How To Know If Your Dog Is a Healthy Weight

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We all want our dogs to live a long and healthy life and one of the best ways to do this is to ensure that they maintain a healthy weight throughout the various stages of their life. However, this seems to be easier said than done with over 55% of dogs in the U.S. being classified as either overweight or obese. Research has shown that if a dog is over its ideal weight, this can reduce their lifespan by months (if not years). An underweight dog can also be a cause for concern as it might be potentially indicative or more serious underlying medical conditions that need to be addressed. 

Given your dog’s weight can be used as a key indicator to assess their overall health, how can you tell if your dog is a healthy weight? Turns out this question isn’t as easy to answer as one would think as determining your dog’s ideal weight takes into account a number of factors including their breed, age, activity level, sex and whether or not they have been spayed – all of which make it necessary to assess an ‘ideal’ weight on a dog by dog basis. While there is information available online about ideal weight ranges for each breed type (often broken down by sex), this forms as a good starting point and the best way to ensure your dog is a healthy weight is by performing a number of physical and visual checks on a regular basis and adjusting their diet and feeding portions accordingly. We provide a handy guide below to help you determine whether your dog is a healthy weight as well as some tips on how to keep them there!

Is my dog a health weight?

The best way to assess whether your dog is at an optimum weight is by performing a few simple visual & physical checks on your dog every month. There are three types of tests you can perform and while all of these can be done visually, if your dog has lots of fur or lots of skin using your hands will help you make a better assessment of their weight.

  • Profile check – Observe your dog from a side-on position, preferably at the same level as your dog. If your dog is a healthy weight, their abdomen should be slightly tucked up behind their rib cage
  • Overhead check – Look at your dog from an overhead angle to see if their waist is tucked behind their ribs. For most breeds, dogs that are a healthy weight will have a modest hourglass figure
  • Rib check – Place both of your thumbs together on your dogs spine and spread your hands across their rib cage. If your dog is a healthy weight, you will still be able to feel the ribs but they will not be protruding. If you’re unable to feel your dog’s rib cage easily, this could imply that your dog is heavier than they should be

While all three checks should be performed together on a regular basis, one of the most useful tests is the Rib check, particularly if you have a fluffy dog. 

Helping your dog maintain a healthy weight

Before we look at what you can do to make sure your dog maintains a healthy weight, its helpful to first understand the common reasons why dogs tend to be either under or overweight. Underweight dogs normally have underlying issues that prevents them from eating and gaining weight – for example, they’re a picky eater, have gut issues or potentially another more serious illness. If your dog is experience these issues, it’s best to see your vet and work out a plan to help them get back to normal weight levels. 

Most dogs with weight issues tend to be on the overweight side. There are a number of reasons why this may be the case but the most common is diet (a combination of overeating but also the type of diet fed) as well as a lack of exercise. The best way to ensure your dog remains a healthy weight is to ensure that you’re feeding your dog a high quality, healthy dog food that is high in protein and but also maintains the right ratio of protein, carbohydrates and fat. Once you’ve picked out the right dog food, the next step is ensuring that you get their portion sizes right – most dog food brands provide calculators that you can use to figure out exactly how much to feed – including taking into account your dog’s age and activity level. However keep in mind that you may need to adjust the recommended amount for your dog – the best way to do this is to perform the check we’ve described and adjust the amounts up or down as necessary.

The next step in helping your dog maintain an ideal weight is to ensure they are getting the right amount of exercise – this is not an exact science and will be heavily dependent on your dog’s breed, age and whether they are prone to any illness that may impact their exercise. It’s also helpful to try and mix up the form of exercise – while walking is the most popular, some breeds love going on a jog, chasing the ball at a park or a good swim!

One factor to keep in mind is that over the course of their life, your dog’s weight can change over time – even if you feed them the same amount every day. This is due to the changing calorie requirement over a dog’s life – younger dogs tend to be more active and require greater calories however as they get older, they are likely to slow down and as a result, their portion sizes will need to be adjusted accordingly to ensure they continue to maintain an ideal weight.   

With a little extra care and attention, helping your dog maintain an optimum weight can be easy do to once you make it a part of your routine! The handy check we’ve provided should only take a few minutes each week and will help ensure that your best friends lives a long, healthy and happy life! 

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