As a rule, people who show their dogs in breed dog show competitions such as Crufts here in the UK and the Westminster Cup in the US see other examples of their breed regularly so they know how their dog shapes up. If you are not an expert on the breed or a “show person” (and particularly if your dog is of a rarer breed that you just don’t see as often or perhaps a cross breed), you might not be quite so sure as to whether your dog is the right weight for his breed and type or whether he is, in actual fact, too fat.
Each breed has a different ideal healthy shape; for example, dogs such as Whippets, Salukis and Borzois who are intended to run and run should be very lean, where as dogs like the Rottweiler and the Mastiff are intended to be of a much more muscular and substantial frame – though still not “fat”). The shape of each breed corresponds closely to the job he was originally designed to do but, as a very basic and general rule, you should at least be easily able to feel his ribs and perhaps also see the outline of the last couple. If the pin bones of the hips at the spine are clearly visible and the ribs have absolutely no fatty covering at all, then this is too thin. Conversely, if you cannot even find Fido’s ribs beneath the layers of wobbly blubber, then its time to cut back on the treats and increase the exercise.
If your dog is severely overweight, please speak to your vet before cranking up the exercise regime. It is important that any increase in his physical activity be done in a controlled and safe manner that will not put excessive strain on his heart or joints. His calorific requirements should be tailored to suit his level of activity so speaking to a professional to help you get it right is always advised.
While a dog on the thinner side is always preferable to a chunkier one, WAY too thin is still dangerous for your dog’s health. Lack of proper food intake means that the body will not be getting the appropriate nutrition, joints will suffer and the organs will be placed under too much strain and may begin to shut down. All this goes hand in hand with an over all poor body condition which will be clearly visible in the energy levels and behaviour, the dogs coat, the eyes and his general picture of wellbeing.
So, have a look at the chart below and see how your dog measures up to the scale. If you feel he is a teeny bit on the tubby side, reign in the treats and titbits and make sure his diet is suitable for his needs both in content and in amount. If he really is a hungry-nose who always seems to be sharking about for food, perhaps try introducing lower calorie treats like chunks of carrot to fill him up. Look at how often you walk and for how long as well as how much opportunity he gets to chase about and really cut loose. If you really don’t feel that you are feeding excessively, perhaps there is an underlying problem causing the weight gain in which case, a consultation with your vet should be your first port of call.
If he is too thin, does he need more food or could there be any medical explanation for his slender frame? Some problems such as an overactive thyroid gland can cause dogs and humans to drop weight dramatically and there are many other reasons for weight loss too so please do not delay in seeking a veterinary opinion. If you are feeding your dog appropriately and still he looks skinny, don’t feel that you will be judged by your vet as a bad owner. This is his job and a good owner will seek help when they are at a loss to explain such a reduction in body weight. Does his coat look sleek and glossy or does it show sings of sparseness, flaky or scurfy patches or even red/angry bits on his skin? Perhaps you are simply not giving him a large enough quantity for the amount of activity he enjoys, or may be the quality and calorific balance of the food your are feeding is not quite good enough. Every dog is different and just because you may have two or three other dogs of the same breed who get the same amount and look fine doesn’t mean that the same amount will work for every dog – metabolism can mean that calories are burned up more or less quickly and everybody is an individual 😉