Canine weight management

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Dogs retain many of the behaviours associated with their wolf ancestors, including a feast-or-famine eating pattern. If food is available, most dogs will continue eating until they can hold no more. Unfortunately with today’s modern lifestyle this has led to many pet dogs needing to lose weight, as excessive body fat can impair vital body functions .

Obesity Factors

1. Females more likely (to put on weight) than males, especially spayed bitches

2. Middles aged more likely than younger ones

3. Dogs who receive treats or scraps (having a high calorific value)

4. Breed variation / genetic disposition

5. Lack of exercise


Weight Management

At SmartPaws we can help you by designing a weight management program, with a goal to reduce fat composition to 20 – 25% (of total body weight).

Why is this important?

Put simply losing weight reduces the risks (outlined in the table below), can save you money as well as generally increasing your pet’s well-being.


Canine studies on calorie controlled diets (2,3)


Control-fed dogs

Restricted-fed dogs

Dogs with evidence of HD at 5 years old



Dogs with >2 joints affected at 8 years of age



Age which 50% of dogs were treated for OA

10.3 years

13.3 years

Median lifespan

11.2 years

13.0 years


Advantages of a weight management program

  • Reduces expenditure on food over your pets life time.
  • A fitter dog will live for longer before needing treatment for osteoarthritis (OA) in older age. This too will reduce expenditure in the longer term on medication to manage OA.
  • Dogs that follow calorie controlled diets have significantly less hip dysplasia issues.


Why a weight management program?

"Caloric restriction combined with (canine) physical therapy improves mobility and facilitates weight loss more efficiently than dieting treatment alone". (1) 

Simply increasing weight-bearing exercises will inevitably cause extra stress on joint. Physiotherapy helps by improving joint mobility and reducing pain.  Therefore a combined daily management program is suggested which includes:

  • Having the right diet and optimising portions

  • Limit the times where the dog is fed and avoid feeding out of the hand

  • A graduated exercise program

  • Electro and manual therapies to reduce pain and stiffness

  • Treadmill walking, which can be kinder to a dogs joints than road walking

For more information on a physiotherapy based weight-management program for your dog, don't hesistate to contact us at SmartPaws physiotherapy.


(1) Bockstahler, B. Mueller, M. Tetrick. Effects of caloric restriction and a moderate orintense physiotherapy program for treatment of lameness in overweight dogs with osteoarthritis. ARTICLE in JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN VETERINARY MEDICAL ASSOCIATION · JANUARY 2007

(2) Kealy, R.D Lawler, D.F. Ballam, J.M et al (2002), Effects of diet restriction on life span and age-related changes in dogs. J. A. Vet. Med. Assoc. 220: 1315 - 1320

(3) Impellizeri, J.A. Tetrick, M.A. Muir, P. (2000) Effect of weight reduction on clinical signs of lameness in dogs with hip osteoarthritis. Department of Surgical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706. (Muir). J Am Vet Med Assoc 2000;216:1089–1091)