Best Dog Food for Weight Loss of 2023, With Tips From Veterinarians

What to look for in weight loss dog food

Our experts recommend considering the following criteria when shopping for the best dog food for weight loss:

AAFCO nutritional adequacy statement for adult maintenance or all life stages: The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is a nonprofit organization that recommends nutritional profiles based on an animal’s life stage. AAFCO doesn’t approve specific dog foods, but a dog food that meets AAFCO standards for maintenance or all life stages is complete and balanced to meet your dog’s nutritional needs. Churchill and Freeman say weight management diets aren’t appropriate for puppies, so you won’t find any foods for weight management labeled as meeting AAFCO’s nutritional standards for growth.

Ingredient list: Labels list ingredients by weight, so the first few ingredients generally make up most of the food’s weight. Our experts suggest looking for a few key ingredients in weight management diets, including salt to increase water intake, fiber to keep dogs feeling fuller for longer, and additives such as L-carnitine that may increase metabolic rate. While there are no particular ingredients to avoid, Dr. Emily Luisana, a veterinary nutritionist at Friendship Hospital for Animals in Washington, DC, recommends avoiding grain-free diets. “Grain-free diets have been linked to DCM in dogs and the exact mechanism is still under investigation,” she says. She also recommends talking to your vet if you currently feed your dog a grain-free diet. 

Guaranteed analysis: Adult dog food must have a minimum of 18% protein and 5.5% fat to fulfill a dog’s nutritional needs. Our experts say the best weight management diets for dogs are low in fat and high in fiber. You can find the nutritional content breakdown of a specific food by examining the guaranteed analysis on a bag or can or by contacting the manufacturer.

Healthy extras: Healthy extras in weight management diets for dogs typically include fiber sources, ingredients that increase the metabolic rate, and those that support the joints. Examples of these include powdered cellulose, L-carnitine, omega fatty acids, glucosamine, and chondroitin.

Calorie content: Simply decreasing the amount of food your dog eats may not lead to healthy weight loss. Instead, it could harm their health by causing nutritional deficiencies, Churchill says. Instead, your vet may recommend switching to food lower in calories but properly balanced with other important nutrients.

Breed-size formulation: According to our experts, small and large breed seniors have different health risks and may require different calorie amounts and kibble sizes. Buying food specific to your pup’s size ensures they get a recipe formulated for their needs.

Feeding-trial tested vs. formulated foods: Some pet food labels will say the food is formulated to meet AAFCO’s nutritional standards for adult maintenance or all life stages or has undergone feed-trial testing. These labels confirm that the food meets or exceeds the recommended protein, fat, and nutrient requirements for adult dogs. While feed-trial testing is the gold standard for evaluating pet food, not all reputable companies can afford pet food feed-trial testing, Welborn says.  

Expert formulations: In line with our expert’s recommendations, the dog foods we recommend meet the WSAVA guidelines. This means the pet food manufacturers not only meet various quality-control standards but also employ a full-time board-certified veterinary nutritionist and perhaps a PhD-level animal nutritionist.

Next-level ingredients: Next-level ingredients refers to ingredients in dog food marketed as human-grade, organic, sustainably caught, or cage-free. For instance, our fresh food recommendation is made with next-level ingredients. Pet foods with these types of ingredients tend to cost more than others, but they allow you to support a pet food company that values social and environmental responsibility.

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