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How to check if your dog is rocking a healthy weight?

a golden retriever in the park

Food is always on our minds (for both Eva and me). And since there is always food available, it takes restraints to not keep eating all day. Both Eva as well as I have times when we could lose a couple of kg, to be healthier. Because similarly for humans there are health implications in being an overweight dog. Therefore, in this post, we will dive deeper into the question: How to check if your dog is rocking a healthy weight? Firstly, by understanding how to determine a healthy weight and how to keep or get to a healthy weight. But also addressing the risks of being underweight as opposed to being overweight.

Different breeds have different healthy weights. Below are the averages, however, it is dependent on your dog’s gender, age, height, and size. Therefore, only use the below with some examples as an indication, and when in doubt, check with your vet.

table with average weights for dog breeds
Table with average weights for dog breeds (indicative only)

As mentioned, these lists are only an indication per breed. Therefore, the actual healthy weight for your dog may differ. A better way to check is visually. If your dog has an ideal weight, you should be able to feel the ribs without a big layer of fat on them. Depending on the breed of dog, you should be able to see the ribs from the back. Of course, if your dog has a big coat this will be more difficult to see. Lastly, the tummy should be tucked up, if it is hanging low your dog could be overweight.

There is also a way to calculate your dog’s healthy weight, similar to BMI for humans. However, just as BMI is not exceptionally reliable, the doggie version called Dog Body Condition Score is not always reliable either. If you would like more details on this calculation, a click on the above link or a quick Google search on “Dog Body Condition Score” will give you all the information you need.

Risks of overweight dogs

There are multiple risks to being overweight, similar to humans. Some of the main risks are cardiovascular and heart disease and too much stress on the bones. Being overweight can decrease the life expectancy of your furry companion.

Since a dog’s life is already shorter than that of a human, of course, we want them with us for as long as possible. In the image, you can see a list of the main risks of being overweight. As you can see these risks are for dogs, however, the same risks are for humans as well. Therefore, I’m happy that Eva motivates me to move more and also makes me reconsider if I should eat something (those puppy eyes staring every time I eat, make me think twice).

Similarly, as for us humans, a dog will need to have a calorie deficit in order to lose weight. In order to do this, watch how much you are actually feeding your dog. The calorie intake may be too high for the actual calorie burn. Therefore, your dog may not move enough to burn off all the food he is eating. Eva will always look like she’s hungry and could eat all day long. However, this doesn’t mean she really needs to eat. However, do not just reduce the amount of food, ensure you are feeding your dog nutritional food. This is important to ensure your dog gets all the nutrients needed. Research from the Journal of Animal Science has shown a diet based on high protein and high fiber can help in reaching a healthy weight with not much change in muscle mass. If you’re looking for some healthy snack tips, click here

You can also increase movement by walking and playing more with your dog. Don’t go overboard and slowly build this up, to avoid your dog getting any medical issues (such as joint and heart problems). Extra movement is healthy for people too, so adding a daily walk with your dog is both fun and healthy.

You can ask your vet for advice in understanding why your dog is overweight and what you can do to get to a healthy weight. Besides the logical reasons, such as eating too much (unhealthy foods) or not enough exercise, there can be medical issues such as an underactive thyroid. Understanding what is the main cause, will help you create the most suitable action plan to get your dog healthier.

Risks of underweight dogs

We have been discussing overweight issues mainly, as these occur more often in pets. However, being underweight is also dangerous. In this case, it is also important to understand what is causing the issue. It could be related to the amount of food your dog is eating, the exercise or perhaps there are underlying medical issues. Medical causes could be tooth problems, thyroid issues, parasites, and Irritable Bowel Disease (IBS).

It is important to visit the vet and understand the underlying cause of the weight loss or the low weight. In this case, your vet can support you with a solution. Just increasing the amount of food is not a (permanent) solution and will not help your dog’s health increase.

As you see it is not an exact science what health is for every dog. There is no one size fits all metric for dog weight. Therefore, it is good to tailor nutrition and exercise to fit your dog’s needs. Keep in mind this is something that can change throughout the year, based on activity levels, health fluctuations, and aging. Hopefully, this post will give you an indication of what a healthy weight could look like and you can check your dog.

In case of sudden weight gain or loss, it is always best to contact the vet and understand the underlying causes.

What is your dog’s favourite snack?

Thanks for reading.

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