How to Help a Fat Puppy Lose Weight

Exercise and Feeding Tips for Obese Pups

Jogging with a dog


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Very young puppies almost never need a diet for weight loss, but pudgy adolescent youngsters may benefit from diet tips for fat puppies. Growing puppies should not have their nutrition restricted without guidance from a veterinarian or it may lead to health problems. Fortunately, there are some simple and safe things you can do.

Helping Fat Puppies Slim Down

One of the simplest ways to help your pup lose excess weight is to eliminate or reduce treats and increase play sessions. These changes can help moderately overweight pups lose weight.

Avoid ad-lib or free feeding, which may lead to excess calorie consumption. Rather than keeping the bowl full for all-day grazing, offer measured amounts during designated mealtimes. Dog food package guidelines are just that—guidelines. You need to customize the amounts fed for each pet, and your vet can help.

Many overweight adult dogs do better on reduced-calorie, or "lite" foods. Weight reduction diets typically replace the fat in the food with indigestible fiber, dilute calories with water, or "puff up" the product with air. These diets aren’t always appropriate for young pups because they may not have the necessary nutrients for growth. Always be sure to clear any diet change with your vet.

Beware of “lite” and "diet" formula foods for puppies—they aren’t magical. It only means the food is lower in calories than the same brand's “regular” food. In fact, pets can gain weight on lite diets if they're fed inappropriate amounts or their begging and scavenging patterns increase. One brand of lite food may have more calories than another brand's regular food. In other words, “Lite Brand X” may have MORE calories than “Regular Brand Z.” Additionally, some pets eat more of the diet food to make up for lost calories, so even if you feed a lite formula, a measured amount is still necessary.

Adjust your puppy's feeding schedule. Divide the daily food allotment into four or even five small meals a day to help keep your pet from feeling deprived. As metabolizing food takes energy, giving multiple small meals throughout the day will use more energy than a single large meal or two thus burning calories faster. Once your puppy reaches the target weight, serving meals twice daily will maintain a healthy feeding schedule.

Dobermann Pinscher puppies, 5 weeks, feeding from bowl.
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Therapeutic Diets

When young dogs are truly obese, they need medical supervision by a veterinarian and sometimes a special therapeutic weight-loss diet. Most major pet food manufacturers offer special weight-reduction diets that are available directly through your veterinarian. Each offers innovative formulations that help pets safely lose weight.

Some therapeutic foods increase dietary protein to help the pet’s body burn fat. Others are designed to better regulate the body’s natural insulin levels so that the calories are more readily burned instead of being stored as fat. Research shows that certain vitamins can affect the way food is processed and stored in the pet’s body, and affect weight loss. For instance, adding a vitamin-like substance called L-carnitine to the diet will increase the rate at which muscles burn fat for energy.

Other research has examined the effect of vitamin A on the production of a natural body hormone called leptin. Researchers say that leptin encourages fat cell production while an increase in vitamin A intake results in decreased leptin production and easier weight loss (at least in rats).

Exercise for Health

Controlling your puppy's diet is only the first step to weight loss. Your overweight puppy needs to take LOTS of steps in the form of exercise to lose body fat. Both puppies and adult dogs should get about 20 minutes or more of aerobic exercise twice a day to stay healthy. Of course, certain breeds will require more and some less.

If your fur-kid already packs too much poundage, don’t expect the pup to maintain activity for extended periods. Take it in small stages—five minutes here, 10 minutes there. Any exercise program should begin slowly and be adjusted to your pet’s ability level.

To build up your pup's stamina, try controlled leash walking at your pup’s pace. As the weight comes off, her energy level will increase. Start with a 10-minute walk in the morning and afternoon, and add another five minutes each week. Once she can walk for 20 minutes at a stretch, try picking up the pace and increasing the distance. The interaction you share with your dog during the walk is much healthier for you both than giving her attention with a treat.

You can also make pups work a little bit for their food. Put the food at the top or bottom of the staircase so she always has to go up and down to get her food. If she can’t navigate stairs, put food on a chair, and provide a ramp up to a chair she’s burning a few calories. Setting the bowl across the house from Fluffy’s bed also forces her to move.

Dieting pets often pester owners endlessly for more food. Reserve part of the regular diet—a handful of kibble, for instance—and keep it handy to dispense as “treats” when your pet comes begging. If your vet approves, you can also offer small amounts of healthy snacks like carrots or green beans.

Commercial treat balls and puzzle toys like the Kong Wobbler or the Orbee Tuff Mazee are other options. Place a portion of your pet’s regular daily ration inside the treat ball, so that she’ll have to work at it to get to the food. This can solve portion control, exercise, and the "pester" factor all in one.

Boy playing with puppy on steps outdoors
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Article Sources
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  1. Feeding Growing Puppies. VCA Hospitals.

  2. Nutrient Requirements for Dogs and Cats. National Academy of Sciences.

  3. Jeyakumar, Shanmugam M, and Ayyalasomayajula Vajreswari. Vitamin A as a key regulator of obesity & its associated disorders: Evidences from an obese rat modelThe Indian journal of medical research, vol. 141, no. 3, pp. 275-84, 2015. doi:10.4103/0971-5916.156554