Species-Appropriate Food for Canine Weight Loss | The Happy Beast

Species-Appropriate Food for Canine Weight Loss

An estimated 53% of dogs in the U.S. are obese or overweight and we get a lot of inquiries in the store for weight loss diets and treats. We started The Happy Beast Weight Loss Program to help dogs and cats lose weight in a safe and healthy way, using species-appropriate foods.

Most commercial and prescription dog foods aimed at weight loss are low calorie, low fat and high fiber. The dominant ingredients in these foods are carbohydrates. Why? Carbohydrates (e.g. rice, corn, potatoes) are much lower in calories per pound than meat. The idea is to help your dog feel full by allowing him to eat just as much food while consuming fewer calories.

We find a few problems with this approach.

First, higher carb means lower protein. (Remember, protein is required for muscle and organ growth and maintenance.)  Second, dogs are satiated by fat. A low-fat, high-fiber food will not help your dog feel full. And third, the body can only store a limited amount of carbohydrates, so most unused carbs are converted to fat stores.

Contrast this to the diets we recommend for weight loss that are high protein, moderate fat, and low carb.

In the most recent publication of Nutrient Requirements for Cats and Dogs, the National Research Council finds that canines have no requirement for carbohydrates. The primary source of energy for canines should be fat and protein. For your dog to lose weight, he needs a species-appropriate protein supply and healthy fat to help him feel satisfied. We reduce carbohydrates so the body is forced to use up fat stores for energy.


Regardless of your dog’s need to gain or lose weight, he needs a daily supply of high-quality protein. The digestive tract breaks down protein into amino acids which are used for daily body functions including maintaining and repairing muscles and organs. A diet that is primarily high quality protein will provide your dog all 22 required amino acids. If your dog doesn’t consume enough quality protein in his diet, he will synthesize 12 non-essential of the 22 amino acids by breaking down his own healthy muscle and organ tissues. The other 10 amino acids are called essential, because they cannot be synthesized by the body if they are missing from the diet.


Including a moderate amount of fat in the diet may be contrary to what we’re used to hearing when we talk about weight loss, but healthy fats have an important roles in helping your dog feel full.  Dogs feel satisfied when they’ve consumed enough fat, not when they’ve consumed enough food. Feeding a dog green beans and carrots is not going to make a hungry dog feel full. Once your dog has reached his weight loss goal, fat in the diet will be used as energy.


Any carbohydrates your dog eats are converted into glucose by the digestive system and used for energy. Any unused glucose is stored as fat. By limiting the amount of carbohydrates in the diet, your dog’s system will resort to using fat as an energy source instead; using up fat reserves in the body. This is how your dog will lose weight!

Using the diet of our dog’s ancestors as a guide, dogs require 14% or less carbohydrates. Most dry food (kibbles) are made up of over 40% carbs. If your dog has a weight loss goal, consider a raw, freeze-dried or air-dried food that contain less than 15% carbohydrates. If you still choose to feed a kibble diet, you can still replace some of his food with canned, raw or cooked meat to increase his protein intake while decreasing carbs.

For more info, read our blog post on calculating carbs or check the Nutrition Plan Worksheet for our Weight Loss Program. You can also check out the websites for some of our favorite brands, including SmallBatch, Primal, K9 Naturals, ZiwiPeak and The Real Meat Co.

Or stop by the store anytime and we’ll be happy to help create a customized Weight Loss Plan for your furry friend.

Strategies & Tips for Overweight Dogs | The Happy Beast

Strategies & Tips for Overweight Dogs

Losing weight can be challenging for overweight dogs, but the health benefits are well worth it. At a healthy weight, your dog will be more resistant to disease, feel better, and live longer.  No one get’s excited about cutting calories, (especially when you’re a hungry dog) but we have a few tricks to make dieting simple, effective and a little fun.

Daily Recommended Calories for an Average Adult Dog

Set a Goal and Start Counting Calories

Determine both your dog’s current weight and his ideal weight. Talk to your vet about what your dog’s weight should be or bring your dog into The Happy Beast and we can make a suggestion. The easiest way to determine the calories in your animal’s current and ideal diet is…. to let us do it for you! Once you have a target weight, we can factor in age, breed, and activity level to help determine how many calories your dog needs. As a general guideline, look at the feeding suggestion on your dog’s food to find your dog’s IDEAL weight and feed 75% of that amount. For example. If your dog’s goal weight is 30 lbs and the label of his dog food recommends 1 cup of food, feed him only ¾ cup.


Fruitables Crunchy Treats

Treats are OK!

Cutting out treats is a foolproof way to reduce calories, but it’s definitely not necessary for success. In fact, a couple of treats during the day may help your dog feel more satisfied. Just make sure to factor treats into your dog’s daily calorie “budget.” Look for treats with the calories printed on the label. Fruitables’ Crunchy Treats and Boulder Dog Food Co.’s Bison Cubes have just 8 calories per treat. Decide how many treats you want to give your dog each day, and subtract the calorie-equivalent from his normal meals.

Chewing on bones and tendons also provides important dental care. If chewing is part of your dog’s routine, choose lower-calorie options and feed your dog less on days he gets a treat. Marrow bones and bully sticks have enough calories to replace a whole meal for a medium size dog. A tendon or cow cheek would replace fewer calories.


PetSafe’s Magic Mushroom

When I’m Bored… I Eat

Make dinnertime a game! Dogs have a natural instinct to forage for their food. Instead of feeding your dog out of a bowl, make him work for it! Fill a puzzle toy like the PetSafe’s Magic Mushroom with a serving of kibble and let him knock it around until the food falls out. If you’re feeding canned or raw food, stuff it into a Kong or spread it out on a large, flat plate. All of these will force your dog to slow down meal time and enjoy smaller bites (instead of gulping down everything at once) leaving him more satisfied. Feeding this way also provides mental stimulation and reduces boredom.


The Honest Kitchen dehydrated turkey

Add Fresher Foods

Besides their basic nutritional benefits, fresher foods help your dog feel more satiated. Kibble is typically very calorie-dense so it doesn’t take up much space in the stomach and can leave your dog feeling hungry. Because of their high moisture content, dehydrated, canned, and raw foods can help your dog feel full. Replace some or all of your dog’s kibble with a fresher food. Try Steve’s, Primal and SmallBatch frozen raw, Grandma Lucy’s, Sojo’s or The Honest Kitchen dehydrated.



Get moving!

Exercise doesn’t need to be a lofty goal. Thirty minutes a day is a good starting point, especially if your dog isn’t very active. Divide that time up into a few ten-minute walks or five-minute games of fetch.

Ready to start your dog on a healthy weight program? Stop by The Happy Beast and we’ll lay out an easy-to-follow plan for you and your dog!