The best dog food for weight loss in 2024

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A bag of Hill's weight loss food, a can of Purina food, and a bag of Natural Balance food on a blue background.
If your dog is overweight, your veterinarian may recommend switching their food to a weight loss diet.Hill's; Purina; Natural Balance/Business Insider

It's all too easy for some dogs to put on a few extra pounds. In fact, evidence suggests up to 60% of pet dogs may be overweight — and even a small weight gain can lead to big health problems. That's why the veterinarians we interviewed recommend combining the best dog food for weight loss with portion control and age-appropriate exercise to help your pup maintain a healthy weight.

We rounded up the best weight loss dog foods so you can spend more quality time playing with your pooch. One of our best overall picks, Hill's Science Light Adult 1-6 With Liver, is a low-fat food with plenty of moisture and fiber to help your dog feel full.

All of our selections align with pet food standards from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). We also carefully reviewed pet food labels and ingredients and consulted veterinary nutritionists for guidance. Although our experts didn't provide specific recommendations, their input helped us select the top weight loss foods from trustworthy brands.

Keep in mind that vets don't recommend weight loss diets for dogs of all ages. Instead of feeding puppies weight loss food, for instance, Dr. Mark Freeman, a veterinarian and assistant professor of community practice at Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, recommends increasing their physical activity. Our experts say dogs require 60 minutes of daily exercise, split into short sessions based on age, health, and abilities. Your vet can recommend an exercise routine best for your pup.

Read more about how we research and test pet products here.

Best wet

Two cans of wet dog food for weight loss from Hill's Pet and Purina are on a blue background.
Purina and Hill's make high-quality wet food for weight loss.Hill's; Purina/Business Insider

Making sure your dog drinks plenty of water could help them lose weight by keeping them full, says Dr. Nancy Welborn, a veterinarian and associate professor of community practice at Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine. In fact, many weight management dog foods contain a small amount of salt because it encourages dogs to drink more water.

Another option for including more water in your dog's diet is wet dog food, which packs 75% to 78% moisture. Dry foods, on the other hand, contain only 10% to 12% moisture. However, Welborn says wet food typically costs more and contains more fat than dry dog food, so it may not be ideal for every dog.

To compare nutrition values of wet and dry pet foods, you'll need to convert wet food values to a dry matter basis, or the value when all moisture has been removed. You can use these directions from the Cummings Veterinary Medical Center at Tufts University, call the food manufacturer, or ask your veterinarian for help.

The high-moisture picks below include lean proteins and healthy carbohydrates. We also followed our experts' advice by considering the fat content in each food. Our picks below contain a maximum of 11% fat on a dry matter basis, which is lower than many of the best dog food recipes.

Best dry

Two bags of dry weight loss dog food from Rachael Ray Nutrish and Natural Balance are on a blue background.
These dry foods from Rachael Ray Nutrish and Natural Balance are great for weight management.Rachael Ray Nutrish; Natural Balance/Business Insider

Successful weight loss depends on several factors, including your dog's breed, age, lifestyle, and what and how you feed them. Freeman says wet and dry food both have their pros and cons, so when it comes to weight management nutrition, there's no general preference for one over the other. However, according to one study, obese pups may be more likely to lose weight on dry food diets.

The researchers acknowledge the limitations of their small study size — 143 dogs — but suggest pet parents may have an easier time controlling portions of dry food. Whether you opt for wet or dry food, measuring the food on a kitchen scale will get you the most accurate portion sizes, according to Dr. Julie Churchill, a veterinary nutritionist and professor of nutrition at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine.

Freeman says that most weight management diets for dogs have more fiber and fewer carbohydrates and fats than other diets. The recommendations for the best dry dog foods below include both soluble and insoluble fiber sources, like brown rice, beet pulp, and oats. Welborn says insoluble fiber helps keep your pup full, and soluble fiber promotes a healthy digestive system.

Best for seniors

A bag of Iams Healthy Aging dog food and a can of Hill's weight loss dog food on a blue background.
We recommend these foods from Iams and Hill's for managing a senior dog's weight.Iams; Hill's/Business Insider

Churchill says one of the best things you can do for your senior dog is to help them maintain a healthy weight and lean body condition. This can significantly reduce the risk and severity of age-related health conditions like arthritis and may extend the life of your beloved pet, she says.

However, senior dogs may have a harder time staying at their ideal weight. As dogs age, the risk of obesity increases because their metabolism slows and energy declines, Freeman says. When selecting a senior diet, he recommends aiming for options that contain no more than 30% high-quality, easily digestible protein such as fish and fish meals, venison, and chicken to prevent strain on the kidneys, unless otherwise advised by your veterinarian. Additionally, he says senior weight management diets should contain less fat, phosphorus, and sodium than typical adult formulas.

Weight management foods often incorporate ingredients that boost a pet's metabolism, allowing for larger portion sizes than some other foods, Welborn says. For example, our best senior dog food weight management pick from Hill's contains L-carnitine, an amino acid that helps convert fat into energy.

Best for large breeds

A bag of Nutro large breed food and a bag of Merrick Healthy Weight food are on a blue background.
These foods from Nutro and Merrick can help large breed dogs achieve a healthy weight.Nutro; Merrick/Business Insider

As large breed dogs are prone to joint and bone diseases, it's even more crucial for them to maintain a healthy body condition throughout their lives. Welborn says large breed puppies need food with the right ratios of phosphorus, calcium, and fat. As they transition into adulthood, even a small amount of weight gain can increase the risk of health issues such as diabetes, endocrine diseases, and joint diseases, Freeman says. Food specially developed for large breed adult dogs usually has more omega fatty acids than other dog foods, and this ingredient may help prevent or alleviate joint and bone conditions.

If you're choosing a weight management diet for a large breed dog, our experts suggest large breed dog foods high in fiber and low in fat. Our picks also have a bigger kibble size, since Welborn says large dogs may eat smaller kibble too quickly, resulting in discomfort and vomiting. The best dog food for weight loss picks below also have healthy extras that support the bones and joints, like glucosamine and chondroitin.

Best for small breeds

A bag of Hill's Science Diet Perfect Weight food and a can of Natural Balance Fat Dogs food are on a blue background.
These low-fat foods from Hill's and Natural Balance are excellent options for small breed dogs.Hill's; Natural Balance/Business Insider

Small breed dogs typically have a faster metabolism than other pups, but they can still reach an unhealthy weight, Welborn says. In fact, she says obesity is common among small breed dogs. "If you have a dog that weighs ten pounds and you overfeed them, they're going to get bigger faster," she says.

Welborn adds that small breed dogs are prone to patellar luxation, diabetes, and heart disease, especially if they're overweight. A scale called a body condition score (BCS) allows vets to determine if your pup has extra body fat. Our experts also recommend asking your vet to teach you how to assess BCS at home using the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) body condition chart.

No matter your dog's BCS or breed, Welborn says she doesn't recommend a grain-free diet due to its potential link to dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM). Like our other weight management picks, the best dog food for small dogs should be high in fiber and low in fat. Dry food options for small breeds should have small kibble for easy chewing.

Best fresh

A package of Just Food for Dogs Veterinary Diet Metabolic Support fresh dog food is on a blue background.
Just Food For Dogs Metabolic Support is the best fresh food for overweight dogs.Just Food for Dogs/Business Insider

Treats, snacks, and table scraps can interfere with any pup's weight management plan. "Educating pet parents concerning low-calorie options for treats and snacks and helping them understand just how many calories they offer daily can certainly help," Freeman says. If your dog tends to beg for table snacks or a taste of whatever you're having, you might consider a fresh food meal prepared by an animal nutrition expert as one possible solution.

Fresh dog foods are typically made from human-grade ingredients and cooked in a kitchen rather than prepared via high-pressure processing. They may cost more than processed options, it's true — but you can have them conveniently delivered on a subscription basis to satisfy your dog's love of table snacks.

The best fresh dog foods for weight loss provide balanced nutrition with lean protein sources, such as chicken, turkey, and fish. Our recommendation from Just Food For Dogs is specifically developed to keep your pup full between meals with whole psyllium husk.

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.

How we selected the best dog food for weight loss

To select the best dog food to lose weight, we spoke with two board-certified veterinary nutritionists and two small animal veterinarians. They helped us understand the most effective — and healthiest — approach to weight loss in dogs and what to look for when choosing the best dog food for weight loss.

Dr. Nancy Welborn is a veterinarian and associate professor of community practice at the Louisiana State University (LSU) School of Veterinary Medicine. After graduating from LSU, Welborn practiced private veterinary medicine for livestock and companion animals before transitioning to emergency small animal critical veterinary and eventually returning to LSU to teach community practice.

Dr. Emily Luisana is a board-certified nutritionist and practicing clinical veterinary nutritionist at Friendship Hospital for Animals in Washington, DC. Luisana is a graduate of the College of Veterinary Medicine at NC State University. After several years of general practice, she pursued a clinical nutrition residency at NC State University and a fellowship in clinical nutrition at Blue Pearl Veterinary Specialty Hospital of the Carolinas. Her clinical areas of interest include critical care nutrition, weight loss, homemade diets, and disease-state nutrition.

Dr. Julie Churchill is a board-certified veterinary nutritionist and a professor of nutrition at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine. After completing veterinary training at Michigan State University, Churchill pursued internal medicine and nutrition residencies and earned her PhD from the University of Minnesota. Her interests include seeing patients in the clinic, mentoring students, and finding more effective ways to teach nutrition and facilitate the integration of nutrition into the care of all patients by healthcare teams.

Dr. Mark Freeman is a board-certified veterinarian and assistant professor of community practice at Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. Freeman is a graduate of Auburn University College of Veterinary Medicine. His research interests include animal behavior and molecular biology.

Our experts recommend choosing only pet foods that meet AAFCO nutritional standards. They also recommend purchasing foods from manufacturers that comply with WSAVA guidelines. This guide only includes complete and balanced foods that meet the nutritional needs of adults or all life stages.

Weight loss dog food FAQs

What is the best thing to feed a dog to lose weight?

According to our experts, the most effective weight loss diets for dogs have more fiber and less carbohydrates and fats than other diets. They may also incorporate ingredients that boost a pet's metabolism, like l-carnitine. You'll find this ingredient, which helps convert fat into energy, in many of our recommended weight loss diets.

Should I give my dog less food to lose weight?

If you reduce the amount of food you feed your dog to lower their calorie intake, you're also decreasing the amount of other important nutrients they get. "If the calories are too restricted, pets are at risk of nutritional deficiencies," Churchill says. "It's much better to select new food that properly meets your pet's needs." Rewarding pups is important for bonding and training. Keep in mind, too, that rewarding pups is important for bonding and training. That's why Churchill suggests talking to your vet about healthy treat options and appropriate quantities instead of cutting out treats entirely.

How can I get my dog to lose 10 pounds?

Your dog's weight management plan depends on their breed size and current body condition. According to Churchill, dogs that are 10% to 15% over their ideal weight are slightly overweight and might benefit from lower calorie options or adjustments to their treats and snacks, along with increased exercise. However, if a pet is more than 15% to 20% above their healthy weight, a therapeutic (prescription food) plan is likely necessary, she says.

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