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Ways to help our dogs to maintain a healthy weight

Updated on February 23, 2013
midget38 profile image

Michelle is a professional freelance writer who loves music, poetry, pets, and the arts. She is a techno-geek as well.


How to choose the best puppy food

Many of us have come to regard our dogs as our fur kids. It is a basic parental instinct to panic a little when our dogs, like our children, have weight or eating issues.

We panic a bit when our dogs refuse to eat. Some of us may face the opposite problem and struggle with dogs being overweight.

The cause for feeling discomfited over our underweight or overweight dogs depends largely on the situation. For as long as your dog maintains good health, there is not much reason to get flustered over his weight.


Reasons why a dog refuses to eat

We deal with, firstly, the problem of our dogs refusing to eat. There could be a number of contributing factors to a problem of poor canine eating habits.


As it does for humans, illness would cause a lack of appetite for dogs. If a dog who has a great appetite suddenly refuses to eat, it could well be because he is not feeling too well.


If you have children or have come across children who are choosy about food, this applies to canines too.

I noticed this about my dogs Cloudy and Misty. They are quite choosy about the brand of dog food that I feed them and only go for certain ones. Pickiness could be a problem that turns a dog away from food.


If you have a puppy who has been vaccinated recently, you might find that he might not want his food. Vaccines can cause a little sluggishness and lack of appetite in humans and do so in dogs as well.

Unfamiliar surroundings

Those of us who have moved house or gone traveling with their dogs might find that their dogs may feel insecure about their new environment. That insecurity might dampen their appetites.

This is true of my West Highland White Terrier, Cloudy. She refuses to eat when something new is introduced to the environment. When I shift the food bowl to another area, she decides not to have her meal for the day.

Lower Metabolic Rate

Being considerably smaller, dogs have amazingly smaller nutritional needs and metabolic rates than humans. It is not surprising that a dog can go for two or even three days without food.

If your dog does not want to eat, try not to panic just yet. He may just be feeling a little full.


What can I do if my dog refuses to eat?

When your dog refuses to eat, there are some things a frustrated owner can do to lessen, if not eliminate the problem.

Eliminate possible reasons for not eating

When you notice your dog not eating, try to rule out reasons of illness and unfamiliar surroundings first. Consider if you have recently changed his diet and that he is not reacting well to the new food.

If you have determined that it is illness that is causing a loss of appetite and doggy frustration, take a trip to the vet. If his lack of appetite is a result of being within an unfamiliar environment, allow him some time to adjust to his new surroundings or feeding routine.

Provide your dog with a distraction free area

Sometimes a dog refuses to eat when there are distracting noises that grab his attention. Provide him with a distraction free area that will allow him to eat in peace and focus on his food.

Re-evaluate what you are feeding your dog.

When your dog refuses to eat, it could be because he simply has no liking for the food that is being given. In this case, wait for your pet to be a little hungrier and more willing to eat, or assess the food you are providing to see what is in it that might be a little uncomfortable for the dog.

Overcome pickiness

If you have determined that your dog is picky about food,it is time for him to overcome that fussiness. That can be done in several ways:

  • Cutting back on treats
  • Following a regular feeding schedule
  • Making mealtime fun eg. getting your dog to perform a trick for a treat
  • Changing his feeding situation


Overfeeding your dog

We have discussed the problem of a dog not eating. There is, of course, the opposite problem of canine obesity.

At least 50% of cats and dogs in the U.S. are overweight. If you cannot feel your dogs ribs and do not see his waist, he is very likely to be obese.

Studies have shown that overweight dogs are likely to suffer from a number of diseases:

  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Oral Disease
  • Diabetes
  • Pancreatitis
  • Cancer
  • Arthritis

So what are the greatest causes of obesity in dogs?

Imbalance of food and calorie intake

The ideal number of times to feed a dog is twice a day, with a bowl that is not too full. A good way to decide how much to feed your dog is to base it on its metabolic weight. This is a link to a dog food calculator and included instructions that might help.

Owners overfeeding on treats

We all love our dogs, and are likely to show our affection for them by giving them too much of the food they love, like jerkies and treats of other kinds. Over feeding on treats causes significant weight gain in dogs.

Age and activity level

In general, more senior dogs tend to be less active than their younger counterparts. I notice this whenever I walk my dogs, Misty and Cloudy. I have difficulty walking them both at once because the more rambunctious Cloudy would romp forward all the time while the more languid and much older Misty would want to move at a lower pace.

Obviously, dogs with a lower activity level like Misty would need far less food than dogs like the far younger and more active Cloudy. A dogs age and activity level plays a part in determining how much food you should feed your dog.

Smaller calorie needs of dogs

Being generally much smaller in size and lighter in weight than humans, a dog has smaller calorie needs. It is quite unsurprising to find a dog which is not hungry even when he has not eaten for a day.

Dogs therefore need less food than humans do. Loading their food bowls with as much food as you would feed yourself would be a tad much.

Not enough exercise

Just as humans do, dogs need regular exercise and walks. Obesity creeps in when this daily need is neglected.


Overcoming canine obesity

Overcoming canine obesity can be a significant challenge. So what are the things we should note while trying to help our dogs battle excess fat?

Rule out illness

Illness can cause weight gain in dogs. My dog, Misty, had a seizure that resulted in an increase of appetite and a little weight gain that we are conquering by reducing his or her food intake.

Reduce the amount of food

For as long as a dog’s intake exceeds its calorie needs, it will be prone to weight gain. Simply reducing the amount of food a dog takes in if it is overweight is a step to take to eliminate or lessen the problem.

Exercise your dog

Agility exercises not only stimulate a dogs mental activity but help in weight control as well. Taking your dog to dog runs or putting him through agility activities and lessons helps maintain a healthy weight.

If time to take your dog to these runs is a little limited, make time to bring him on a daily walk. It helps to fulfill his need for a stretch and weight control too.


I would like to thank the fabulous writers who answered the question “How often should we feed our dogs?” Do make the time to check each of these great pensmen and women out!

A dog’s weight is the key to its long and healthy life, much as it is for ours. Do take care to ensure that a healthy balance of weight and activity is maintained.


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    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Mary. I try to link my questions to a hub I will be writing so that it is more relevant. Min Pins tend to be eaters, yes! Good to watch them. Thanks for sharing.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 

      7 years ago from New York

      What I want to know is how did you sneak this one by me? Not only is this a very useful hub but as always, you make it personal by talking about your dogs. Using questions to inspire your hubs is pretty darn brilliant but what you do with the answers is even more so!

      Owning a MinPin I deal with an overweight dog daily. He is an eating machine that is totally food motivated so I really have to watch him.

      Voted up, useful, interesting, and shared.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Thelma. I am glad that you have found it useful!

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 

      7 years ago from Germany and Philippines

      What a great and useful hub! I always wanted to know how many times a day should a dog eats. Now I know and many other things from you. Thanks Michelle. Voted up and shared.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Wow, Glim, that sounds like my dog too! She will eat anything. So we have to watch her, and she's a senior dog-tizen! LOL! thanks for sharing!

    • Glimmer Twin Fan profile image

      Claudia Mitchell 

      7 years ago

      My dog has an incredibly high metabolism so he never seems to gain weight. I'm sure when he gets older we will have to watch him because he would eat anything and everything if he could! Great tips here.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Eddy!

    • Eiddwen profile image


      7 years ago from Wales

      So interesting and useful Michelle ;thank you again for sharing another great hub.

      Have a wonderful day.


    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Hello, Don, indeed, dogs turn diabetic as easily as we do! Thanks for sharing...and a proper diet and exercise are essential!

    • dahoglund profile image

      Don A. Hoglund 

      7 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

      We have had overweight dogs and our last dog became diabetic. It is quite expensive to maintain a dog with diabetes. For that reason as well as the dogs health, I recommend a proper diet and exercise for dogs.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks so much, Mayank!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Glad it helps, Linda!! I have an older dog gaining weight too so am measuring at present. Glad to see her belly starting to reduce in size. Hope it continues!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Yes, it's good to keep an eye out for the issues! Thanks for sharing, torilynn!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      A great idea, Sheri, let her know about the dog calculator too.Thanks so much.

    • mayank147 profile image

      Mayank Agrawal 

      7 years ago from Bangalore

      very great hub and cover all the good thing in this hub i appreciate your work very well written :)

    • lrc7815 profile image

      Linda Crist 

      7 years ago from Central Virginia

      Great hub Michelle. I really appreciate the link to the calculator too. I am dealing with an older dog who is slowing down and gaining weight so this is very helpful. Thank you.

    • torrilynn profile image


      7 years ago

      midget38, i love love love the fact that you wrote an article about weights issues with dogs. i have a german shepherd, i dont believe that she is overweights but it is still goo to know on how to maintain a dogs weight in general. thanks and voted up.

    • Sheri Faye profile image

      Sheri Dusseault 

      7 years ago from Chemainus. BC, Canada

      Great article. I need to show this to a friend of mine who's dog is huge!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Hi Janine, thanks!! Hope it will be useful!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Schnauzers seem to have a tendency towards weight gain, Mary. Misty does too, so we have to watch these girls!! Thanks for sharing!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Thanks, Kidscrafts!! I am so happy to hear about your cats!! And that you're so close to them too. Yep, keep the younger one from obesity, the same things would apply!!

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      Wow, Mr Archer, that is a very sensible dog indeed!! Glad he sniffed out the mold. Thanks for sharing too!

    • Janine Huldie profile image

      Janine Huldie 

      7 years ago from New York, New York

      Wonderful and useful Hub article that should help many with dogs or considering to get dogs, Michelle. Thanks for sharing this here and have of course done the same and voted way up and shared all over!!

    • kidscrafts profile image


      7 years ago from Ottawa, Canada

      Great hub Michelle. Our vet told us a long time ago that it was better not to overfeed our cats. The good result we get of it is that we have healthy cats that live long. Our first cat lived 16 years (she immigrated from Belgium to Canada with us!). Our second cat lived about 18 and a half years. My third cat (she was an athlete!) lived 15 years. I have two cats at this point and one of them is almost 17 years old and the other one two years old.

      I have to watch my younger cat because he would stuff himself as if there is no tomorrow! If I would not control what he eats, he would definitly be obese.

      You cover a lot of great points in your article! It's well organized! Very useful :-)

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 

      7 years ago from Florida

      My mini Schnauzer has a tendency to put on weight, so I have to be careful about not overfeeding her. She is a pig and would eat all day long if I let her. She only gets dry kibble which is a prescription due to her food allergies, and I give her only 1/2 Cupfuls once a day.

      Very informative article. Voted UP and shared. Also Pinned and Tweeted.

    • Mr Archer profile image

      Mr Archer 

      7 years ago from Missouri

      Nice article. Another reason for overweight dogs can be the amount of corn in the ingredients. Corn will bulk a dog up the same way sugar will a person. Diets higher in protein from meats are far superior to that from corn.

      I have a registered Labrador Retriever who has occasionally turned his nose up at food. One reason turned out to be bad food. We had purchased a high dollar well known brand. He ate the first bag of it fine. The second bag he nibbled at, then completely ignored. We bought a different brand, again high dollar, and he went after it like crazy. My wife went online researching the first food, and found a recall for a similar type of dog food from the manufacuterer. A call was placed and within a couple of days another recall was out, including the one we had. Turns out there was mold in the dog food that we could neither see or smell, but my Lab knew it was bad and refused to eat it. So sometimes the pickiness is there for a reason we may not realize.

    • midget38 profile imageAUTHOR

      Michelle Liew 

      7 years ago from Singapore

      An article on conquering weight problems in dogs.


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