By Andrew Fischer

Best Weight Loss Tips for Labradors

Studies show that more than 50% of Labradors in the USA are overweight.

Weight loss for Labradors is definitely worth the effort. Slender dogs not only have an easier time getting around, but also live longer.

Overweight dogs can easily develop diabetes, pancreatitis, hip dysplasia, heart disease, cancer and other health conditions.

One long-term study showed that Labradors fed 25 percent fewer calories than other free-fed Labs lived on average two years longer.

Aim for a weight loss of 4-5%  of body weight per month. That’s around 1% per week. You need to be patient. Helping your Labrador to treat his obesity will not happen overnight. Many very obese Labradors need months before they achieve an ideal weight. So don’t lose patience and keep going. Your effort to treat your Lab’s obesity will definitely pay off at the end as your four-legged friend will become healthy and active again. 

Adult male Labradors tend to weigh 65-80 lbs, while females usually weigh 55-72 lbs. You can read a full article on the ideal Labrador weight HERE. If your Lab is above these average weights you can try to follow some of the tips below. 

These weight loss tips for Labs will help them live a happier and healthier life!

Feeding your Labrador less carbs and more protein

Dogs thrive on diets that have a high content of protein, which helps them build muscle. Dogs don’t need as much carbohydrates as people think. The ideal weight-loss diet for your Labrador should be high in protein, moderate in fat and low in carbs.

Many processed Labrador foods nowadays are full of carbs. Many of them top out at over 70% or more carbohydrates. On the other hand, fresh homemade diets provide high-quality protein, fats, moisture and fibre that can help your dog lose weight. 

If you prepare a homemade diet for your dog, use lean meats, eggs and low-fat dairy in place of most starches. Chicken meat works great. Avoid fatty meats such as lamb and pork. You can remove the skin and separable fat from poultry before offering it to your dog. 

If you plan to put your dog on a high-protein diet it’s recommended to talk to your vet about it first because for some dogs this diet may be damaging to their kidneys.

Every radical change of your dog food should be gradual over a period of at least around 10 days. During the first three days mix 1/4 of the new food and 3/4 of the old food. The next 3 days mix the old and new food in the 50/50 ratio. The last 3 days use 1/4 of  the old and 3/4 of the new food. On the 10th day you can offer your dog 100% of the new food. 

If your dog leaves the new food in the bowl try to make the transition slower. You can stretch it over a period of 2 weeks or more. 

How about feeding your Labrador high-fiber foods?

High-fiber foods such as green peas, raspberries, broccoli, potato, apple etc are hard to digest or even indigestible and therefore they will not make your dog so satisfied and he will beg for more food. The sad begging eyes often force owners to feed them more, which leads to overweight. 

Too much fiber in your dog’s diet can also interfere with nutrient absorption which also makes your dog to eat more and become overweight. 

Introducing a high-fiber diet to your dog may be a weight loss option if your dog is not picky and eats everything, as high-fiber diet is often less tasty. If your dog doesn’t like to eat high-fiber foods and you cannot resist looking at his hungry eyes, there are better options to make your dog lose some weight. 

Feeding your Labrador the right fats

Did you know that the omega-3 fatty acids like the Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) promote weight loss in dogs? 

The recommended dose of fish oil for your dog is 90 mg/kg per day. Adult male Labrador can consume around 3000 mg of fish oil daily. Adult female Lab around 2500 mg.

Omega-3 fatty acids also help dieters feel more satisfied and are great for Labs with health problems like heart and kidney disease.

Reducing your Lab's food portion

Reducing the amount of food too suddenly will negatively impact your dog’s metabolism. The faster your dog loses weight, the faster it can gain any lost weight back. Slow and steady weight loss is more effective for long-term success. 

You don’t have to make radical changes to your dog’s diet. Instead, you can just cut your Lab’s food portion by 5-10 % and feed him that smaller portion for one week. Weigh your dog in one week and if he doesn’t lose weight reduce the portion by another 5-10%. Keep reducing the amount of food until your Lab begins to lose some weight.

Calculating calories

Reducing your Labrador’s caloric intake will definitely help with his weight loss. It’s advisable you talk to your vet before making any drastic changes to your Lab’s diet.

Feeding guidelines on dog food packaging are formulated for active un-spayed adult dogs. Your Labrador is an individual, so it’s unlikely that they’ll match exactly the manufacturer’s suggested feeding recommendations. It’s possible that inflated manufacturer’s feeding instructions caused your pup to gain some extra weight. If you have an older or neutered Labrador that is less active, you might be feeding up to 20% more than you should.

At mealtimes, try reducing your Lab’s inflated recommendations by 5%. If they’re still unable to reach the 5% weight loss goal in four weeks, try another 5% reduction.

You should consult with your veterinarian the proper number of calories your dog needs.

You can also use the following formula. First, divide your dog’s body weight in pounds by 2.2 to convert to kilograms (kg), then use the following formula

Daily Calorie Requirements for Dogs (kcal/day) = 90 x (weight in kg)0.75

If you use this formula you will get a general idea of how many calories you should be feeding a typical normally active, indoor neutered Labrador. Of course, each dog’s metabolism is a bit different so be sure to consult your veterinarian before starting a new diet.

Choosing a good edible dog chew

Edible dog chews are great for keeping your dog busy and making him forget his hunger. 

Labradors and other dogs love to chew so if you give them a low-calorie and long-lasting dog chew toy, it can keep your dog out of caloric surplus. 

Raw bones are also great for keeping your dog busy.

If your Lab keeps begging or looking hungry, you can try to distract him by playing some game or you can put his food in a food puzzle toy. 

Reducing the size of treats

Another great way to help your Labrador drop some weight is by reducing their treat intake.

Treats shouldn’t comprise more than 15% of total daily calories.

Many Labrador owners who feed their dog healthy food also give them processed, high-carb treats that are a major source of weight gain.

It’s more rewarding for dogs to receive several smaller treats than few bigger ones. If you need to reward your dog, it’s best to switch to really tiny treats. 

Avoid treats that are high in calories because they can pack on the pounds. If you look for suitable low-calorie treats for your dog you can try small slices of apple or banana or crunchy vegetables. Celery, broccoli, blueberries or baby carrots all work great.  You can also give your rice cakes for snacks instead of more calorie heavy choices. Another thing you can offer to your dog are low-fat organ meats like liver. Make sure not to feed your dog a full apple or banana, as these have very high sugar content.

Whatever treats you give to your pooch, be sure to count those additional calories, because they can add up very fast. Many Lab owners I know feed the proper size of food portions but totally forget to also count the calories in treats. 

Table scraps should not be a treat as they are quite high in sugar and fat.

Saying "Yes!" to Non-Food Rewards

Labradors just like any other dog love tasty treats, but there are also other ways to reward your dog.

Praise is highly effective and costs nothing. Also, incorporate some belly rubs and scratches. A quick play session is another highly effective reward. May Labradors prefer a quick 2 minute playtime with you above any treat. 

Feeding smaller portions more often

Feeding smaller portions more often helps your dog to feel less hungry. The digestion of several smaller portions also takes more energy and burns more calories. 

Feeding smaller portions every few hours keeps your dog’s insulin levels stable. This reduces appetite spikes and suppresses hunger throughout the entire day.

Some veterinarians recommend taking your Lab’s daily ration and dividing it up to 6 smaller portions.

Accurately measuring your Lab’s food portions

Don’t try to guesstimate your dog’s portion size. It’s important you measure it accurately. Many people told me that when they try to guesstimate their dog’s food, their pups gain weight.

The only way people are able to achieve consistent weight control of their dogs is by using a scale to weigh all the portions precisely. An ordinary kitchen scale will work.

Also, make sure to maintain a consistent feeding schedule. Keep a consistent meal time and feed roughly the same amount each time.The more consistent you are, the more likely your dog will lose weight.

Intensive exercise

When it comes to weight loss, studies show that one of the most powerful methods is daily exercise. For dogs, as little as 30 minutes of brisk walking has a great effect on the cardiovascular health and weight loss. 

If exercising with your Labrador is a too great challenge for you, consider hiring a dog walker that will spend time the necessary time with your dog. 

It’s important to start gradually. At the beginning you should focus on less intense exercises. Obesity makes it very difficult for Labs to exercise, so to begin with you can take your dog for 5-minute walks few times a day. Gradually increase the time so your Lab manages to walk around 50 minutes each day. 

When your Lab gets more fit you can start some high-impact exercises like playing fetch or running. 

Overweight Labs breath quite heavily during exercise. Watch your dog’s breathing closely. If your Lab starts to breath too heavily, cut the exercise session shorter. Give your Lab some rest and continue with the exercise later. 

The ultimate goal should be at least two heart-pumping 25-minute exercise sessions each day.

Joint diseases can make any running difficult. For Labradors who aren’t comfortable with this form of movement, swimming is a great choice. It protects their joints and it’s a great full-body workout.

Throw the ball

All dogs including Labradors love to bring balls. If you want your pooch to lose some weight it’s a great idea to climb a hill and throw the ball down. Running up and down the hill is a great exercise for your dog. 

Don’t forget to praise the dog as soon as the ball is delivered. Let your dog take a break and throw the ball again. You can bring this exercise up to 8 times or so.

Remove all constant food sources

Many dog owners love to leave some food down for their dog to eat at any time of the day.

That’s a dangerous thing to do especially if you have a Labrador. Labs tend to overeat because of a specific gene mutation. You can read more on this topic HERE. Once they will have a constant source of food they may try to keep eating as much as they can. 

You should control what your Labrador eats by removing the bowl and only offering it during set meal times. 

Don't offer table scraps to your dog

Offering table scraps to dogs is one of the most common mistakes owners of overweight dogs do. 

Especially very salty, fatty, and dairy products are dangerous for overweight dogs. Using dairy products may cause diarrhea and other digestive issues especially in older dogs who don’t have as many digestive enzymes as younger healthy dogs.

Food on the table is not suitable for dogs because it contains many substances like pepper, salt, flavorings, chemical additives, etc. These are easily digested by humans but not by dogs. 

Supplements

In general, dogs don’t need supplements to lose weight, but they may definitely help. You can try chondroitin or glucosamine. These supplements make exercise less painful for extremely overweight dogs by increasing overall mobility. 

L-carnitine is another great supplement that helps lose weight by building more muscle and burning more fat.