A healthy diet and daily exercise can maintain a healthy weight for your dog and add years to their life. We all want our dogs to be as healthy as possible, but it can be difficult to know how heavy your dog should be.
In this article, we’ll talk about what a skinny, fat, and healthy dog looks like. We’ll also discuss other factors, such as your dog’s breed, height, and muscle tone.
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Why is Weight Important for Dogs?
A study done by Purina showed that Labradors can live almost two years longer when kept at an ideal weight.
The dogs who were fed a lean diet not only lived longer, but also showed delayed onset when it came to chronic diseases.
For instance, only 50% of the lean-fed dogs showed symptoms of osteoarthritis in the hips, compared to 83% of those in the control group. The arthritis symptoms were also less severe and developed later in age.
Other breeds are also healthiest when kept at an ideal weight–not too thin, but also not too heavy.
How to Tell Your Dog is Too Thin
Generally, a thin dog will look kind of boney. You’ll be able to see their ribs individually, and when you feel their body, there won’t be a noticeable layer of fat between the ribs and skin.
The hip bones may protrude as well as the shoulders and spine. When feeling along the spine, you won’t feel a healthy layer of fat surrounding it. When petting their bottom, between their hips, you may feel bones rather than fat.
From above, the dog will have an extreme curve inward around the belly area. From the side, the chest will be much more prominent, with a big swoop up to the stomach.
Remember to feel your dog as well as look at them, especially if they have medium to long fur that may hide their lack of fat.
Also, remember that some breeds are meant to be lithe. You may be able to see the ribs in these breeds, but you still shouldn’t notice a lack of fat throughout the body as we discussed above.
How to Tell Your Dog is Too Fat
If your dog is overweight, you might have trouble feeling their bone structure. For instance, you might not be able to feel all of their ribs with your fingers because there’s fat in the way.
You may notice rolls of fat, particularly around the base of their tail, along the spine, or at the sides of their legs.
There may be little or no dip near the hips when looking at your dog from above. From the side, you might notice that their tummy is nearly as low as their chest, or even that it’s as low or lower.
Again, remember to feel your fluffy dogs before assuming they’re overweight! You may not be able to see their bone structure, but your hands might feel it just fine. Be sure to dig your fingers beneath the fur so that it’s not padding your dog’s skin.
What does a Dog at a Healthy Weight Look Like?
Usually, you want to be able to feel your dog’s ribs—but not see them. However, this isn’t true of all dog breeds.
There should also be a small amount of fat stored at the base of the tail. You should be able to feel your dog’s hip and shoulder bones, as well as their spine. These bones should be covered by a layer of fat, and shouldn’t appear to protrude from the body.
From above, you should see a slight dip around your dog’s waist—kind of an hourglass figure. From the side, their tummy should tuck in from the ribs, but not too drastically.
Of course, a healthy body shape changes depending on your dog’s breed. You also may need to feel your dog’s body rather than look at it if they have a medium to long coat, as the fur can obscure things and make them appear chubbier than they are.
Factors to Consider
There are so many factors to consider before deciding your dog is too skinny or fat based on the above—or even before declaring they’re definitely at their ideal weight!
Your Dog’s Breed
Not all dogs will fall into the weight parameters under their breed standard—but it’s still good to take a look if your dog is purebred or even a mixed breed.
Also, look at photos of the breed(s) and see how your dog compares.
Sighthounds and other slim, deep-chested breeds may appear too skinny to those unfamiliar with them—when they’re actually perfectly healthy!
These dogs are meant to have a deep chest and significant tummy tuck. Their ribs can show more than other breeds when at a healthy weight. These dogs are built to sprint, so they’re naturally quite thin.
On the other hand, some breeds are built to be boxy and muscular. An example of this body shape is a Bulldog or Chow Chow.
Speaking of Chow Chows, another thing to consider is your dog’s fur—it can make them look like chubby little fluff balls, even when beneath the fur they might be underweight!
Your Dog’s Height
Some dogs are larger than others, even when factoring in their breed. This can be especially true of mixed breeds if you’ve guessed at their breed.
For instance, my last rescue dog was a Labrador mix. Some professionals even guessed he might be a purebred Labrador, but I always noticed he was taller and more muscular than other Labradors I’d seen.
DNA results showed that while he was 80% Labrador, he also had other breeds mixed in that made him taller and bulkier than your average lab. Because of this, he wouldn’t have been healthy at 65-80 pounds, which is what the American Kennel Club recommends. His vet said his ideal weight was around 95-100 pounds.
Your Dog’s Muscles
If your dog is very muscular, this will add to their weight and change their body structure. Muscle weighs more than fat, so this is something to keep in mind!
Having an active, muscular dog is usually a good thing, and active dogs tend to need more food to fuel their activities as well.
Your Vet’s Guidance
Always, always ask your veterinarian if you’re worried about your dog’s weight. They can see your dog in person, and they know their history and their health. Your vet is the person best-suited to answer your questions.
They can also advise you on changing your dog’s diet, whether you’d like to try a new dog food brand or change the amount you’re feeding.
It’s best not to make these changes without consulting your vet, as you can harm your dog while trying to help them!