BACKGROUND: The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that dog plasma concentrations of selected nutrients decrease after undergoing caloric restriction for weight loss. Thirty-one overweight dogs that had successfully lost at least 15% of initial body weight were included in the study. Nutrients that had been previously identified to be at potential risk of deficiency during caloric restriction were measured in plasma (choline, amino acids) and urine (selenium) at the initiation and completion of a standardized weight loss regimen in dogs. RESULTS: Dogs remained healthy throughout the study, and no signs attributable to nutrient deficiency were noted. Percentage weight loss was 28.3% (16.0-40.1%) starting body weight, over a period of 250 days (91-674 days). Median energy intake during the weight loss period was 62 (44 to 74) Kcal/kg(0.75) target weight per day. Choline (P = 0.046) and threonine (P = 0.02) decreased after weight loss. Glycine (P = 0.041), and urinary selenium:creatinine ratio (P = 0.006) both increased after weight loss. There were no other significant differences in plasma nutrient concentrations. CONCLUSIONS: Since concentrations of most measured nutrients did not change significantly, the data are not consistent with widespread nutrient deficiency in dogs undergoing caloric restriction using a diet formulated for weight loss. However, the significance of the decrease in plasma choline concentration requires further assessment.