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I think my dog might be underweight

by Vicky Bassett

You are feeding your dog a good amount, they are full of energy, and they’re not scavenging for food, yet whilst out on a walk people have commented that they think your dog is too skinny. They bend down to stroke your dog and comment that the dog feels like a bag of bones. Do you run home and heap the feeding bowl up? No! Stand back and look around, yes perhaps your dog is not in trend with the others but is that because the trend is fat?

Is your dog really underweight or are other dogs overweight?

A recent survey carried out by the BVNA revealed that 46% of dogs that vets see coming into practice are overweight or obese.

As a country we seem to be a bunch of feeders, so is it surprising that it’s not just our waistlines that are battling the bulge, our prized pooches are following suit.

Have we forgotten what healthy looks like, or have we changed our perception of what healthy is?

It is thought that to tell an owner their dog needs to shed a few pounds is to offend them, but to tell them they need to feed their dog more is acceptable, why is that? They are both ways of saying the owner is doing something wrong, are they not? To tell someone that they are starving their dog is not nice and in most cases is not even correct. There is nothing wrong with seeing a nicely defined waistline. Being healthy and lean can extend the dog’s life by around 2 years. In my eyes, that’s all that we want is to be able to keep your dog healthy and to have them around as long as possible.

How do I know if my dog is the correct weight?

Average weight ranges for a breed can be misleading and send you into a spin. The weight range for a typical breed can cover quite a big scale and can often omit certain factors, for example the sex of the dog or if it is a mixed breed etc.

You will often even see a difference in size and weight across the same litter of pups. If the siblings in the litter are all bigger than your dog, do not panic there can be huge differences in one litter. As the puppy grows their body condition can vary. When adolescence hits puppies will often go through a growth spurt and look like a gangly teenager, but they will begin to fill out again as their growth slows down.

Every dog is unique and will have its own ideal weight. If you are unsure of what to look out for there is a simple way to tell.

You should be able to:

  • see your dog’s last few ribs as they are twisting and turning
  • see a gradual curve in the waist from the rib cage
  • feel the ribs with a thin covering layer

You should not be able to:

  • see or feel a very prominent pelvic bone and vertebrae
  • see a severe tummy tuck
  • see that your dog’s ribs are all visible

There will sometimes be natural changes to your dog’s body condition, normally as a result of age, for example adolescent growth spurts or the wear and tear of ageing. However, if your dog changes body condition quite suddenly, for example a dramatic weight loss or gain, then it is always best to seek advice.

by Vicky Bassett

I started in Burns in 2007 and I have worked in various areas of the company. I have been on the nutrition team for 4 years and I love helping people with their nutritional queries, being office based has also given me time to do several courses such as Canine Anatomy and Physiology.