suggest an alternative to your current complete food.

9.    Feed them more often! If you only feed your pet once a day then splitting their daily portion into 2 or 3 smaller meals can help keep your dog’s metabolism active and stop them from getting too hungry between meals.

10.    Remember to always supply clean fresh water. Water helps remove toxins from the body. As fat starts to break down, good hydration will help flush out any breakdown products from this.

11.    Regular brushing. Brushing your dog can help to stimulate their circulation, encouraging the removal of toxins via the lymphatic system. It’s also an excellent time to check the body composition of your dog.

12.    Carrying excess weight throughout life takes its toll on joints, so feeding a supportive supplement such as Joint Aid Plus alongside gradual weight loss can benefit joint health.

13.    Keep a food diary. Sometimes a food journal can highlight why a diet might not be working quite as well as it should so that modifications can be made.

If you are following these tips but you don’t see an improvement in your pet’s weight or waistline then speak to your vet for more advice. Sometimes certain health conditions can lead pets to gain weight more easily or struggle to lose it. A vet’s advice and reassurance can ensure you are doing all the right things to keep your dog healthy and active for years to come.