Weight control

As mentioned elsewhere on the forum, I have had problems with keeping weight down in my Cairns. I have three, all speyed. The youngest is a small one and doesn’t tend to put on weight. It is the 5 and 11 year old ones who are the problem. Briefly, the history is as follows:
Poppy reached about 9.3kg last year and it took six months to get 1kg off. I did this with JWB Light. The lady on the help desk said that they needed low fat and higher protein and this is the basis of their light version. Trouble is, it has a lot of grain too. I gave Poppy a fair bit less than the RDA and it worked, albeit slowly.
Bella went up to 9kg at the beginning of this year. At that point she wasn’t speyed. I struggled to get her weight down prior to being operated on in July but didn’t succeed. They were all on Gentle for a number of months with the amounts getting ever smaller. Even at circa 20% less than the minimum RDA they still were not losing weight.

All of them get two walks a day and play about in the house and garden. There is not always the opportunity to give them off lead runs. We are both getting on in years and can no longer go for very long walks.

As of the last six weeks or so in desperation I telephoned Nutriment and was told that they would lose weight on their light version so I started this and yes, Bella did lose it pretty quickly but now has got stuck at 8.6kg (they are now on adult version). Poppy, on the other hand has suddenly gained 300g seemingly overnight. Of course Nutriment is high in fat, which is consistent with high meat content. The gentleman at Nutriment told me yesterday to use the light version as it is lower in fat so today I have ordered some and am trying that again.

TBH I am getting a bit fed up - I just want the two of them settled at about 8.4kg to 8.5kg and to forget about weight gain and weighing them. Just wondering if I am on my own with this problem or is there anybody else who can relate to this? Is there anyone who can offer any advice or has any experience of successfully keeping their dogs at a steady weight? Would be grateful for any help or encouragement.

Possibly the best advice I was ever given by a vet (not a species I always hold in high regard) was very many years ago when I had a labrador bitch with an alarming tendency to gain weight. That advice was to completely ignore feeding guidelines. He said he had known dogs that needed as much as double the recommended amounts and others that needed less than half, and that the only time they should be referred to was when first feeding a particular food to a particular dog - and even then he recommended starting at 80% of the lowest suggested amount and then adjusting according to whether the dog lost or gained weight. He didn’t think much of ‘light’ or ‘diet’ foods, he said all that was necessary was to select a food that wasn’t unusually high in fat, and to feed much less.

In his opinion, and in mine ever since, once any health conditions that could lead to weight gain have been ruled out, the only reason for a dog being overweight it that it is being fed more than it needs &/or exercised less than it needs.

I can honestly say that I’ve never had an overweight dog since. I have had a standard poodle who got 150% the highest recommended amount and was still lean, while the lab bitch ended up regaining her figure on 55% of the lowest, finally settling on 60% for maintenance. I did give her a vit+min supplement because I was worried the small amount might mean she wasn’t getting her fair share of micronutrients, but the vet thought even that was unnecessary.

Of course, if you suddenly and drastically reduce the amount you are feeding the dog will feel hungry and behaviour problems can result, but in my experience if you do it slowly, say by 5% per week, they soon adjust.

I know it sounds obvious, and perhaps a bit tough, but it works for me.

(Edited to add: No, that’s not true, it doesn’t work for me, sadly I lack the self-discipline to feed myself less. Fortunately for them, my dogs can only eat what I give them.)


Thank you for the advice. I have come to the conclusion that whatever I feed them it is going to have to be a fair bit lower than the minimum RDA. Cairns just put weight on very easily and, being small it soon shows.

I think that what concerns me is the high fat level in Nutriment because most of the advice I have read is that they need low fat. The Nutriment light is being delivered tomorrow so I will give them only that for a week and see how it goes. I did think about Acana Light and Fit and one other alternative - resume Gentle at a smaller amount and top up with lean (cooked) meat such as chicken/turkey to increase the protein. I’ve got plenty of Nutriment so no changes just yet.

Oddly enough, I am opposite to you - have been the same (quite low) weight for years and years. Hardly ever bother with weighing myself.

Raw and wet foods do tend to be higher in fat than dry foods, but in a way I feel they have an advantage when feeding dogs that need a small amount, in that the reduced ration of a dry food can seem pitifully small to both the dog and the owner. The moisture in a raw or wet food means that both have the impression of more in the bowl and in the tummy.

Very true. Towards the end of me feeding Gentle all they were getting was 65/70g per day. It really looked a minuscule amount and would be gone in about 2 seconds.

Although I work out calories needed for my dogs, it does need a subjective decision on how average your dog is. I then calculate how much food is needed as most kibble is 3900kcal per kg. This works with my dogs and I slimmed a foster jrt but Porter who lives with in laws at other end of house is fat. I feed him but he has treats. With a small dog any extras can make a difference. We are now being told that carbohydrates rather than fat is making us fat and I am losing weight by cutting out sugar but not fats. I would try a virtually no carbohydrate diet and that means not dried, I am unsure of carb content of Nutriment as manufacturers tend to hide it and you have to work it out. Making the dog work for its food means they use calories actually eating and this an advantage of something like chicken wingletsThe skin is fatty but the dog does need some fat. Using one of the antigobble dishes or using one meal as treats earnt by sitting etc. may at least make a little seem a lot. The vet was very right to dispute the amounts on the packet, they want to sell more. It also appears that the formula used to calculate petfoodI calories is allowed to be different to that used for our food. The difference over a year adds up.

Nutriment declare the carbohydrate content of all their foods, see their website. The chicken formula, for example is 1.9%. I think it would be difficult to get much lower than that.

Extremely well put. For dogs that are otherwise healthy, this is certainly the way I recommend going about weight loss - only use the guide to start off with and then adjust as and when it’s necessary. If the dog starts putting on a bit too much weight (or not losing his excess pounds), drop the amount by a few grams. If he starts getting a little ribby, add a few. Sooner or later you’ll reach a balance point and weight problems will be a thing of the past!

Of course, as with all things dog related, it rarely goes quite as smoothly as it should but given time and commitment, this approach really works for 9 out of 10 overweight dogs.

Your replies about weight control in dogs make sense. However, the problems I have with my two Cairns are not so easy to solve. I have changed the Nutriment to Light and am giving 150g per day (should be about 180g on their 2% of body weight figure). The older one hasn’t lost anything since last week and the younger one has gained 200g. I think that the high protein and fat is possibly just too much for them; if I carry on with the Nutriment I can see problems ahead. I am therefore yet again looking for a food that will satisfy their hunger, help them to lose weight and then maintain a satisfactory weight.

On the dog food directory I have used the filters and set the fat level at 5 to 10%. A few have come up but of course they are baked or extruded kibble. I don’t like the idea of feeding kibble again but it may be the only thing to do, so long as I can find one that fits the bill. My other alternative is to return to Gentle (which I liked and still have in stock), but feed a fair bit less then the RDA. I was thinking that I could then add some cooked, lean chicken to up the protein without increasing the fat. Trouble with this is that the Gentle really is a tiny quantity. I imagine that their hunger will not be satisfied with this.

Today I have started to reduce the Nutriment to 140g and I will try and give them extra walks (they have two per day) but that in itself is difficult because of our age and health. I am not sure if we can keep this up. If I get no result from the reduction in food I feel that kibble will have to be tried, despite the high carbohydrate in them. :-\ :frowning:

Hi Dottie. I’m really sorry to hear of the continued difficulties in getting their weight down. Of course high fat foods are not ideal for weight loss programs so a change might be a good idea. It’s worth bearing in mind though that starchy foods can also contribute to weight gain so steer clear of foods with high proportions of white rice, white potatoes or added starch (e.g pea starch).

I think if it were me, I would probably go with Gentle and continue to reduce the feeding amount until the weight is dropping at a gradual, steady rate. This might mean some very small feeding amounts so to ‘bulk’ out the diet - i.e. to fill them up without adding too many calories or upsetting their digestion, I would add some very well cooked brown rice or porridge oats. Both of these are high in fibre so it will slow down digestion, making them feel fuller for longer without contributing to their weight.

If you do go with this option, make sure the rice or oats is very well cooked in just water until they are very stodgy. You can cook up a big batch at the start of the week, refrigerate it and just take a couple of spoons per day for each dog. If you don’t want to keep supplementing like this, you should be able to very gradually reduce the amount without the dogs’ hunger returning.

Thank you so much for this advice David. It is just what I need because I am completely lost at the moment. I have some brown rice in the cupboard as I usually keep it in case they have upset tums. I will also go and buy some Quaker Oats then I can give a change. I do like Gentle - Bella’s coat improved on it and their poo was always perfect. It is the best one I have used. I have some in stock so I will commence it once I have finished their current open boxes of Nutriment - should be about mid week. Will let you know how I get on within the next few weeks.

I’ve done lots of research onto homemade diet for my dog. Cooked brown rice and oats are good fillers but I’d also include baked sweet potato. Just microwave like you would a potato and scoop out the flesh.

Compared to rice per 100g it is lower in calories and fat, but is higher in fibre which is good to make you feel full, calcium and iron. It is also a very good source of Vit A & C of which rice contains none and has a wider range of other beneficial vitamins and minerals.

My dog loves it and will eat the skin as a snack when I’ve scooped the flesh out. There’s no way he would eat rice on its own lol. I buy the cheaper bags of basic /essential range from supermarket that can be odd shapes

Its also better to give cooked sweet potato rather than rice for upset tums. If the rice isn’t cooked enough it can give them bad wind.
He does get orange poos though as he has a lot in his diet ;D


I’ve just been (trying) to read a research paper on Obesity-related metabolic dysfunction in dogs: A comparison with human metabolic syndrome. The research was funded by Royal Canin and undertaken at Liverpool University. It is quite detailed and beyond my understanding but I was interested to know the type of food they gave to the dogs in the study:

The weight loss programme involved using either a high protein high fiber (Satiety Support, Royal Canin; 34 dogs) or a high protein moderate fiber (Obesity Management, Royal Canin; 1 dog) weight loss diet (Table 1). The initial food allocation for weight loss was determined by first estimating maintenance energy requirement (MER = 440 kJ
It seems to me that food companies approach the issue of weight loss/weight control in different ways. Some opt for low fat and plenty of carbohydrates. Acana, in their [url=http://www.acana.com/products/classics/light-fit/?lang=en-uk]Light and Fit[/url] formula opt for high protein and oats as the carb source. [url=http://www.dogfoodinsider.com/acana-light-and-fit.html]Dog Food Insider[/url] seems to support this notion of a higher protein and does not seem to be keen on fat below 10%.

It’s difficult to know what to think - so confusing. :frowning:

I suppose it is a similar thinking behind the atkins diet. As long as the food is mainly a high protein source and carbs avoided, weight loss should ensue. Cream, butter and all the things we have been taught to avoid are given the green light because of how they are metabolised in the absence of carbs. Also the higher protein should fill you up so you eat less.

Suffice to say, many people have had great success on the atkins diet, others have suffered health problems.

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Reply to Dottie:
I think I mentioned in an earlier post about calorific content labelling not widely used but it is on light foods - Acana is 310, BH Fat Dog Slim and A Grange light are 320 per 100g.- hard to compare with other dog foods as the calorific content is not measured.
Interesting study on obesity you linked to, only drawback from it is the ‘Competing Interests’
‘The following conflicts of interest apply: AJG’s Senior Lectureship is funded by Royal Canin; the diet used in this study is manufactured by Royal Canin; PJM is an employee of WALTHAM, whilst VB is employed by Royal Canin’
It is a shame everyone involved is from the same company and there isn’t independent scientific research in foods.

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I often think that it would be easier if all the food companies listed the calories per 100g. However, from what I have read this measurement would seem to be less helpful for dogs than it is for humans. Clearly activity level plays a large part in calorie requirement and dogs vary so much in how active they are, what their metabolic rate is and whether they are neutered.

The update on my two who have been on a diet is positive. I weighed them this morning and I am pleased to say that they are now at the level that I want them to be. This has been achieved by returning them to Gentle, albeit at a considerably smaller amount than the 1% of body weight recommended daily allowance plus some extra brown rice. They have also had an extra walk on as many days as possible. I now need to increase their food a little because I don’t want them to lose any more so have started that this afternoon. I have quite a bit of Nutriment to use up so am giving it to the two younger ones but again, at a little lower amount than the 2% of body weight. Once that is finished I will probably stick with the Gentle as it suits them so well.

High protein, High fat, low carbs will give you the best chance of weight loss, provided that you find the correct amount to balance the calories eaten with the calories burned off.

The dogs use proteins and fats first and carbs last so any excess carbs are likely to be stored as body fat.

reduce the food by 10% at a time as more than that can result in feelings of hunger or vomiting of bile and monitor after a week or two, then fine tune more if desired. always weigh the food on a digital kitchen scale for accuracy, never use a scoop as product densities can very batch to batch.

also be very careful of treats which can be much higher in calories than you may expect, replace with raw carrots or similar low calorie foods (they may not get fully digested, but at least they aren’t likely to cause any problems

an increase in exercise of 10% will also help, (6 minutes extra per hour)

hope this helps


Thank you for the general advice about securing weight loss. Weighing food is certainly essential in any attempt to control weight. At £6.99 from Argos, my digital scales are very good value for money. Anyway, I think that for some people the high protein/high fat and low carbohydrate might well be the way to go.

I weighed my two this morning and their weight is now spot on so I am well pleased. :slight_smile: For my dogs low fat and moderate carbohydrate in the form of brown rice has been OK; their poo is much better than when they were on just raw food. I now know exactly how much they need to maintain their weight and it is remaining steady. Perhaps there is more than one way to secure weight loss and we must all decide for ourselves which way to go. What I do think is essential is the higher protein because if the dog doesn’t get this, weight loss might result in loss of muscle rather than fat. Although the protein is good in Gentle I am adding a small topper in the form of either sardines or turkey to raise it a little more.

There is a useful section on obesity dogs and cats in this video by holistic vet Nick Thompson. He discusses the role of carbohydrates and fat in the diet. The piece is at circa 38 minutes. It is challenging for those of us who have thought that low fat is needed to reduce weight.

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