As Faith, my Shiba Inu, grew into an adult I realized that, on paper, she was overweight. The average adult female Shiba comes in at 19lbs, but Faith was at 23.4lbs. So I started researching the topic to see if I did something wrong.
Improper diet and exercise leads to rapid weight gain in dogs. A healthy Shiba Inu eats 1 to 1.5 cups of high quality kibble per day split into two separate meals, breakfast and dinner. Shiba Inus are also happier and less stressed when they get a minimum of 1 hour of exercise per day, as an adult.
Thankfully Faith passed all her medical exams with flying colors, despite her weight. That’s because she wasn’t actually overweight, there was something else.
Is My Shiba Inu Really Overweight?
The first step in resolving your Shiba’s weight problems is by figuring out if they actually have one. And the best way to do that is by weighing them.
It’s possible to weigh medium-sized dogs, like Shiba Inus, at home using a regular bathroom scale. Thankfully it’s simple and can be done in just a few easy steps.
- Step on the scale and weigh yourself, take note of your number.
- Pick your Shiba up and step on the scale with them, writing the result down.
- Subtract your weight from the combined weight.
- You have your answer!
For the most accurate results:
- Make sure your pet is dry. Water is heavy, a damp coat can heavily skew your results.
- Removing any accessories. Like a collar, harness, clothes, ect.
- Make sure they’ve gone to the bathroom first.
- Avoid weighing them after meal time. Aim for before they eat
- Take their weight at the same time each day. Like before breakfast or dinner.
Now that you have your Shiba’s current weight we need to compare it to the breed’s healthy weight.
|Age||Male Weight||Female Weight (lbs)|
|2 Months||5 ~ 8 lbs||4 ~ 7 lbs|
|3 Months||7 ~ 10 lbs||6 ~ 8 lbs|
|4 Months||9 ~ 13 lbs||8 ~ 11 lbs|
|5 Months||11 ~ 16 lbs||10 ~ 13 lbs|
|6 Months||13 ~ 18 lbs||11 ~ 15 lbs|
|7 Months||15 ~ 19 lbs||13 ~ 16 lbs|
|8 Months||16 ~ 20 lbs||13.5 ~ 17 lbs|
|9 Months||16.5 ~ 21 lbs||14 ~ 17.5 lbs|
|10 Months||17 ~ 22 lbs||14.5 ~ 18 lbs|
|11 Months||17.5 ~ 23 lbs||15 ~ 18.5 lbs|
|12+ Months||18 ~ 24 lbs||16 ~ 19 lbs|
Do know the table above is the breed’s average healthy weight by age and gender.
I bring that up because some Shiba Inus will be bigger or smaller than the average. My Shiba Inu, Faith, is above the average size for adult females, weighing in at 23.4 lbs. While on paper she’s overweight our vet’s assured us that she’s completely healthy.
If you don’t have a usable scale at home, that’s ok, you can still check their weight at your vet or by performing a physical examination. Thankfully you don’t need to be a certified vet to look at your dog to see if they’re at an unhealthy weight.
A healthy full-grown Shiba Inu has a compact body that makes them look lean yet muscular. Healthy dogs have a distinct body shape that looks like an hourglass when seen from above. You can check the body shape of your dog by standing right in front of their face. You don’t want to see any bulging.
Another thing you can look at is their stomach. Position yourself to either side of your pet and look at their abdomen. Healthy Shibas have a slightly inclined gut that slopes downward, covering their rib cage. You don’t want to see any sagging.
One final check is their ribs, in a healthy dog you should be able to gently press against their skin and feel their ribs. Overweight Shiba’s can form a layer of fat around their rib cage, making it harder to feel individual ribs.
Why Your Shiba Inu Is Overweight
The most common reason a Shiba Inu becomes overweight is overfeeding. Things like over-treating, free feeding, and lack of a consistent diet push a dog’s caloric intake over their daily needs. It’s best to feed a Shiba two meals per day, where their bowls are in reach for a certain amount of time.
The second main cause of obesity in Shibas is a lack of exercise. Shiba Inus are an active, high-energy, agile breed that thrives on long walks and playtime. Failing to properly exercise your pet not only leads to weight gain but destructive behaviors as well.
A proper diet and regular exercise minimize weight gain, and even reverse it, but where do I get started?
Creating A Weight Loss Plan
Let’s simplify this process by breaking it into two different parts: diet and exercise. We’re going to go over both in detail, then tie it all together at the end. Let’s get started.
Managing A Shiba Inu’s Diet
Most obese dogs suffer from an improper or inconsistent feeding schedule. With the overwhelming majority of overweight pets being adults, we’re going to use 12 months and up as our baseline.
A healthy adult Shiba Inu can eat 1 to 1.5 cups of kibble per day, depending on their size and level of activity with little to no weight gain. That daily total is best split into two separate meals, breakfast and dinner, and should only be offered for a limited amount of time.
Free feeding fails to make meal time a routine for Shibas, a breed that thrives on schedules and routines.
Food quality is the next thing we want to check. Most dogs eat kibble, so we’ll be using that as a baseline. Shiba Inus living on a kibble-based diet do best when 30% is protein and roughly 15~18% is fat.
Kibble is easy to serve, provides good nutrition, and is shelf-stable but the individual parts of kibble are bound together using carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are a form of sugar, which isn’t something dogs in the past were raised on.
That dietary miss-match, coupled with poor quality kibble, leads some dogs to become malnourished. That state of lacking can drive your Shiba to overeat in hopes of getting what their bodies are looking for.
Which is why food quality is critical. If you have any questions about the quality of food you’re feeding your pet, it’s best to contact your vet or bring it up on their next visit. They’ll either give you the green light or recommend transitioning to a better kibble.
Some pet owners may prefer counting calories instead of using general measurements, more on that below.
How To Transition Your Shiba To A Different Kibble
Dogs have sensitive stomachs. Rapid changes in diet commonly lead to upset stomach, vomiting, and diarrhea. It’s best to take it slow and see how your pet is doing along the way.
Days 1~2 – Feed your dog 75 percent of their old food and 25 percent of the new food.
Days 3~4 – Increase the percentage of new food to 50 percent, with the other 50 percent being the old food.
Days 5~6 – Feed your dog 75 percent of the new food, and 25 percent of the old food.
Day 7 – You should be up to 100 percent of the new food.
Keep an eye out for changes in appetite, mood, or general behavior. There’s a chance your Shiba Inu won’t like the new flavor or even may have an allergic reaction.
Counting Doggy Calories
If you like counting calories, you can get your Shiba’s daily caloric needs using the following equation:
[ 13.636 X Weight (lbs) + 70 ] calories per day
I’ll use Faith’s weight as an example. With her weighing in at a hearty, yet healthy, 23.4lbs I get:
( 13.636 X 23.4 ) + 70 = 389.0824
Putting her approximate daily calorie needs at 390. Before factoring in how active she is.
I’m currently feeding her Nutro Feed Clean Duck & Lentils kibble. Which is grain free, non-gmo, and avoids common food sensitivities such as beef, chicken, and dairy based proteins.
This brand was recommended to me by a number of vets, and after running an allergy test on Faith, I discovered there were quite a few ingredients I should avoid feeding her. Which is why I went for a limited ingredient kibble.
That specific bag of kibble has a calorie content of roughly 443 kcal ME/cup.
kcal = kilocalorie (calorie)
ME = Metabolizable Energy (calorie content of dog food)
The problem is, the equation above doesn’t take activity into account. So I recommend finding a dog calorie calculator to make life easy. There’s one on Kurgo that’s easy to use and accurate. Kurgo’s calculator, with activity, tells me she needs 434 calories. Which is just under 1 cup of kibble per day
Get Away From Treats
Treats for dogs are like candy for us. Yes, they taste great, but they aren’t great for us. If you’ve struggled with over-treating your Shiba Inu, or think you might be, shift to a non-food-based reward.
A quick round of fetch or tug is an amazing way to make them happy, keep their attention, and get them moving.
Making Exercise A Priority
Your Shiba Inu’s level of activity plays a big role in whether they gain or lose weight. Adult Shibas do best when they get 1 hour of exercise, or play, per day.
Walks are a fantastic way to get you and your pet moving. Just be sure you start slow. It’s not safe, or healthy, to take your pet on a 3-hour hike out of the blue when the most walking they’ve done is 15 minutes around the block.
Start with several 15-minute walks and work your way up to 30. Try taking them on short 20-minute hikes when the weather is nice. Another thing you can do is double down on playtime. Activities like:
- Agility training
Shiba Inus are full of energy and love running around, use that to your advantage.
There Is No “Quick Fix” For Doggy Weight Loss
Just like with people, there is no “rapid weight loss” magic plan. Consistency and building a routine are your key to reducing their weight. And the time it’ll take for your Shiba to lose their excess weight varies.
Healthy weight loss for a dog is anywhere from 1~5% of their current weight. Any faster than that you’ll run into health issues. Remember, slow and steady wins the race. This is their health we’re talking about. You don’t want to rush anything here.
Let’s recap what we covered:
- Verify your pet is overweight before making any assumptions, your vet will help.
- If your Shiba Inu really is overweight, audit what you’ve been doing.
- Are they eating too much?
- Have I been skipping walks or playtime?
- Do I have a habit of overtreating him during training?
- Adjust their diet.
- Adjust the amount of food you’re giving them.
- Transition to a higher-quality kibble.
- Limit treats
- Take action.
- Go outside and get active.
- Anything worth doing takes time, be patient.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is my Shiba always hungry?
While most Shiba Inus are food motivated, the amount of food they’re driven to eat varies. Poor quality food, an active lifestyle, a growing puppy, nursing females, or even medical issues such as diabetes all play a role. Contact your vet if there are sudden swings in your pet’s appetite.
Why is my dog overweight but doesn’t eat much?
Diet plays a role in weight gain but isn’t the only factor. Inadequate exercise, changes in metabolism as they age, or medical conditions impact a Shiba Inu’s weight. Make sure your Shiba gets at least 1 hour of exercise per day, regular exercise helps them lose weight and destress.
Why doesn’t my Shiba Inu want to walk?
Shiba Inus are a stubborn breed that needs consistent exposure to new and interesting things. Taking a different route, going to a park, or exploring the neighborhood gives them a reason to walk. Stress is also a factor, poor social skills lead to stressful walks, making them less likely to walk.