Most dogs love food (can you blame them?). Some dogs even love food so much that they'll eat whatever you put in front of them. But that can be problematic because, like humans, dogs have to be careful about how much they eat. Otherwise they could gain weight to an unhealthy degree. And while gaining a few pounds for humans isn't usually a big deal, the same can't be said for dogs. So what is a healthy weight for your dog and how do you determine that? That depends on a few factors:
How To Determine Your Dog's Ideal Weight?
The easiest way to determine your dog's ideal weight is by talking to your vet. He or she will be able to take into account your dog's age, breed or breed mixes and physical attributes to determine an ideal weight. But if you want to monitor your pup's weight more closely and regularly, there are ways to do so. Here are some ways to figure out your dog's ideal weight:
1. Start With Weight Charts
You can start by looking at charts of average age and breed weights, but only as a guideline. These charts don't provide an exact number for your specific dog (especially if you have a mutt!) and every dog is different.
Here are some examples of weight charts for large breeds and small breeds alike. These charts are by NomNomNow, a company that offers meal plans for dogs created by board-certified experts in veterinary nutrition:
2. Evaluate Your Dog's Body
You'll also want to visually evaluate your dog's physical body. In general, your dog's waist should be visible when you look at them from above and from the side. In addition, your dog's belly should be tucked in when looking at your dog from above and it should curve in when you look from the side.
To evaluate whether your dog is underweight, an ideal weight or overweight, you'll want to use a Body Condition Score. This is one method vets use to evaluate a dog's weight that often have between five and nine points. Here's an example of a nine-point Body Condition Score from one of the largest animal hospitals in the U.S., VCA Hospitals:
- Emaciated: Ribs, backbone and pelvis stick out; loss of muscle mass; waistline is dramatic and abdomen is tucked in severely.
- Very Thin: Ribs, backbone and pelvis are visible; minor loss of muscle mass; severe waistline and tummy tuck.
- Thin: Ribs, backbone and pelvis are easily felt by touch and somewhat visible; severe waistline and tummy tuck.
- Underweight: Ribs, backbone and pelvis are easily felt by touch but not as visible; obvious waistline and tummy tuck.
- Ideal Weight: Ribs, backbone and pelvis are palpable but under a thin layer of fat; obvious (but not severe) waistline and tummy tuck with gradual curves.
- Overweight: Ribs, backbone and pelvis are covered by a slight layer of fat, making them more difficult to feel; waistline is visible, but not prominent, and tummy tuck is present, but minimal.
- Heavy: Ribs, backbone and pelvis are under a substantial layer of fat, making them difficult to feel or only palpable with finger pressure; waistline is not visible and tummy tuck is only slightly visible.
- Obese: Ribs, backbone and pelvis are under thick layer of fat and only palpable with extreme pressure; no waistline or tummy tuck is visible.
- Severely Obese: Ribs, backbone and pelvis are under thick layer of fat and not palpable at all; abdomen projects downward (opposite of tummy tuck) and outward (protruding waistline); fat deposits on legs, face and more.
Here are charts from NomNomNow showing the different views:
Excess Weight Problems
Just like humans, dogs also have to be careful about not gaining weight to an unhealthy degree. And although gaining a few pounds for humans isn't usually a big deal, that same can't be said for dogs. Even five extra pounds can put your dog at risk for several weight-related health issues, including but not limited to:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Heart disease
- Arthritis and osteoarthritis
- High blood pressure
- Cancer (especially abdominal ones)
But even if your overweight dog doesn't develop any of these health issues, he or she is more likely to have less energy and be less active. Those couple of the extra pounds can lead to less playtime, shorter walks and less overall exercise. They can really affect your dog's every day life and ultimately result in a shorter, less happy one. This is why it's so important to keep your dog at an ideal and healthy weight to try and give them the longest, healthiest and happiest life possible.