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Updated June 2022
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Buying guide for Best low-fat dog food

A proper diet and stimulating activities are key for any dog to live a happy and healthy life. Low-fat dog food can help certain dogs with specific health issues to get them back on the right track.

Low-fat food is useful for any dogs who suffer from gastrointestinal issues, which can arise as a result of difficulty digesting fat. These formulas will contain 10% fat or less; most standard formulas include between 10% to 25% fat. Dogs who may be overweight or can lose a few pounds may benefit from some low-fat diets as well.

Finding the right formula to meet all the needs of your dog is an important decision that requires research and care. Dog owners need to be aware of their dog’s behavior and any potential issues, which are aided by regular visits to the vet. 

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Dogs should be on a set feeding schedule, as they do well with routines. Consistently serve meals at the same time every morning and evening to encourage optimal digestion.

How to choose the best low-fat dog food

What dogs need low-fat dog food?

Dogs who suffer from digestive issues, liver disease, or pancreatitis are often directed to low-fat diets by veterinarians. Excess fat and lack of fiber are some of the main contributors to digestive issues, and it’s not uncommon for dogs to struggle to digest fats. These formulas tend to be packed with probiotics, minerals, and other nutrients that are easily absorbed and ease any tension in the digestive tract. Low-fat dog foods can also help dogs lose weight in some cases.

However, It’s important to avoid associating fat in dog food with fat in human food. Owners may see fat as unhealthy for dogs due to perception about human food, but dogs are well-served by fat, and deficiency can result in health issues. Fat provides vitamins and minerals and contributes to healthy skin and coat if it comes from healthy animal sources.

Type of food

Low-fat dog food generally falls into one of two categories: weight management or GI formulas. Weight management options are for those dogs who need to lose some weight and generally are high in protein and low in fat and calories. While formulas targeting gastrointestinal sensitivities are also low in fat, they also often avoid ingredients that are known to cause negative reactions and are hard to digest. These are also high in fiber. While weight management foods are merely focused on losing weight, GI options are focused on digestion.

Dry vs. wet

Dog food comes in dry or wet form. Dry dog food, known as kibble, is more popular for its cost-effectiveness, easy storage, and general enjoyment by dogs. Kibble lacks an odor and also helps to clean teeth. However, some dogs with gum or teeth issues may require wet food, which is softer and gentler to chew. It’s also ideal for any dogs who aren’t getting enough daily water. Wet food is particularly odorous — while that may not appeal to humans, it does tend to entice picky dogs.

Quantity

Dry low-fat dog food comes in a range of quantities. The smallest bags are around 5 pounds and best for smaller dogs or those owners who are trying out a new formula and aren’t sure about the results. Medium bags fall around 15 to 20 pounds, while larger options may reach 30 pounds or more. 

While larger bags of low-fat dog food cost more, they tend to offer a better price per pound, provided your dog can go through the bag in a timely manner. Be sure you have room to store large bags as well as a sizable airtight container in order to preserve it.

Wet food often comes in a 6.5-ounce or 13-ounce can, with six or 12 cans to a pack.

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Staff Tip
It can take a few weeks for positive changes to be noticed in your dog’s body. Whenever you change formulas, closely monitor their behavior for any changes as well as changes to their stool.
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Features of low-fat dog food

Ingredients

Note the first five ingredients listed on the formula, as these constitute the majority of what makes up the food. Ingredients are listed in descending order with the most prevalent ingredient, almost always meat, included first.

There are a couple of keywords to keep an eye out for. “Meal” is commonly found in ingredients, as in “cornmeal” or “chicken meal.” This simply means the ingredient has been ground up and the water content has been removed, which helps keep the formula dense. 

Also, note the word “byproduct.” This refers to parts of the animal that are secondary to the main portion, such as the feet, nose, tongue, and internal organs. Some claim that byproducts are nutritious and appetizing for dogs, while others contend that because byproducts are not safe for human consumption, they should not be included in dog food. In some cases, a highly regarded company may include byproducts that have been safely handled and processed, but in other cases, it can be a way for a less reputable brand to save costs and provide cheap formulas that may lack nutritional content.

Protein and carbohydrates

It’s important that any low-fat dog food formulas still contain proper amounts of protein and carbohydrates. Watch out for formulas that achieve low-fat counts by using less meat, which in turn lowers the protein count. Similarly, carbs may increase in low-fat formulas. While they provide the fiber that aids in digestion, a high carb count may be problematic for older dogs or those with low energy who are trying to lose weight.

Digestive aid

Some formulas may include probiotics and prebiotics to help the digestive tract and gut health. Probiotics are healthy gut bacteria made of microorganisms that aid a variety of systems, including the immune system, and may support weight management. Prebiotics are the fiber that healthy bacteria feed on. These supplements are often paired with a variety of other beneficial nutrients and minerals, including omega-3s.

Some low-fat formulas that target gastrointestinal issues are only available with a prescription from your veterinarian. This will likely come as a result of various tests to determine specific issues.

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Accessories

Dog bowl: Amazon Basics Stainless Steel Dog Bowl

Every dog owner needs at least one bowl for food when serving a meal. This choice by Amazon Basics is durable, easy to clean, and inexpensive.


Dog dental chews: Greenies Original Natural Dental Dog Treats

Maintaining healthy teeth and gums in your dog can help them avoid any number of serious illnesses. These popular chew treats by Greenies are effective at keeping teeth clean and improving bad breath.

Cost of low-fat dog food

Inexpensive: Smaller portions of low-fat dog food can be found for $20 or less. This is typically dry food or kibble.

Mid-range: Most low-fat dog food, including medium-size bags of dry kibble and packs of wet food, cost between $20 and $40.

Expensive: The largest bags of low-fat dog food cost over $40, including high-quality gastrointestinal formulas that may exceed $50 or $60.

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Staff Tip
Low-fat formulas are only one component of helping a dog lose weight. Pair the right food with regular exercise, starting small and helping your dog build up stamina and muscle for longer walks and adventures.
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Tips

  • Ease into new food. Don’t simply introduce a new formula in one meal. Start by adding a bit of the new food to the old, slowly incorporating more each day across one to two weeks to ease digestion.
  • Watch out for generic ingredients. Meat sources should be specifically named in the ingredients list. Avoid any options that list vague terms like “animal byproduct” or “meat meal.”
  • Avoid common allergens. Corn, soy, and gluten are common ingredients that some dogs have difficulty digesting. Most popular brands also forego artificial preservatives and flavors that can be harmful.
  • Avoid the cheapest options. Like human food, the healthiest low-fat dog food tends not to be the cheapest option. Know that spending a bit more money upfront for healthy options can help avoid costly vet bills down the road if problems persist.
     
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One simple way to keep your dog happy and healthy is to regularly clean their bowls. Wash and dry their food bowl after every meal, and always provide clean, cold and fresh water to drink.

FAQ

Q. How do I know if my dog needs low-fat dog food?

A. Diarrhea and loose stools can indicate an issue with your dog’s digestive tract, which may be caused by their food and require switching to a low-fat diet. If your dog is displaying adverse reactions, such as excessive shedding, drooling, or scratching, there may be an ingredient in their food that’s disagreeing with them. 

Determining what that ingredient is may take time. It’s best to start with bland food and perhaps switch to a diet that has limited ingredients. Consistent issues should be brought to your vet’s attention, and tests may need to be done to diagnose the problem.

If your dog is overweight, it’s typically easy to tell by looking at their profile and noting the shape of their belly. Owners can feel for fatty deposits and inspect their rib cage. If their ribs aren’t easy to feel with a bit of pressure, they may be overweight with excess fat coverage.

Q. Should I feed my dog grain-free low-fat food?

A. The rise in popularity of grain-free formulas over the last few years is due in part to the perception that grains are harmful to dogs. As many humans avoid wheat and gluten, there’s an association that dogs may also be adversely affected. However, to date, there is no conclusive evidence that grains are harmful to dogs, and many vets in fact advise against such formulas, particularly because there’s a growing link between grain-free formulas and heart disease. While it's not uncommon for dogs to have sensitivities or allergies to corn or gluten, many recipes featuring rice, buckwheat, and flax are healthy and effective.

Q. How do I narrow down my search for low-fat dog food?

A. Some formulas may cater to a specific size or age, which is the first way to narrow down a search. Others may cater to all ages and lifestyles. Either way, it’s important that the formula offers a “complete and balanced diet,” which is a specific designation established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). 

Your vet may recommend a specific brand of low-fat dog food depending on your dog’s issues. If not, seek out formulas made by trusted, reputable brands that list quality ingredients.
 

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