How to keep your dog a healthy weight

How to keep your dog a healthy weight

Recently we tried out the new “Questions” feature on Instagram Stories and a bunch of you asked us about how I keep my dogs at a healthy weight. We’ve mentioned it in the past on the blog, but today we’re sharing in more detail our experiences with helping Chibi lose weight and some of our tips on what to watch out for to keep your dog healthy!

Too often do we encounter overweight dogs in the wild, only to hear people “aww” at how adorably plump they look. Remember these viral videos?

They might look cute, but just knowing how much pain Chibi has been in her whole life without us even knowing for the first half of it, I fear for these dogs’ quality of living! Corgis in particular are prone to being overweight due to their insatiable appetites and short stature. Orthopedic injuries like Chibi’s are why it’s even more important for Corgi owners to keep a watchful eye on their dogs’ weight.

Before we dive in, please keep in mind you should always speak to your vet before making any drastic dietary changes for your dog. He or she will help you determine what is the best course of action for the health issue you have at hand. We are definitely not pet nutrition experts, and there are tons of resources out there to arm yourself as a responsible dog owner! Also, tuck in the back of your mind that many vet programs involve training by conglomerate-owned companies like Hill’s and Pedigree, so do your own research so you can have a holistic viewpoint on feeding philosophies for dogs.

What’s a healthy weight on a dog anyway?

The general rule of thumb is if you can see your dog’s waistline, he should be in the ballpark for a healthy weight. Do this by standing overhead and looking down at the dog’s silhouette.

Or, you can feel your dog’s waist to make a rough judgment call. Can you feel your dog’s ribs underneath their coat and skin? If not, there may be too much fat on the little guy. Does his belly bulge out, sinking towards the floor?

(Side note — has anyone ever met an underweight Corgi? ?)

Pembroke Welsh Corgi Club of America outlines that males should not exceed 30 lb and be ideally around 27 lb, while females should be less than 28 lb but ideally around 25 lb. Don’t believe those who tell you their Corgi is “just big-boned” and supposed to weigh close to 40 lb!

Every dog has a different ideal weight based on genetics and lifestyle. For Chibi, we found that to be right around 21 lb. After putting her on the green bean diet when she was around 26 lb, she began to plateau around 21 lb after months of dieting and body conditioning exercises. Although our rehab vet would’ve loved for her to be 19-20 lb due to the severity of her orthopedic injuries, we’ve accepted her ideal body weight to be more in the 21 lb range.

You might think — one pound? That’s nothing! But for these little guys, 1 lb is a much larger percentage of their overall body weight than it is for us. And for a dog who spends most of her life doing this and not using her stumpy legs, it makes quite a difference ?

How much should I feed my dog? 

It depends on what exactly you’re feeding, but you can follow the general feeding guidelines provided by your pet food manufacturer and go from there. Adjust depending on how many treats you give your dog on a given day.

Feeding the right types of foods will help your dog maintain a leaner body condition as well. Chibi lost a couple pounds after we switched her from commercial kibble to a raw diet. Commercial kibble often has fillers and other mystery ingredients packed into a processed and dry form of nutrition for dogs. Now both of my dogs eat Stella & Chewy’s frozen raw dog food, but there are plenty of other great brands out there too such as Honest Kitchen, Primal, and Darwin’s Pet. Raw diets are expensive, so if you can’t afford to feed 100% raw, even mixing it in where you can will benefit your dog’s health.

We also recommend not free-feeding your dog. Put them on a schedule and feed them 2-3 times a day at the same time every day. Dogs like routine and this will help regulate their systems. This way you’ll know exactly how much they’re eating AND their poop schedule will be predictable ?

What about people food? 

Absolutely no people food is a rule in our household. What we’re counting as people food are scraps from our own meals and things that we would eat. Unless we’re purposefully making them healthy treats like boiled chicken, no food we eat is given to the dogs. Little bites here and there can add up extraordinarily fast, and that one bite of pizza could throw your dog’s entire dietary system off track or trigger gastrointestinal issues.

How about giving them treats? 

There are little things you can do to keep your dog leaner while still rewarding them for being very good boys (and girls). We like giving our dogs minimally processed low calorie treats like Charlee Bears. The exceptions to the “no people food” rule include treats like cucumbers, apples, carrots, and sweet potato. With any of these, don’t give too many at one time! Chop them up into tiny pieces. Dogs can’t really tell the difference between size when you’re treating them — they just know how many treats they’re getting. So take advantage of that!

We recently learned from our good friend Geordi @lacorgi that you can make your own homemade healthy treats easily using pyramid baking sheets! Check out this recipe from Eileen and Dogs.

If your dog is an avid chewer and needs something delicious to sink his teeth into, try natural chews a few times a week like bully sticks, trachea, himalayan dog chews, or even non-edible but safe chews like Benebone. We give our dogs the occasional raw chicken feet as a natural snack and they LOVE it.

The Green Bean Diet

When your dog has a significant amount of of weight to lose, sometimes the green bean diet can help out. This worked tremendously for Chibi, helping her drop from 25 lb to 21 lb in 6 months.

Basically, you replace a portion of their food with green beans. Canned ones from the grocery store are perfectly fine! We drained ours and mixed it in with Chibi’s food for a meal packed with extra fiber and less calories.

There are many resources online that provide information about this popular green bean diet. Just be careful of the percentage of green beans you give to your dog. More than 50% could cause your dog to have nutritional deficiencies. This is also not a diet that’s meant to be permanent, so come up with an action plan and goal weights for your dog.

Exercise, exercise, exercise! 

Our dogs get two walks every day, morning and night, and the occasional romp at the park on the weekend. Kokoro also takes agility classes so that adds to her weekly list of activity. It’s important to keep your dogs moving and tire them out, both physically and mentally. If your dog is too overweight for strenuous activity, rehabilitation and body conditioning exercises might be a good place to start.

For dogs, losing weight conceptually is just about the same as humans. They need a calorie deficiency, so exercise is a great way to burn those calories.

Water-based exercises like water treadmill and swimming are lower impact ways to keep your dog active without putting too much strain on their muscles and joints.

Maybe your dog is a herding or working dog with a knack for agility? Try out dog sports and classes with your dog to not only tire them out physically, but strengthen the bond between the two of you!

What if my dog is super picky?

Ah, yes. Dogs like Kokoro who actually have the issue of gaining weight. Comprised of mostly fluff,  K is a trim 17 lb and always has been around that weight since she hit about 1 year old. This dog does NOT have the appetite of a Corgi and will turn her nose up at almost anything — dog treats and biscuits included. She was horribly picky when we tried to feed her multiple kibble brands and would even refuse to eat breakfast and dinner when we switched her to dehydrated raw food.

With picky dogs, it’s important that you make sure they’re getting the nutrients they need. This means finding a food your dog will actually eat when you feed them during their scheduled meals!

In summary…

  1. Feed a low-carb diet that your dog likes.
  2. Treat minimally and use healthy alternatives like cucumbers or homemade treats.
  3. Exercise your dog on the daily!
  4. Do not feed them any human food scraps.
  5. Try the green bean diet for weight loss goals

Thanks for stopping by! Have any of these tips worked well for your dog’s weight loss journey?

  1. Ciara

    30 July

    Thanks for these great tips!

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