Saturday, February 23, 2013

How to Maintain Your Pets Weight Loss

This came from a reader of yesterdays blog.

I thought it was a good question and it would help others, so I am posting the question and my answer..

From Veglils,

"On the subject of ideal weight for your dog -- if your dog has been on a weight-managing food and has reached an ideal weight, do you stay on that food or switch to a regular age-appropriate food?"

My answer
This is a great question!

There is not a simple answer. In almost all cases the answer needs to incorporate a maintenance diet, a good continual monitoring plan, and still be addressing how the pet got to be overweight in the first place. 

Because most pets have a multitude of factors that participated in the weight gain we need a multi-faceted approach to help maintain the weight loss and avoid the weight being regained. Whatever contributed to their demise is likely to still present and creep back into the picture. 

If you were given a specific food (like a veterinary prescription food) and used it to lose the weight then the pet food manufacturers have a computer program to help you find your maintenance plan. Hill's and Purina both have these programs, they really help. They will advise you about which food to feed and how much. By plugging in the desired maintenance weight and a few other items they tell you exactly how much they recommend you feed of one of their maintenance diets. 
Remember that most prescription diets are classified as 'weight reducing' or 'maintenance' diets. They use all sorts of ingredients to help keep your pet feeling full but not absorbing the calories. If one diet doesn't work for you try another. 

For some clients an over the counter food is their only option for long term feeding. So, we have to find a measured quantity to feed, based on weight to maintain (see the food bag for this amount, and use a real-official measuring cup), and remember its important to maintain a steady activity level. Simple weight maintenance formula calories in has to equal calories burned. 

Re-weigh your pet every month. The scale never lies! If you find your pet is gaining weight reduce your feeding amount by 20% daily and re-check the weight in 2 weeks. Also scrutinize the hidden calories your pet might be getting, like snacks. Are they getting too many? If you are on a good measured diet then snacks are often the biggest hidden culprit to a pets weight gain demise. Is your pet getting enough exercise? There is no diet plan in the world that works without increasing your pets metabolism. So get moving! Burn those calories! And then maintain that high metabolic rate after you reach your target weight.

If you are having difficulty maintaining see your vet. They will help you find any hidden road blocks, pitfalls, and try to identify any medical reason for the mystery.

So, its not any easy answer. Every pet is unique and every client has different abilities. 

If your pet is not at great risk for regaining the weight try a good OTC food, be strict with amounts, and weigh your pet on a scheduled basis.

If you struggled to get the weight off, or have any other underlying health concerns try to stick with a prescription diet for maintenance. But remember this is likely to be the diet your pet will be on long term.

I hope this helps.



  1. Hi Y'all!

    I have found that if I feed Hawkeye the recommended amount on the bag that he gains...the bag says 6 cups and I feed him 4, cutting back when weather restricts training and exercise. 96 lbs is about normal for him...100 lbs and he's too heavy. He is too big for the Chessie reason I'm so blessed to have him.

    BrownDog's Human

    1. Very good point!!

      The food recommendations are for every breed of dog and every lifestyle. So if your dog is NOT a racing greyhound they usually recommend a higher amount to feed then most normal dogs need, or maybe they want to sell more food?

  2. I am not a fan of weight loss diets and it would be my very last resort after everything else failed. Portion control with "normal" quality food makes transition to "normal" much easier too.

    1. Thanks for the comment Jana.

      I agree with you. Diets in many cases are not the single cause of the weight gain and will not be the cute for the weight loss. And in about 90% of my patients the change of food has little bearing on my patients waistline. They need a whole plan and they need an owner dedicated and devoted to that plan. I know my clients love their pets but for some reason they aren't successful in helping them lose weight.

      Obesity is an epidemic in the US for our human and canine citizens alike. I think out pets reflect our own lifestyle choices. It is sad to see that they also suffer the same struggles and consequences.

    2. I think that high calorie kibble is part of the reason. (apart from the fact that portion control is beyond the skills even of dog nutritionist--read an article on petMD I think, where they did a study and even nutritionists couldn't get it right!)

      The kibble is calorie dense and a healthy portion is often ridiculously small! I know that when I give JD his food, his portion looks crazy tiny! And yet it's enough. It was quite difficult, though, to convince hubby that it is [enough].

      It's almost like the serving recommendations on the potato chips. Five potato chips is a serving (or something like that)--WHO EATS ONLY FIVE potato chips???

      With fresh foods, the portion looks so much more "reasonable" while it might even contain less calories.

      And are the dogs satisfied after eating such tiny portion? Doubtfully--just like we wouldn't be satisfied after eating five potato chips.

      I'm not saying this is the root of the problem, but I believe it's certainly part of it.