How to keep your dog a healthy weight
We’ve mentioned how important it is in the past to keep your dog a healthy weight 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.
Chibi’s weight loss journey
Every dog has a different ideal weight based on genetics and lifestyle. We had no idea Chibi was overweight at 26 lb until we learned of her hip dysplasia. In the bottom image below, she is 1 years old. Above, she is 5 years old and 18 lb. Notice the difference in her waistline!
To give you some context behind Chibi’s weight loss journey, here is a chart from our vet:
At 1 years old, she weighed 26 lb. This was before we knew of any orthopedic issues or her diagnosis of hip dysplasia. As a puppy, she ate kibble for puppies from Purina Pro Plan.
When she was diagnosed with hip dysplasia in December 2015, we were told she needed to lose some weight as part of her surgery and rehab plan.
You can see from the chart that she starts losing weight after August 2016, around 2 years old. We started rehab twice a week in the hopes that she would build some muscle and burn some fat.
For most of 2016 – 2018, Chibi was hovering around the 21 lb range. We started with the green bean diet when she was around 26 lb (we’ll talk more about this diet later). She began to plateau around 21 lb after months of dieting and body conditioning exercises. Our rehab vet told us we should try to get her down to 19 lb due to the severity of her orthopedic injuries.
We stopped going to rehab in June 2018. Interestingly enough, she lost most of her weight during this summer of 2019. After taking a break from body conditioning exercises which, like lifting weights for us at the gym, can be hard on the body and muscles, she actually started to limp less. We have been taking longer walks all of this year and even did an 8 mile hike with Chibi. The ability to increase her exercise and activity level this year significantly contributed to her weight loss journey. This week (September 2019), she weighed in at 18.2 lb at the vet!
You might think — one or two pounds? 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! No more limping for all of 2019 for Chibi… it’s quite a feat!
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 few 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 a combination of Stella & Chewy’s frozen raw dog food and raw proteins that we prepare, 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!
You can also 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.
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 Stella & Chewy’s frozen 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!
Exercise, exercise, exercise!
As I mentioned, exercise really contributed to Chibi’s weight loss from 21 to 18 lb. This was the hardest weight for her to lose, but once we started taking her on longer walks this summer and even easy hikes, her weight loss was able to overcome the plateau of 21 lb.
Our dogs get two walks every day, morning and night, and the occasional romp at the park on the weekend. It’s important to keep your dogs moving and tire them out, both physically and mentally.
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.
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!
Help them build muscle in the right places
If your dog is too overweight for strenuous activity, rehabilitation and body conditioning exercises might be a good place to start.
Before we could even take Chibi on longer walks and hikes, we had to help her build muscle in the right places so that her body could withstand the increase in activity.
Prior to starting rehab, we would try to take Chibi on longer walks but she would slow down and eventually not be able to keep up. Too much strenuous activity without the proper muscle strength can lead to more orthopedic injuries (just like in humans). Chibi ended up tearing both knee ligaments before she had the proper leg and core strength to endure longer walks.
Check out our blog post on rehab exercises you can do at home to learn more about strength training with your pup.
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.
- Feed a low-carb diet that your dog likes and eats on a regulated schedule.
- Treat minimally and use healthy alternatives like cucumbers or homemade treats.
- Exercise your dog on the daily!
- But first, help them build muscle and gain strength to withstand exercise.
- Do not feed them any human food scraps.
- Try the green bean diet for more extreme weight loss goals.
Thanks for stopping by! Have any of these tips worked well for your dog’s weight loss journey?