low calorie dog food

Low Calorie Dog Food 101

Supports Mobility and Joint Function


We all love our dogs no matter what size and shape they come in. However, obesity in dogs is a severe nutritional defect that causes dogs to obtain excess body fat. Dogs who tend to be less active, have a tendency for weight retention, or are generally over-nourished can become obese. Obesity can result in long-term health problems and can drastically affect your dog’s quality of life.

Not to mention, it can also shorten your dog’s life span! Because no pet owner wants this, one primary solution to combat obesity is switching to low calorie dog food. In this special The Furry Companion guide, we did the research on everything you need to know about low calorie dog food so that you don’t have to!

In this special The Furry Companion guide, we did the research on everything you need to know about low calorie dog food so that you don’t have to!

There’s an Epidemic of Overweight Dogs

big happy dog

In the US alone, almost 35 million dogs are already overweight or obese. What can be blamed for this is that most dogs are fed through a free-choice method, meaning that food is available for them 24 hours a day. However, this is wrong and unnatural for dogs since it urges them to eat when bored instead of when only feeling hungry. According to Christopher G. Byers, DVM, DACVECC, DACVIM, “Excess weight is the most common medical condition in companion animals and has a number of health and wellness implications for both pets and their owners.”

Obese dogs can experience a number of health issues like osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, cancer, kidney disease, and even heart and respiratory diseases.  More specifically, here are the most common diseases that come with dog obesity:

  1. Arthritis. Your dog’s extra weight will put pressure on your dog’s joints. It will cause the cartilage to deteriorate and lead to arthritis. Weight loss through low calorie dog food can help with this, alongside pain medications.
  2. Anterior cruciate ligament. Excessive weight can cause this important knee ligament to tear. To repair this, surgery is necessary, and we wouldn’t want our furry pets to go through that pain.
  3. Heart and breathing complications. Obese dogs have a higher tendency for laryngeal paralysis and collapsed trachea. If left untreated, these will lead to a more severe and fatal respiratory condition.
  4. Tumors. Certain tumors like lipomas can form more in overweight dogs. Additionally, they are more at risk of developing breast and bladder cancer.
  5. Skin diseases. Obese dogs develop extra skin folds. These skin folds can be an environment for bacterial infection and irritation, which will later lead to scratching and skin inflammation. Your dog’s coat might become unhealthy-looking since it’s harder to groom them.
  6. Quantity and quality of life. Obesity can cost two years on your dog’s life. It also takes a toll on your dog’s quality of life because obesity makes it harder for them to move and be active.  Additionally, it will also make it harder for owners to feed, cuddle, or play with them in this state.

These should make it easier to convince you that your dogs need to follow a low calorie dog food diet. 

What Exactly Are Low Calorie Dog Food?

golden retriever puppies

The proper way to feed a dog is to prepare two to four small portions per day. You need to strike a balance between feeding them just enough but not too much.

For starters, low calorie dog food is a fantastic choice if your dog is overweight or you’re looking for a healthier diet alternative for them. Low calorie dog food is usually made up of lean protein sources like whitefish or chicken. It can also be any form of fresh fruits and vegetables that they like.

When deciding a healthier lifestyle for your furry companion, low calorie dog food is a great choice. This choice is healthier compared to simply reducing the frequency or the amount of food that your dogs consume. Doing so will enable them to eat a more significant amount of food and, therefore, make them feel fuller and more satisfied.

Apart from major meals, you can switch your dog treats can switch to a low-calorie alternative. These low-calorie dog treats contain leaner meat and fewer fillers. Thus, you can give them more frequently to your dogs. 

What’s the Difference Between Low Fat Dog Food and Low Calorie Dog Food?

running dog

Depending on your dog’s overall health and needs, your veterinarian can prescribe either a low-fat dog food diet or a low calorie dog food diet for your pet. Be careful not to confuse the two as the same thing. Before changing your dog’s diet, talk to your veterinarian first and do your research.

If you find that your dog is on the overweight side, you might quickly think that the answer is as simple as switching to low-fat dog food. However, it’s not that simple. If you take a closer look at low-fat dog food ingredients, you might be surprised to know that they are still high in caloric content and carbohydrates.

Low-fat dog food tries to cut down on meat by replacing it with sugar. Dogs need protein to live, and they get most of their protein from meat. Replacing sugar with meat makes their food unhealthy and doesn’t allow your dog to lose weight. So, for pet owners, low-fat dog food doesn’t necessarily mean it’s healthy.

Low calorie dog food, on the other hand, is a better direction if you’re looking into limiting the number of calories for your dog. Instead of replacing meat with sugary carbohydrates, low calorie dog food contains leaner meats. “What makes a diet food different is we’re essentially diluting calories,” Edward Moser, MS, VMD explained.

Calories sourced from high-quality protein, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are easier for a dog to process correctly. Low calorie dog food options are also more comprehensive, which will aid in balancing your dog’s calories-in-to-calories-out ratio.

Of course, we would want to take care of our dog the same way we would treat our health. We also want our furry companions to have a more increased calorie output but still with a balanced proportion of necessary nutrients.  What are these nutrients? Check the list below:

  • Protein such as lamb, beef, fish, cooked eggs, or chicken. Low calorie dog food does not limit the amount of protein a dog eats just as long as it is lean.
  • Carbohydrates from rice or beans are still healthy if you feed them to your dog in smaller amounts.
  • Fat from oil or meat helps in absorbing vitamins and promotes the protection of the skin and fur.
  • Minerals ensure your dog has strong bones and teeth.
  • Vitamins help speed up weight loss and boost immunity.

With these nutrients in mind, the proper feed for overweight dogs is food that has above-average protein, below-average fat, and below-average calories.

When Should You Give Your Dog Low Calorie Dog Food

fat dog

Now that you know the difference between low-fat and low calorie dog food, it’s time to see when you should opt for a low calorie dog food diet. This choice is ideal if your dog is slightly more towards the overweight side, but you don’t want to cut down on his meat consumption. It is also suitable for dogs who are incredibly active and have a massive appetite. Eating low calorie dog food will allow them to eat just as much without the added weight.

Low calorie dog food treats are also an excellent choice when training dogs. These treats can allow dog owners to reward their dogs without any guilt of adding on to their weight or health issues. Even if your dog does not have a weight problem currently, starting a low calorie dog food diet will prevent future weight problems. As with humans, exercise will also play a significant role in keeping your dog healthy.

The amount of calorie intake and exercise will differ from dog to dog. For puppies, you can worry less about feeding them strictly low calorie dog food, as they will more likely burn it off. Adult dogs can benefit from this diet more since they’re not burning off the same amount of calories.

Where to Start with Low Calorie Dog Food?

Source: Instagram

Highly processed dog food tends to lose its nutritional value. Expensive prescription food can also burn your budget and be completely unnecessary. Thankfully, you can ensure your dog gets the best quality of food intake without breaking the bank.

Start experimenting with recipes in your kitchen to find out the best mix for your dog. Homemade low calorie dog food can help your furry canine, especially if they have allergies, skin sensitivities, or gastrointestinal problems. Much more, cooking dog food on your own helps maintain essential nutrients. It’s also a great idea to know a few recipes for when you suddenly run out of store-bought dog food.

If you are still confused about how to start feeding your dogs low calorie dog food, we have compiled easy DIY recipes for inspiration:

1. DIY Homemade Dog Food

This recipe consists of readily available ingredients like zucchini, green peas, spinach, carrots, ground chicken, and brown rice. It is a balanced low calorie dog food with 50% protein, 25% vegetables, and 25% grains. However, this ratio can be adjusted to fit your dog’s needs.

2. All-Natural, Organic Stew

Source: Instagram

Now this homemade low calorie dog food is fantastic for several reasons. First, the main ingredient is sweet potato which is a good source of healthy carbohydrates even for dogs. This recipe requires a slow-cooker and, if your slow-cooker can handle it, can make a large serving enough to last a week. Small warning: once cooked, this stew smells incredibly appetizing that your furry puppers might drool all over the kitchen floor. Talk about deliciously healthy!

3. Pup-Friendly Dog Food

Dogs have food allergies too, which should make us extra careful with what we include in our recipes. This recipe uses dog-sensitive ingredients like pumpkin puree, coconut oil, a ground protein of choice, and some grains. For added nutrition, you can also tweak this to add your selection of supplements for that extra healthy kick!

4. Slow-Cooker Dog Food

If you’re happy with a week’s worth of food, this one’s going to last you three weeks’ worth of low calorie dog food. Its primary source of protein is boneless chicken thighs, beans, apple, carrots, and other dog-friendly ingredients. Pro-tip: visit your vet first before trying to change your dog’s diet.

5. Fiber-Rich Homemade Treat

Your dog will surely appreciate your efforts to make homemade food. Take your dog food staples up a notch by adding in some hearty blueberries and lots of kale. Doing this will surely elevate your typical homemade treat to a low calorie dog food dream!

6. Crock-Pot Dog Food

Like the slow cooker dog food recipe, this one uses the same variety of ingredients but in a crockpot version. With different vegetable blends, this will hold up better when put in a slow cooker. The best thing about this is it’s simple enough that you can dump everything right in and that’s it! You can prepare it before you leave in the morning and come home to a freshly-made dog food just like that. If you want a little change, customize your vegetables after double-checking what your dog can or can’t eat.

Make sure that when you do make a large batch of these low calorie dog food recipes, you take note of the date of cooking before you put them in the fridge. That way, you can easily track if a dog food is near expiration or not. Some ingredients might also spoil faster than others, so you might want to prepare smaller servings for these.

Because all these recipes use natural ingredients with no preservatives or additives, they are relatively lower in calories. However, still make sure that your dog consumes them in moderation. To emphasize, a visit to the vet is crucial before changing your dog’s diet. The sudden drop in calories might damage their organs!

What to Feed Your Dog if You’re Too Lazy to Cook

While still a better choice, not every dog owner has the time to prepare homemade meals for their dogs personally. If you still want your dog to be healthy, there are also relatively healthier canned dog food alternatives you can try. Besides, homemade dog food, however nutritious, might still lack some essential minerals and vitamins that canned dog food offers. We’ve curated a list of the top low calorie dog food available in the market for you. Check the list below:

1. Natural Balance Fat Dogs Low Calorie Dry Dog Food

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This low calorie dog food is one of the best in the market, and they also boast of having the lowest calorie compositions compared to other dog food. See what customers say about Natural Balance Fat Dogs here. 

2. Dr. Tim’s Metabolite Weight Management Dog Food

Chicken, brown rice, whole oats, dried peas, and powdered cellulose are the first few ingredients in this nutrient-packed dog food. It is the prime choice if you’re looking for low-calorie, grain-inclusive dog food. Check out what the customers say about Dr Tim’s Dog Food here.

3. Wellness CORE Reduced Fat Dry Dog Food

One of the bestsellers in the dog food market, this Wellness Core brand is a reduced-fat version of their regular dog food. It is excellent for sensitive dogs since this is free from grains. While it focuses on reduced fat content, there’s no compromise on the protein quality as it still uses a blend of turkey and chicken. Check customer reviews and ratings here.

4. Victor Purpose Senior Healthy Weight Dog Food

Source: Instagram

For this, most of the meat protein comes from a beef meal. It is an affordable option, highly recommended for those looking for a protein-rich recipe. Check out Victor Purpose Senior Healthy Weight Dog Food in Amazon here.

5. Blue Life Protection Healthy Weight Dry Food

Blue Buffalo’s low calorie dog food is another known product in the dog food market, and this Life Protection formula variant is the bestselling choice for a low calorie dog food diet. It helps dogs maintain their ideal weight and uses boneless chicken as the main protein. Moreover, there are no additives used in the formula. See what customers say about this dog food here.

6. Diamond Naturals LIGHT Real Meat Recipe Natural Dry Dog Food

For dog owners on a budget, this is a top choice. It doesn’t quite compare to other pricier options in terms of quality, but it doesn’t fall far behind too. This one is also safe from artificial colorings and preservatives and contains only natural ingredients. Buy a smaller pack of this first to check if its taste appeals to your dog. Check out the customer reviews and ratings here.

7. Nutro ULTRA Adult Weight Management Dog Food 

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A favorite canned diet wet food, this is an all-natural dog food which offers balanced nutrition in support of weight loss or weight maintenance for adult dogs. Dog owners will like that this is exceptionally palatable, contains high-quality proteins, and promotes healthy digestion. You can purchase Nutro ULTRA Adult Weight Management Dog Food in Amazon here.

8. Earthborn Holistic Weight Control Natural Food

This low calorie dog food’s focus is on robust and efficient digestibility due to its natural fiber content. Its protein primarily comes from chicken meal, along with peas, tapioca, tomato pomace, chicken fat, and several essential vitamins and minerals. See customer reviews and ratings here.

9. Eagle Pack Natural Reduced Fat Dog Food 

Another cost-effective choice for budget-conscious dog parents, this offers a balanced blend focused on reduced fat. Aside from real pork and chicken, it also contains fish to increase appetite for dogs. Check out the customer reviews and ratings from Amazon here.

10. Merrick Grain Free Healthy Weight Dry Food 

Just like Merrick’s other dog food products, this is another variant that won’t disappoint. It uses boneless beef as a protein source and comes with one of the highest protein contents at 32%, incomparable to any weight loss dog food. See the customer ratings and reviews from Amazon here.

A word of caution: any dog food meant for weight loss is for adult dogs only, not for puppies.

What Foods Should Your Dog Completely Avoid?

doggie with big eyes

Most dog owners are likely familiar with these. But since some of these can be fatal for our furry pets, a reminder is still in order for good measure.

Processed dog food in the market is relatively safer in that they are sure to leave out any toxic ingredients for dogs. However, if you frequently cook homemade food for your dogs, you might want to keep these ingredients away from the kitchen:

  1. Chocolate. It contains theobromine which dogs process significantly more slowly, allowing it to build up inside the dog’s system at toxic levels. “There is no specific antidote to give when your dog eats chocolate, but hospitalization for monitoring and supportive care is very important,” Mara Ratnofsky, DVM says.
  2. Onions and garlic. Both of these contain N-propyl disulfide which damages dogs’ hemoglobin. It can cause red cells to break, which results in anemia in dogs.
  3. Avocados. The toxic ingredient in avocados is persin, which leads to severe health issues and even death. Taken in large amounts, this causes vomiting and pancreatitis.
  4. Grapes and raisins. The exact toxic ingredient in these is not yet known, but like others, these can also lead to vomiting, appetite loss, weakness, abdominal pain, and dehydration, among others, even when taken in a small amount.
  5. Macadamia nuts. It is also still not known what exactly makes this toxic to dogs. But toxic symptoms are usually seen within the first 12 hours of consumption. Most commonly, the inability to walk is the telling sign.
  6. Raw bread dough. The yeast in an uncooked dough is what’s going to kill your dog. Yeast poses two problems: (1) once consumed, it will produce excessive content in your dog’s stomach, and (2) it can rupture the stomach lining and further cause damage to the cardiovascular system and diaphragm.

A Few More Tips

A low calorie dog food diet should be complemented with a couple of other measures to ensure maximum effectiveness for your dogs:

  • If your dog is picky when it comes to food, try experimenting with different types of food. Check how your dog does with dehydrated dog food, refrigerated or commercial dog food, or canned dog food. Doing this will help you pinpoint which type your dogs react to best and how to regulate their appetite more.
  • Measure portions. It’s essential not only to cook healthy recipes but also to get the correct portion size. Even with the healthiest meals, always letting your dog eat a large portion will hinder health improvement.  In counting calories, do not just guess since that is highly prone to error. Use proper measuring cups instead of spoons or regular mugs.
  • Be careful with treats. You may think that the calories from dog treats are small, but if given several times a day, it may build up. Check these healthy homemade treats for a low calorie dog food option.
  • Encourage activity. The way to lose and maintain a healthy weight is to burn more calories than your dog consumes. Make playtime more fun by introducing new toys, rewarding your dog with healthy treats, or, best, exercising with your dog!

There you have it—The Furry Companion’s helpful guide to low calorie dog food! Dogs are a part of our family; we would want to treat them the way we would our parents, our children, our siblings, and ourselves. Like us, they must also remain healthy to ensure the best quality of life they can get in their life span. While we may find fat dogs cute and irresistible, we must think of how they might be feeling internally. Who knows, by changing your dog’s lifestyle, you might start to switch to a healthier one too. Win–win!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best low calorie dog food?
If your dog is overweight, then his diet should be low calorie. Best low calorie dog foods are Annamaet Lean Reduced Fat Formula, Nulo Freestyle Adult Trim Dry Dog Food, and Eagle Pack Reduced Fat Dog Food.

What is the healthiest food to feed your dog?
It is healthiest for dogs to eat natural food like home-cooked foods. Lean chicken, turkey, liver, and tuna are good for dogs.

How many calories a day should my dog eat to lose weight?
The calorie intake of dogs depends on their size and weight. Usually, dogs need 25 to 30 calories for each pound every day.

What dog food is killing dogs?
Canned dog foods were once recalled from the market. These dog foods were said to contain too much Vitamin D which led some dogs to get sick and some dying.

Can dogs eat canned tuna?
Yes, canned tuna is safe for dogs. It is also best to get tuna in water than tuna in oil.

How many calories are in a cup of dry dog food?
A cup of dry dog food has around 217 to 440 calories. Dry food usually contains 97 calories for each ounce.

How many calories should an overweight dog eat?
The amount of calories is dependent on different factors including the current weight of the dog and the ideal weight to achieve. It is best to consult a veterinarian for proper assessment.

What is a good high calorie dog food?
The best high-calorie dog foods are those with high protein and calorie content. Recommended high-calorie dog foods are Bully Max High Performance Super Premium, Nature’s Logic Dry Dog Food, and Elite K9 Maximum Bully.

What is body condition scoring?
A body condition scoring is an assessment tool measuring fat accumulation in animals. Scores are assigned to observe extreme fat reserves or emaciation for animals. Dogs have their own body condition scoring, too. Consult your veterinarian about the body condition of your pet dog.

Can rice help a dog lose weight?

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