Weight Loss Coaching for Dogs

In the Clinician’s Brief of 2013 from the 12th Annual American Academy of Veterinary Nutrition (AAVN) Clinical Nutrition & Research Symposium showed a fascinating study relevant to the care and feeding our barking four-legged friends. It seems that dogs lose more weight when they have a vet heavily involved in their weight loss efforts. Just as humans tend to work out more and feel pushed and encouraged by having a trainer in their fitness team, dogs likewise benefit from having a team of experts helping them achieve their weight loss needs.

In 2013 a unique one-of-a-kind study was done that sought to see if the coaching provided by weight loss in a vet clinic working in the real-world setting. Prior to this landmark study, only coaching programs from a veterinary clinic were demonstrated to encourage weight loss and to allow dogs to keep the weight off.

This study was performed in public and at a local park instead of the vet clinic. Pet nutrition experts provided guidance and coaching to 23 overweight dogs that were otherwise healthy. The dogs in the study were randomly sorted into 2 groups. One group was coached like an owner and dog would be coached in a clinical setting. The coached group has weekly contact with a veterinary nutritionist and had their dog weighed weekly. The other group was called the noncoaching group and had no interaction or access to the nutritionists and merely had their dog weights every two weeks.

Each group was provided the exact same treatment, rewards, and opportunities otherwise. All dogs regardless of their group were provided with a dietary plan for weight loss, special low-calories treats, educational materials on canine exercise, food and exercise journals and a free off-leash pass at the park. They were only treated differently in how often the dogs in each group weighed-in and whether the nutritional expert was available for advice and support (“coaching”). Dogs that were coached had the equivalent of a weekly Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig food scientist to learn from and deal with their concerns. They had an expert and support. It was the lone difference.

The study lasted 12 weeks. Typically, during a study, some participants drop out for various reasons. IN the coaching group, not one dog dropped out of the study compared to 67% percent on dogs in the noncoaching group remaining in the study at its conclusion. 55% of the dogs in the coaching group achieved the bar set for considering the weight loss as successful. Success for the study was declared to be either the loss of 10% body weight or a decrease of their body conditioning score by at least one full point. All dogs were moderately obese at the start of the study. Only 33% of the uncoached dog attained the benchmarks declared to succeed at their weight loss goal. The coaching group lost more weight on average when compared with the average weight loss of the dogs that had not had coaching services and professional advice available. Coaching improves weight loss program effectiveness and weight loss coaching programs are not restricted to vet clinics as a direct result of this study. The more hands-on and active even a vet can be to an owner and dog trying to get healthier can lead to better outcomes. Coaching helps and needs to be more available, and available in most communities and even at private animal hospitals. Having someone to answer questions, offer advice and encourage the pet and owner led to better results all around. Dogs thrive even in communities aiming to help them slim down for their best health.


Many vets feel lost at being unable to provide proper coaching to concerned owners and owners who do not understand that the portion of dog food on a label might be for a 30 lb. dog and they are feeding that same exact portion to a teacup breed who needs only a quarter of that to have all the calories and nutrients they require for that day. While weight loss programs outside of vet clinic settings are appearing in major cities, there are still many dog owners who feel it’s impossible to help their dog lose weight or need advice on how to switch from one food to another or even how to encourage their dog to not be a tail-wagging couch potato. Round is a shape not many owners want their beloved fur kids to be stuck in and nutritional coaching provides the knowledge base and resources an owner requires to ensure successful weight loss. By having more people trained in science-based animal nutrition aiding the owners and their pudgy pups, the obesity epidemic could be greatly cut into and canine lives better.




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