#hotdogbodysummer: Tips and tricks to help your dog gain or lose weight

We all want what’s best for our pups. It’s why we treat them like our children – because that’s exactly what they are! At some points we even treat them like kings or queens, serving their food in a golden bowl atop a velvet pillow.

So when it comes to their health, we worry. And – just like with humans – their weight can be a cause for concern. Being over- or underweight can cause health problems or lead to injuries like hip dysplasia. Many factors can affect a pup’s weight, such as age, diet, surgery, illness, health problems, injury, and so much more. Because of this, there are plenty of doggos out there who need to hit the gym and shed a few pounds or start pigging out and put a few on.

And we understand that fattening your pup up or slimming them down is much easier said than done. So we want to help. Here are some tips and tricks to help your dog gain or lose weight. 

Do they actually need to gain or lose weight? 

First of all, you need to check if your doggo actually needs to put on or lose weight. 

To find out if they’re at a healthy weight, ideally, you want to visit the vet. They’ll help you decide if your pooch is fine or if they could do with a few lifestyle changes. 

Every breed is different. A healthy English Bulldog isn’t going to weigh the same as a healthy Chihuahua. Vets will understand each breed’s quirks and can help you set accurate goals for your pup.

Or, if you can’t get to the vet right now, you want to look down at your dog’s figure from above. You want to see an hourglass shape, with their waist visible where it narrows. Their ribs should also be visible, though this doesn’t mean they look like a skeleton with a thin layer of skin stretched over it. When you run your hands over the ribs, you should be able to feel them.

Again, this depends on the breed. Greyhounds are a bony breed, so it isn’t uncommon to see a very skinny greyhound (there is still a level though). But if a labrador had a similar figure, it’d be incredibly dangerous. It’s all about knowing the breed and, ideally, getting the help of a professional.

What about feeding?

While most dog foods (including our own) can give you a recommended feeding allowance, you really want to consider a few different factors outside weight. 

How your dog looks, and how active they are, are all considerations to think about when considering their diet.

Take a 24kg dog, for example. Just looking at its weight isn’t enough. Is it neutered? Is it a puppy? Are they overweight for their breed? Underweight? These make all the difference. If they’re not neutered, well, they need more calories to keep up with that “activity”. And if they’re a puppy, they need more to help them grow.

You can’t just say a 24kg dog needs 1,214 calories because it just isn’t that simple. If they’re not neutered, they need 1,366. Extra hormones need extra calories. Puppies, 2,277. Overweight? 987. Underweight? Potentially over 2,000. This is why we recommend talking to an expert because, otherwise, you won’t know up from down!

Once you’ve determined what your doggo really needs, what’s next?

dog gain or lose weight 2

If they’re underweight

Start by studying their behaviour. Why did they lose weight in the first place? Did they stop eating their food? Are they too stressed to eat? Is it something else entirely? 

There are many health problems and nutrient deficiencies that can cause pups to stop feeling hungry. Maybe that’s why they lost weight. This is why it’s so important to speak to a vet. They always know best and they know the safest methods to tackle health problems, some of which can’t be handled alone. 

Once you figure out what caused it, it’s easier to help your pup. It might be an internal issue, or there could be an oral problem that’s preventing them from eating.

Try a higher calorie food or upping their portions
If you can get your doggo to eat more calories than they normally would, they’ll put on weight. Simple. But it’s still important to prioritise high-quality, healthy ingredients. Feeding them nasty ingredients can just lead to digestive problems and put them off eating their food altogether. 

Free feed them
Free feeding is where you give them an unlimited amount of food to graze on throughout the day. This is generally frowned upon because it can make dogs gain weight, but that’s exactly what we’re trying to do! 

Most dogs still have a survival instinct that tells them to eat as much as they can. Their ancestors didn’t know where their next meal would come from, so they’d stuff their faces while they could. Free feeding lets us take advantage of that instinct and fatten our pups up to a healthy weight. The only issue is that this instinct is so strong in some dogs that they’ll just inhale their entire bowl instead of grazing. But, hey, we want them to eat more so it’s a win-win.

Feed them more in the evening
Although this has been debunked for humans, eating late at night can lead to weight gain in dogs. Eating before bed encourages the body to store the nutrients as fat. So if your pup has a morning meal and an evening meal, make that evening portion a bit bigger to help your dog gain some weight. Just be aware they might want some toilet trips after they’re done.

Add some high-protein, high-fat snacks to their diet
There are lots of human foods dogs can eat, but there are also many that they can’t eat. Always double check before you give your doggo a human food and be aware of potential allergies and intolerances. Good human foods to give your pooch include cottage cheese, peanut butter, and lean meat. 

We recommend peanut butter because it’s healthy, will help them put on weight, and it’s funny to watch them eat it. It gets stuck to the roof of their mouths, but they love it. It’s great entertainment TBH. Stick some in a KONG and it’s even better to watch than Netflix.

These foods are nutritious, tasty, easy to add to their diet, and are high in fat, protein, or both. If human food is too big a step, simply reward your pup with more treats. But only when they obey a command. Or you’ll create a fussy eater

Take them for extra exercise
“Oh, but we’re trying to put on weight, not burn it off.” I hear you. But since your doggo will be getting extra protein in their snacks, the exercise will help them put on weight too. And in a healthier way. Instead of just fattening up your doggo, the protein will turn into muscle, increasing their weight while keeping them healthy.

Hopefully, these tips will help your pooch get to a healthier weight. It’s also a good idea to keep a food diary for them. That way, you can monitor their eating habits, see how much they’ve put on, and check that what you’re doing is working.

But what about pups who are overweight? 

dog gain or lose weight 3

If they’re overweight

Once you figure out exactly what’s making your pooch put on the pounds, you and your vet can work on it. But, like with underweight pups, there might be a medical reason your pup is putting on weight. It could be an illness, deficiency, the quality of their food, or something that’s stopping them from exercising. It’s important to address these problems from the source or you’ll be going round in circles trying to keep them at a healthy weight. 

Cut out the human food
Human food can be pretty terrible. The food from takeaways and fast-food restaurants is loaded with calories, fat, sodium, and sugar. Humans can eat more of these than dogs. So while that food is terrible for us, it’s even worse for them. 

And if that wasn’t enough, our food is addictive. Really addictive. Once your pup gets a taste of that Big Mac, why would they want to eat their healthy food again? They won’t. But it’s our job to put our foot down and point them in the direction of their nutritious, tasty kibble.

Cut out the T-R-E-A-Ts
Nothing sounds worse, I know. But there are a lot of dog treats out there that are high in fat. If you really can’t give up treats completely, you could use kibble instead. Subtract the kibble you give as treats from their daily food allowance and they should lose weight in no time.

Or you could try healthier alternatives. There are many fruits and vegetables that pups can eat. But you should avoid foods high in carbs if you want your pup to lose weight. So forget the potatoes, corn, squash, and peas and bring in the kale, cucumber, and watermelon. 

Switch to a higher-quality food
Cheaper, lower-quality dog foods tend to contain more carbs because they’re cheaper. And while dogs need them for energy, it’s definitely possible to eat too much, which leads to weight gain. Swap their food for a higher-quality one that contains more protein. Several studies have shown that this approach can help your pup shed excess fat. 

Not only that, but bad bacteria in the gut can hinder how your dog absorbs food. Meals packed with prebiotics and probiotics can better help your doggo digest the goodness that it needs.

Give them more exercise
Not so surprisingly, exercise will help your pup lose weight. And it doesn’t really matter what they do. You might play fetch, take them for a walk, a run, a cycle, let them play with a skateboard, or take them to one of those fancy places with a doggy treadmill. Honestly, the opportunities are endless – just get them out and about.

The absolute minimum amount of exercise a dog requires is two 20-minute walks a day. But most doggos will need more. In fact, most need around an hour a day. But if you’re already walking your doggo and are looking to increase their exercise, try extending your walks by 10-20%. 

Make sure their water bowl is always full
When humans are thirsty, we can easily mistake the feeling for hunger. And so can dogs. It’s a pretty similar feeling, so your pup may have gotten overweight from eating, thinking they’re hungry when they were actually just a bit parched. Keep that water bowl topped up to prevent them from confusing the two.

Helping your dog put on or shed a few pounds can be tricky. It doesn’t happen overnight and there are lots of factors that can affect their journey. You need to identify what’s causing weight problems in the first place, take action to help your pet, and then continue with those changes so your pet doesn’t slip back to where they started. But the first step is choosing the right dog food…

Looking for healthy, nutritious dog food that gets the wag of approval? Swagwags kibble contains high-quality, responsibly sourced protein in every bag. Whether your pup is looking to gain a few or lose a few, our kibble can help you keep a happy, healthy pup. Buy their new favourite food today.

If you’re ever concerned about potential allergies, take one of our sensitivity tests. It’s non-invasive and takes 5 minutes to do – a small price for perfect pup health!