The Koa Chronicles: Life on a Diet

We’re coming up on almost a month now of Koa’s Weight Loss Diaries. Time flies when you’re enjoying life!

She has lost another half pound on Nulo this week. Not bad for a dog on a ‘diet’!

If you’ve ever put a pet on a prescription weight loss food, you are probably familiar with the drill. Yes, they get a decent amount of food, but the ingredient list leaves something to be desired. I was actually unable to put Mulan on any of the prescription diets because of her food allergy issues.

Truth is, while there is a rationale behind those diets, they aren’t the only way to get to the goal. Calories in has to be less than calories out, for dogs, for humans, you name it, we all struggle with the same basic tenets of weight management. The biggest problem people seem to have with using regular (ie, non diet foods) for weight loss in dogs is the common complaint that “my dog is starving. STARVING, I say.”

Well shoot, I’ve gone through the dieting stuff, and I know how crabby being hungry makes me. I am sure it is the same for pets.

So how do you keep a dog* on a restricted calorie diet without making them climb the walls?

1. You can add filler to make them full. Those can be good quality fillers- things like green beans, carrots, and the like; or poor quality fillers, like sawdust, feathers, or some of the other things that may or may not wind up in pet food.

2. You compose your food carefully with thought to ideal protein, fat, and carbohydrate ratios. You can choose carbohydrate sources with a lower glycemic index to make a pet more sated. There is a great deal of interest in this aspect of commercial food composition, with the same theories about insulin response in people thought to parallel that in canines.

Limiting the diet issue to calories alone would be missing a huge piece of the puzzle- equally important as calories per cup is the quality and composition of those calories.

Note that these are the same principles that apply to us. Nothing new here. Just like I could theoretically lose weight by eating my daily calorie allotment entirely composed of Twinkies and Slim Jims, I’m going to make it a lot tougher on myself than if I stuck to lean protein and vegetables.

Exercise helps too. Being a labrador, Koa is genetically obligated to enjoy swimming.


Watching the two of them gliding along puts me in mind of a seal and an otter sliding through the water.

So the point here is, Koa has been losing weight slowly but steadily since coming home with me, and continues to do so on Nulo. She has not been on any ‘diet’ foods, but she has been on controlled intake of high quality foods. It is working.

And she is not STARVING. When the bag of Goldfish mysteriously disappears off the counter, it’s not Koa who comes running around the corner with crumbs on her whiskers. She is happy, loves her food, and isn’t exhibiting the desperation of one whose body is screaming for more sustenance. I’m happy that she is getting healthier and isn’t dumpster diving.

And guess what? She likes cucumbers. ๐Ÿ™‚

Anyone else have dog weight loss successes? Were prescription diets what did the trick for you (and for a lot of dogs it is!) or do you have some other process that lead to your goal?

*I’m limiting this particular discussion to dogs here. Cats are so different with their metabolic needs that I think they really entail an entirely different discussion.

Filed: Blog, Dogs, Health Tagged: ,
  • Chile

    Yay for Koa!! Keep it up girlfriend! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Cookie came to me malnourished so I didn’t have to deal too much with her weight until she got spoiled and needed to lose about 5 lbs. I just upped her veggies and carefully measured her kibble (which is more meat products and very little filler). She’s been holding steady at 69 and always for bikini season each summer. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • susanv

    I adopted Andyanne May29th -she’s a lab mix and weighed 112 pounds when I took her home.She was 84 pounds at her last weighin 2 weeks ago.I have not starved her but limited her quantities of high quality kibble.The real difference in her life isthat for the first time she is actually getting exercise.

  • Dusty

    Glad it’s all working for Koa!

    I just also want to give a shout out to Nulo.. after reading what you wrote and then looking on their website i decided to give it a try. My red mutt of a dog is a bit over weight and now that we have a new puppy (neighbors who didn’t neuter their male boxer mix got a stray that looks like a spitz! **UGGG.. People Spay and Neuter your animals!** Had puppies on my block.. one managed to end up in my carport.. so i kept him. I have no idea what happened to the rest of the litter.. i think at least one of the other puppies found a home.) and i wanted to start him on a food that I thought would be better. I’ve been looking for a dry food for a while online through other pet blogs and this one alike. I got Nulo and my dogs LOVE it! while transitioning the food my Red mutt would pick out the Nulo and leave the old dog food.. she would eventually come around to eating what was left over but she is now very happy she is on Nulo alone. And with the new puppy she is getting A LOT more exercise! Yay! I have moved my cats over to Nulo also.. but i really don’t think they care one way or another.. just so long as they have food i’m allowed to live! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Yay for Koa! Great post and like you, the ingredients in the Rx diets left a lot to be desired for me, too. I even have a hard time recommending them to clients at the cat hospital where I work…

    Right now, Disco is the only one I have on Nulo (though the other 4 cats are getting his canned leftovers and I am mixing some of the Nulo kibble in with the Life’s Abundance I recently switched the cats over to.

    I am going to feed Nulo to my 5 cats once the ‘Campaign’ is over, too. I started them on ‘Life’s Abundance’ about a month before Nulo invited Disco to be a participant on their Get Fit campaign, which it looked to me to be about the best food out there and one I could feel comfortable about feeding in light of all the recalls etc.

    I really feel confident about Nulo’s ingredients and philosophy and their website is chock full of great info, and I am recommending it for our clients to check out also. And after speaking with the CEO of Nulo and getting answers to questions I have, in nice detailed emails from him, I will stick with Nulo in the future.

  • Kelly and I are a dieting team! My bad habits affected her…I ate fattening food, and she received fattening table scraps. I didn’t exercise much, so she didn’t exercise mush. We both motivated each other to lose weight. I give her heathier food. She takes me out on walks. Now I’ve lost 40 lbs and she lost 6 (she’s a cocker spaniel/long haired dachshund mix). We make a great team!

  • When we wanted to get our lab down to an incredibly lean build (he has hip and knee issues) to minimize arthritic pain, we just kept scaling back his regular food. We figured that he was already looking at us like we were starving him at his heaviest… We supplemented that “guilty” feeling at those puppy dogs eyes with low calorie dog treats like Charlee Bears, Get Naked, etc. and made him work for it. We also do 30-45 minute walks and go through several muscle-building exercises.

  • Catherine

    I have an 8 year old Schipperke (or mostly schip, not 100% sure) dog who is at his healthiest around 21 pounds. Thanks to my triplet sons, now age 3, feeding him from the table, he had worked his way up to 24.4 pounds a little over a year ago. Between more exercise and a tighter control over what he eats (very little table food now), he is back down to 21 pounds. His vet was thrilled even though he didn’t push us to make changes.

  • Steph B

    I have an 11 pound Cavalier who gains weight pretty easily. She’s so small, and gets so little food, that a few extra calories plump her up really quickly! I do a lot of training with her (obedience, agility, nosework) so we need a ready supply of rewards. I found that measuring out her entire day’s ration in the morning and using it all day for training helped to prevent her from getting too much food. It makes it easier to tell how much she’s eaten, and she never seems to think she’s starving. Using the highest quality food I could find helped too!

  • Go Koa! I had a pet sitting client (a Cavalier) that needed to lose a few pounds. Started feeding him twice a day (he’d been fed once a day prior), split his daily food allotment between the two servings. Supplemented his meals with green beans (he loves them!) and increased his number of walks. Worked great!

  • Leigh

    What other high quality fillers I can give my dog as a snack? He loves carrots, not so hot on the green beans. We are starting on a restricted diet since he has to have ACL repair surgery next week (TTA). I would love to be able to give him a little snack, but don’t know what other foods are healthy fillers…

  • Becky

    Glad to hear the cucumbers are a hit! Sounds like Koa is doing great!!

  • beccity98

    Can you do a discussion on cat diets? One of my four cats used to be overweight, I didn’t notice it because she is smaller than my other cats. But one day I really looked at her and realized that no, she SHOULD be smaller than the others, but was the same size as them-she was fat all over! I got a bit worried-how do you put one cat on a diet in a 4 cat house? I started playing with her more, to start with, and now she’s slimmed down a lot. Only thing is, her and her brother have this weird fat-flap on their bellies. When they trot away, I can see it flapping back and forth. They are otherwise rather lean, what is that? (Do they have kitty lipo-suction?

  • Thank you for this post. My mom has ben trying to control her Sheltie’s (Jake) weight for some time. Recently, I had her do the Dog Food Rater Tool on K9 Chronicles and we discovered the “diet” food was full of sugar and corn, but low in calories.
    He always acted like he was starving!!!

    Now he is on a higher protein food (still low in calories) and eating filler foods like you mentioned. No longer starving, but still too soon to know if weight will come off. I hope it does. He certainly seems happier.

  • At Ty’s last visit, our vet confirmed that our little boy needed to loose about 5 pounds. I reduced his food portions and supplemented with canned pumpkin – which he loved and has few calories. In fact, Buster thought he was being treated unfairly and I had to add some canned pumpkin to his food too! Ty took off the weight without “starving” in about 6 weeks and has kept the weight off for several months now.

  • Suzanne

    I’m glad to know the Nulo is really a good product. I have such a hard time deciding what to feed myself, much less my pets now that I’m actually aware of what all goes on to get cheap easy food to our tables/bowls. Anyway, I would be really really interested in what you have to say about cat nutrition and how to get weight off an overweight cat. yes, I’ve tried the obvious of less food of better quality and exercise, but well – he’s resistant ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Amanda

    I have two 5 year old weims (Samson and Delinlah, littermates), one of which developed lamness at age 4. It was so sad; Delilah seemed like a much older dog, because she became so imnactive and was clearly in pain. Our vet did xrays, etc., and it was determined that she had early onset degenerative arthritis! So off to the specialist she went.

    Who agreed with all the initial diagnoses, but also thought Delilah was rather overweight. Delilah had always been a little chunky, and “liked her food.” Being a big girl, she carried it well! But I was determined to do everything i could to make her healthy.

    Delilah gets a high quality glucosamine supplement (Cosaquin) daily, and we also reduced her high quality food intake by 20%. Whereas before I eyeballed measurements, this time I watched the scoop carefully. I increased her walks to twice daily, but due to the lamness, reduced the intensity. Whereas her brother is an ardent runner who loves to go for a jog with mommy for a few miles daily, Delilah preferred to walk. So walk we did. I also sought out every opportunity to take her swimming when I could. She loves swimming.

    Six months later, Delilah had lost 8 lbs., and has not had a lamness attack since. I monitor her weight closely, and if it creeps up a few lbs, I watch her treats and adjust accordingly. Our goal is to maintain within 2 lbs over or under her vet determined ideal weight of 85 lbs.

    During this time period, Delilah has never stolen food. She and her brother stay in our garage during the day, and their treats are stored on a shelf in the garage. So is their dry dog food in a large plastic cannister. They could easily raid either, but never have. Yes, I know she was hungry at times, but never felt so starving that she felt the need to steal food.

    As for fat housecats, I have no good answers. I had a rather fat Siamese that only slimmed down when she dislocated her hip. Not the way I would have liked for her to do so.