Just like us, pets no longer have to hunt to survive nor live outdoors, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that they have mirrored the human tendency to have trouble with weight. As any lifetime yo-yo dieter or dedicated New Year's resolution breaker can tell you, a critical factor in any weight loss program is compliance, and you are more likely to stay with the program, diet or exercise plan if you can perceive visible results while feeling full and not deprived. This same rule applies when we are trying to keep a dog or cat slim and in good health: as long as the pet doesn't act hungry we will be less likely to give in and overindulge begging behavior. A primary goal for companies developing petfoods for weight management is to induce satiety—defined as a feeling of fullness or satisfaction—so pets are intestinally appeased while consuming fewer calories, thus making the pet parent's role as dietitian and personal trainer a less daunting task.

According to Hill's Pet Nutrition, studies show that dogs consume fewer calories and appear less hungry when fed fiber-enhanced foods for weight management.
In one Hill's-cited study, beagles were fed either low-fiber (<2%) or high-fiber (19.4%) foods for three weeks, then switched. When dogs ate the high-fiber food, they consumed 27% fewer calories and lost more than four times the body fat. Studies also confirm that high levels of fiber and protein improve satiety and may lead to better compliance from pet owners who have their pets in weight-loss programs, claims the Hill's website. Overweight dogs lost 80% more fat when fed a high-protein, high-fiber food compared to a food with similar protein but approximately half the fiber.

According to Dr. Martin Karutz of DSM Nutritional Products, the pet nutrition industry is still focusing on reduced-calorie, “light” products when they should be taking cues from functional foods in the human nutrition market instead. One example is Fabuless, a satiety-triggering ingredient demonstrated to reduce the calorie intake of pets, says Dr. Karutz. Fabuless is a patented emulsion of highly purified palm and oat oils that creates the feeling of satiety. DSM describes the principal mechanism of this emulsion as a delayed digestion of the fat component of the product, leading to the presence of free fatty acids in the distal jejunum and ileum. When nutrients are still present in the distal ileum, gastric emptying and gut movement are slowed down to permit better digestion of the gut contents. At the same time, a feeling of satiety is created, reducing appetite.

In order to test the efficacy of Fabuless in pets, 40 adult beagle dogs, with a known history of high feed intake, were offered a morning snack in terms of wet dog feed mixed with Fabuless, in an amount which accounted for approximately 15% of the dogs’ daily energy requirements. Fabuless resulted in an average 8% reduction in daily food intake, while dogs with the tendency of overeating responded more markedly resulting in a 15% significant reduction of feed intake in the upper two quartiles.

Nulo Inc.'s SimplyFit petfood is what the company describes as a "closed system of feeding"—similar to a weight loss points system for cats and dogs. The company provides free online meal planners, weight and fitness trackers and body scoring tests to help pets achieve and maintain ideal body weight, supported by personalized counseling. The SimplyFit food and treats line is made with hypoallergenic ingredients and is designed for gentle digestion and nutrient absorption. The line is available in formulas for both dogs and cats.

PetAg offers CatSlim and DogSlim supplemental treats. CatSlim is a meal replacement and food supplement designed to help cats over the age of four maintain a proper weight, while CatSlim Jerky Snacks are weight management, soft treats for cats, according to the company. The jerky treats are all-natural, preservative- and gluten-free, are made with US farm-raised chicken and fish, and are available in Chix & Cheese and Southern Catfish. Dog Slim Snack Bites are weight management treats for dogs that contain vitamin A, dietary fiber and fructooligosaccharides. These low-fat treats come in three flavors: sweet potato and rice, mixed fruit and veggie, and low calorie with pumpkin, cranberries and green tea.

Dogswell offers the Shape Up line for dogs, which also claims to aid in weight management for canines. The food is a weight management formula containing L-carnitine, dried kelp, dandelion oil, ginger and turmeric. According to Eukanuba, L-carnitine (which also appears in the ingredient list for Eukanuba Weight Loss and Weight Control dog food formulas) is a proven fat-burner that helps dogs naturally burn fat instead of storing it. Shape Up from Dogswell is available in both dry food and chicken jerky treats. The chicken and oats recipe is low in fat and calories, according to the company.

Blog: What causes weight gain in dogs—and how can it be avoided?

Find out more about the causes of dog obesity and how you can teach consumers to avoid certain bad habits and get their pets on the happy path towards maintaining a healthy weight through diet and consistency. Head over to Petfood-Connection.com and read blogger Shay Quincy's take on this weighty issue.