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How can I help my dog or cat lose weight?

on December 10, 2020

Helping your pet stay healthy

Deciding to take control of your pet’s weight issue is a great start. With support from your local veterinary team and family members (who must all agree to stick to the weight loss regime) helping your pet lose weight doesn’t need to be difficult.

Why is being overweight a problem?

Excess weight can lead to heart disease, diabetes, painful joints and a reduced lifespan. Even being slightly overweight can be a problem despite the common misconception that pets need a bit of extra weight as ‘reserves’ for when they are poorly.

Longer walks will help, right?

Unfortunately, although exercise can help to improve muscle tone and fitness, increasing exercise duration does not have the huge impact on weight that many of us think it does. The most important factor to control when it comes to weight loss is the total amount of calories consumed. This is especially important for dogs or cats that cannot exercise due to arthritis or other health conditions.

What steps can I take to help my pet lose weight?

1.       Reduce their calorie intake

In order for a dog or cat to lose weight they have to be eating fewer calories than they need on a daily basis, so they burn off more calories than they take in.  This is known as a negative energy balance. The feeding guidelines on a pack of dog and cat food is the total amount required per 24 hours and includes enough energy for any exercise they may do. General energy needs include calories for exercise and activity, however for weight loss you just need to feed enough calories for the body weight you want your dog or cat to be. A rough rule of thumb is to feed 70% of the feeding guidelines suggested for their target weight. So, if your dog is overweight at 15kg but should weigh 10Kg then you should feed the amount suggested for a 7Kg dog.

2.       Know how many calories they need and count them

The more accurate way to calculate feeding amounts is to use our online calorie calculator or speak to your practice veterinary nurse to work out how many calories and how much food your pet should be eating per day. You need to feed the amount suggested for your dog or cat’s ideal weight not their current weight.

If your dog is between 2-25kg and you want to work out how many calories your pet needs by yourself then the formulation is as follows:

Resting energy requirement (RER) = (30 x bodyweight in Kg) + 70  

e.g. a dog that should be 20kg would need (30 x 20) + 70 = 670 Kcals per day for weight loss

It is important to note that individual pet needs can vary by as much as 50% and will depend on age, breed, environment, exercise levels, health, neuter status, coat type and much more. Therefore, calorie calculations are just to give you an approximate starting point.

3.       Know how many calories that’s in your pet’s food

In addition to knowing how many calories your dog or cat requires, you also need to know how many calories are in the food, treats and any other rewards you give.

4.       Consider a change in diet

You might want to consider changing your pet to a ‘light’ or weight control diet. To help control their hunger these diets often have added fibre and/or increased protein levels and a lower calorie content per 100g. This will allow you to cut down on the volume of food without them feeling like they are being starved. For more information, see our article on ingredients to look for in weight reduction diets.

5.      Weigh out the food

Studies ( ) have shown that the amount of food can be overestimated by up to 80% when using cups, so for accuracy we recommend using kitchen weighing scales to weigh out daily portions.

6.       It is still OK for treats

Yes! Feeding treats is an important part of your relationship with your pet and it is completely allowed. Just be sure to include any treats, chews or table scraps in the daily recommended calories you feed. Vet’s Kitchen Little Stars for dogs and Little Heart treats for cats are calorie rated treats that tell you how many treats equate to Vet’s kitchen adult pet food, so you can cut down accordingly.

7.       Cope with pester power

Deal with those big brown eyes and ‘that look’ by making mealtimes fun instead of just giving them an extra treat.  Puzzle feeders or scatter feeding can help slow down greedy eaters and enrich mealtimes to prevent boredom. You might also find that splitting the daily amount up will help. For adult dogs we suggest splitting the daily amount into 2-3 meals per day. For cats you can allow them to graze or offer small frequent meals as long as the daily amount is adhered to.

8.       Monitor

Check your pets weight every 2-3 weeks. The ideal weight loss is 3-5% of their body weight per month. If there is no weight loss after 3 weeks, then you might need to readjust the feeding amounts.

We're here to help...

If you are feeding Vet’s Kitchen food to your dog or cat and would like further information on calories and feeding amounts to help your pet lose weight, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 0845 303 8643 or  . We have a team of friendly vets, vet nurses and nutritional advisors that would love to speak to you.

For more information, have a look at the results of our Biggest Loser competition where our 13 dogs and cats lost a combined weight of over 18Kg!