If your dog recently stepped on the scale and the number was a bit high, you know it’s time to make some changes.
It’s not uncommon to see a chubby animal hobbling around a park or sidewalk these days. In fact, 56% of dogs in the US are overweight. As much as we think it’s cute, the reality is that it’s shortening your dog’s lifespan.
Your dog is probably a part of that percentage, otherwise, you wouldn’t be here. So, let’s talk about some low-calorie dog food options you can try to help your pooch shed some pounds!
A Quick Comparison of Our Favorites of 2023
|Best Overall||The Farmer’s Dog Fresh Dog Food||
||Click to Save 50%|
|Best Value||Health Extension Lite||
|Premium Choice||Hill's Science Diet Adult Perfect Weight||
|Best for Puppies||Purina Pro Plan Sport Development||
|Vet’s Choice||Nutro Natural Choice Healthy Weight||
The 10 Best Low-Calorie Dog Foods
1. The Farmer’s Dog Fresh Dog Food Subscription – Best Overall
|Main ingredients:||Chicken, Brussel sprouts, chicken liver, bok choy, broccoli|
|Calories:||590 k/cal per pound|
If you’re looking for low-calorie, safe, homemade food, then The Farmer’s Dog is the best overall. This company creates personalized meal plans using fresh ingredients only. Start by completing the questionnaire and reviewing your dog’s suggested meal plan. Meal plans are based on your dog’s weight, age, activity level, and breed. The first purchase lasts up to 2 weeks.
Consumers report their dogs to have shinier coats, reduced inflammation, and better weight management. Picky eaters are no longer picky and look forward to dinner time! The downside to this meal service is the price. It’s a healthier food option, but you will pay for it. Plus, the food is fresh, so it’s not shelf-stable like dry dog food or canned wet food.
Ultimately, you will notice a change in your dog’s health by switching to fresher food. The Farmer’s Dog makes it easier by pre-portioning, saving you time and energy.
2. Health Extension Lite Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe – Best Value
|Main ingredients:||Organic deboned chicken, chicken meal, ground brown rice, oatmeal, chicken fat|
|Calories:||288 k/cal per cup|
Health Extension Lite wins our choice of the low-calorie dog food that’s best for the money. This recipe uses organic deboned chicken as its main protein source and uses non-GMO ingredients without artificial colors or preservatives. This recipe is 50% less fat than Health Extension’s original recipe and it has the lowest number of calories per cup on this list.
For the quality ingredients and the fat content and calorie ratio, this food is the best option for dogs that need to lose weight on a budget. You get about 4 cups of kibble per 1 pound of food.
The biggest con with this food is the size of the kibble. The kibble is a little bigger than a pea and could be too small for larger breeds. So, keep that in mind if your dog is naturally bigger.
3. Hill’s Science Diet Adult Perfect Weight Chicken Recipe – Premium Choice
|Main ingredients:||Chicken, cracked pearled barley, brown rice, pea fiber, corn gluten meal|
|Calories:||299 k/cal per cup|
Hill’s Science Diet Perfect Weight Chicken Recipe is our favorite premium choice. This food is low calorie and low fat and uses chicken and pea fiber as the primary protein source.
Hills is scientifically proven to work in weight loss and weight management. This high-protein, high-fiber formula is enriched with L-carnitine and coconut oil to help support your dog’s metabolism. More than 70% of dogs fed this diet lose weight within just 10 weeks! You also have four different weight loss recipes to choose from if your dog is a picky eater.
The downside is the price, so it’s our premium option for dry food. You get about 4 cups per pound of kibble, which is standard for most dog foods. But given the results, Hills is an excellent option for dogs that need to lose a lot of weight fast.
4. Purina Pro Plan Sport Development 30/20 Chicken & Rice High Protein – Best for Puppies
|Main ingredients:||Chicken, rice, poultry by-product meal, corn gluten meal, whole grain corn|
|Calories:||472 k/cal per cup|
On average, a puppy needs about 990 calories per day. Active puppies need a few more calories to help them grow and stay active.
Purina Pro Plan Sport Development is a great option for puppies that burn a lot of calories. This food is high in protein to help muscle development, using chicken as the primary protein source. Compared to other Purina Pro Plan puppy recipes, this recipe has more fat content to help with strength and endurance. It also has DHA, EPA, taurine, choline, and vitamin C for healthy brain development.
Technically, this food isn’t a low-calorie option. It has 472 calories per cup, so you want to be careful about overfeeding your puppy. However, puppies are so active and hyper. As long as your puppy is getting regular exercise, this diet is great until it’s time to switch to an adult food.
5. Nutro Natural Choice Healthy Weight Adult Lamb & Brown Rice Recipe – Vet’s Choice
|Main ingredients:||Deboned lamb, chicken meal, whole grain barley, rice bran, whole grain brown rice|
|Fat content:||7% min|
|Calories:||240 k/cal per cup|
Nutro’s Natural Choice Health Weight Recipe is our vet’s choice on this list. This recipe is high in fiber for healthy digestion and to help your dog feel fuller for longer, which is important since it’s very low calorie.
This food has about 4 cups of kibble per pound and has a nice variety of vegetables for extra nutrients. The biggest cons with Nutro’s Healthy Weight recipe are that it’s only available in one size and the carb count is pretty high—around 49%. The recommended carb content for diabetic dogs is around 25%–30%, so you’re better off trying something else if your dog is diabetic.
6. VICTOR Purpose Senior Healthy Weight Dry Dog Food
|Main ingredients:||Beef meal, whole grain brown rice, whole grain millet, grain sorghum, chicken fat|
|Calories:||360 k/cal per cup|
VICTOR Purpose Senior Healthy Weight is number six on our list. We wanted to list a dog food that’s intended for older dogs because age plays a part in weight gain. This recipe is high in protein to help muscle and higher in fat content to help with aging.
On top of that, this recipe has added glucosamine and chondroitin for joint support, which is important for overweight senior dogs.
You’ll get about 4 cups per pound of kibble in this bag. Adult dogs of all ages can benefit from this food, so you don’t have to buy different brands of food for each dog. The downside to this recipe is that some dogs get bad gas and diarrhea. If this happens, you may want to try a different food.
7. Blue Buffalo True Solutions Fit & Healthy Natural Weight Control
|Main ingredients:||Deboned chicken, chicken meal, oatmeal, barley brown rice|
|Calories:||324 k/cal per cup|
Blue Buffalo’s Fit and Healthy Natural Weight Control Recipe is next on our list. This recipe is an affordable food with added fiber to help your dog feel fuller for longer. It also has the highest amount of protein on this list.
Many owners have reported their dog’s successful weight loss journey, particularly with small dogs—like the Pug on the front of the bag!
Blue Buffalo has caused gastrointestinal (GI_ upset with their other recipes in multiple dogs, but it seems many pet owners didn’t face that issue with this recipe. The ingredient list is also long for a healthy food, but most of the ingredients are vitamins anyway.
If you can get past the fishy smell, this could be a good option for your dog to lose weight!
8. Eagle Pack Reduced Fat Adult Dry Dog Food
|Main ingredients:||Pork meal, dehulled barley, peas, ground brown rice, oatmeal|
|Calories:||343 k/cal per cup|
Eagle Pack Reduced Fat recipe is number eight on our list. This recipe is one of the higher-calorie foods on this list, but it has the least fat, making it a great option for dogs who need less fat but no caloric change.
Pork is the main protein ingredient instead of fish or chicken, but it does have chicken meal, turkey meal, and chicken fat. It also has glucosamine and hydrochloride for hip and joint health.
The biggest con with this food is the size of the kibble. It might be too small for large breeds. Some owners report their bags had a lot of kibble dust in it, too.
9. Nutro Ultra Adult Weight Management Chicken, Lamb & Salmon Recipe
|Main ingredients:||Chicken, chicken meal, whole grain brown rice, whole grain sorghum, whole grain barley|
|Calories:||325 k/cal per cup|
Nutro’s Ultra Adult Weight Management recipe is number nine on our list. This recipe combines chicken, lamb, and salmon into one recipe for lean muscle and a shiny coat. This food has about 4 cups of kibble per pound and has a nice variety of vegetables for extra nutrients.
Nutro’s weight management recipe is best for dogs that weigh between 15–65 pounds. It’s also better for weight control, not weight loss. We’ve listed it as number nine for this reason. So, if your goal for your dog is weight loss, you might want to try a different food. However, daily exercise is key so your dog could still lose weight.
10. Freshpet Dog Food Nature’s Fresh Chicken Loaf
|Main ingredients:||Chicken, carrots, pea protein, eggs, natural flavors|
|Calories:||261 k/cal per cup|
Last on our list is Freshpet’s Chicken Loaf. This food is a refrigerated meal loaf full of vitamins, minerals, and fresh protein. It’s a little different from canned food because it doesn’t have gravy and needs to be refrigerated at all times.
We love this option because dogs love sinking their teeth into the fresh meat. Plus, it’s low calorie, non-GMO, and a nice alternative to dry food.
This food is grain free, and most dogs should have some grain in their diet unless otherwise stated by your veterinarian. Some dogs with allergies could benefit from this food if you need to avoid grains.
The downside is that because it’s so low in calories, you’ll go through this food much faster than dry food. A quick fix to this is mixing in some of the Freshpet meal loaf with a dry food of your choice. Your dog will love it!
Buyer’s Guide: Selecting the Best Low-Calorie Dog Foods
The Best Dog Food for Weight Loss
The best dog food for weight loss focuses on more protein and fiber and less fat and calories.
Protein stimulates metabolism and energy consumption and makes you feel full. Fiber also helps you feel full, but it contains less energy. So, your dog will ideally burn more calories and eat less food.
It’s possible the amino acid L-carnitine can help humans and animals with weight loss, although the research is slim. The main role of L-carnitine is to help the body produce energy.
L-carnitine is usually found in animal products like meat or fish.
It’s also possible that L-carnitine aids in exercise performance. You’ll find L-carnitine listed in many pet foods aiding in weight management.
How Many Calories Should a Dog Eat to Lose Weight?
Dog breeds vary in weight, so there isn’t a set weight for all dogs. It doesn’t make sense to give a Yorkshire Terrier and Great Dane the same weight goal. Instead, veterinarians use a body condition score (BCS).
A BCS is a score between one and nine that measures your dog’s body fat and how it’s distributed throughout your dog’s body.
Your veterinarian uses this score to compare your dog’s current weight to its ideal weight. A score below five is considered underweight and/or malnourished. A score over six is considered overweight or obese.
How many calories your dog should eat depends on how much energy your dog burns and your dog’s current BCS.
So, if your dog’s BCS is over six, your dog needs to exercise more and eat fewer calories to lose weight.
Your veterinarian can give you a weight goal after assessing your dog’s BCS, so you have a number to shoot for. You can also use this calorie calculator for dogs to give you an idea of how many calories your dog should consume on its weight loss journey.
Side Note: We understand that senior dogs or dogs with disabilities may not be able to exercise as much. In that case, you’ll feed your dog fewer calories to compensate for less movement.
How to Calculate Your Dog’s Caloric Intake
Thankfully, counting your dog’s calories isn’t difficult since dog food bags have done most of the work for you.
6 cups of kibble x 325 calories = 1,950 calories per day
Tips to Help Your Dog Stay Healthy
Now you have all the resources you need. You have a list of foods to choose from, and you know how to count your dog’s calories. Is that enough?
Well, it’s certainly a good start. But the goal shouldn’t be a quick fix. You want to aim for a lifestyle change.
The following video is purely for motivation for getting your dog fit and healthy. This Golden Retriever was 173 pounds until someone took the time to help him. Watch his progress and get inspired!
We hope these reviews give you insight to the best low-calorie dog foods on the market. Our best overall choice is The Farmer’s Dog. You can’t go wrong with fresh food on a weight loss journey. Our favorite food for the money is Health Extention’s LITE recipe. It’s low in fat and high in protein, plus it’s easy on the wallet. The premium option is Hill’s Perfect Weight Recipe because of its high success rate.
Featured Image Credit: Pixel-Shot, Shutterstock