Understanding how heavy your dog should be depends on their age, breed, and activity levels.
Dogs who struggle with obesity are prone to health conditions like diabetes and heart disease.
The body scoring methods allow you to understand how heavy your dog should be by showing you whether or not your dog is at a healthy weight.
Health conditions also contribute to your dog's ability to gain or lose weight.
Have you noticed your dog doesn't feel quite as light when you pick them up? Maybe your pup seems to be shedding weight, and you're not sure why. Knowing how heavy your dog should be is important for maintaining proper canine health.
Your dog's weight works differently than your own. When your dog gains or loses a few pounds, depending on their size, this drastically affects their well-being. If you're wondering how heavy your dog should be, there are a few key things to consider.
Take your dog's size, breed, age, and activity levels into consideration when determining what weight is ideal for them.
Your Dog's Breed
Your dog's breed determines a lot about their health and needs.
Smaller breeds weigh less, but the difference between a few pounds is a lot.
Large breeds have more wiggle room for gaining or losing weight, but it's important not to allow them to gain too much weight as this puts excess strain on their bodies.
Breeds like German shepherds are "working dogs" which are dogs who fulfill a certain role. These dog breeds require more physical activity than dogs with lazy temperaments.
If your dog requires high levels of physical activity, keeping them at a healthy weight that allows them to move about without causing strain on their joints and muscles is important.
On average small dogs weigh 22 pounds or less, medium dogs weigh 22 – 50 pounds or less, and large dogs weigh 50 – 90+ pounds.
If you notice your dog gaining a few extra pounds, don't worry if they're still growing out of their puppy phase. Even if your dog seems almost done growing, they continue to put on weight long after.
As puppies grow out of their infant stage, they tend to have a skinnier build. This is natural, and it's important not to overfeed your dog during this time. Overfeeding creates unhealthy habits and strains their overall health which impacts them in their adult years.
Every puppy grows at their own pace.
Body scoring is a method that determines what your dog's fat percentage is and explains whether or not they are at a healthy weight.
Body scoring has a score range of one through nine, one being underweight and nine being obese. Usually, your veterinarian administers this testing, but you can do it at home and consult with a professional afterward.
Position your dog on all fours on an even surface. Directly above them, look down and observe their overall body composition.
You want to see the shape of their waistline and the formation of their ribs. Seeing little to no waistline suggests that your dog is overweight and needs to have a change in their dietary habits.
A too-prominent waistline suggests that your dog is underweight and needs to start eating larger meals or eating more frequently.
Run your hands along your dog's rib cage. If you slightly feel the ribs, your dog is at a healthy weight. Ribs that are too prominent or non-existent are causes for concern. The hips and spine should also be identifiable by touch.
Coming up with a body score for your dog on your own isn't necessarily the best idea, but the process of examining your pup allows you to know whether they're at a healthy weight or not.
Signs Your Dog Is Overweight
Your dog's excess weight isn't always easy to spot — especially if you're not sure what a healthy weight is for their breed or age.
Not having a visible waistline is a tell-tale sign that your dog is overweight. A simple examination of your dog's torso and spine allows you to feel if there's excess weight.
A bulging stomach isn't a healthy indicator of your dog's weight. Take a look at your pup from the side and see how low their stomach protrudes. If they look pregnant but aren't currently expecting a litter of critters, it's time to cut back on their kibble.
Dr. Ryan Gates from the Cuyahoga Falls Veterinary Clinic talks about the impact obesity has on a dog's lifespan. He comments, "I’ll say it once again because the point cannot be overemphasized: obesity is a disease that has serious consequences. According to a fourteen-year study conducted by Purina (who would love to see a result that said, 'FEED MORE PURINA!') the difference in lifespan between an obese dog and a healthy weight dog is nearly two years. The results stressed the importance of restricting calories!"
When your dog is overweight, they are more susceptible to certain health issues. Lethargy is one of the most common symptoms of overweight dogs. The excess fat takes a toll on their energy, preventing them from running around the yard or getting into mischief around the house.
Trouble breathing is another common symptom of overweight dogs. Don't immediately associate your dog's breathing issues with weight issues, though. Dog breeds such as pugs or bulldogs are prone to having breathing issues due to their genetics.
Along with trouble breathing comes panting. Panting lowers your dog's body temperature and oxygenates the blood.
While panting is normal and a natural way for your pup to cool themselves down, when it's excessive or after little to no physical exertion, it's likely due to their weight. Overweight dogs have higher body temperatures — especially after participating in physical activity.
Your dog's excess weight creates all sorts of health issues from heart disease to joint issues and diabetes. The best way to prevent these conditions from forming is to use preventative measures by keeping your dog at a healthy weight.
Changing their diet while upping their activity levels is enough to encourage your dog to shed a few pounds. If you've tried making all of the necessary changes to their deity and activity and aren't seeing results, consult a veterinarian to see if any underlying conditions contribute to their condition.
Signs Your Dog Is Underweight
When your dog is underweight, it's much easier to spot.
Being able to notice your dog's bone structure throughout their body indicates they are underweight. This isn't the same as just being able to see the form or shape of their structure, but when bones protrude outwardly, this is concerning.
Underweight dogs also struggle to maintain muscle. If your dog isn't consuming enough calories or has a medical condition that affects their weight, you notice them losing both muscle and fat.
Dogs are tough and agile animals, but it's difficult for them to maintain their strength being underweight. Due to the lack of calories, an underweight dog doesn't have the same amount of energy as a healthy pup.
When your dog is underweight, they lie around and don't enjoy playing fetch or with toys for long. Try playing tug-o-war with a frisbee or sock and see if your dog has enough strength to compete with yours.
Understanding your dog's breed and build is important in determining if they're at a healthy weight. Breeds like Italian greyhounds appear slender and slim naturally and are susceptible to becoming overweight. These types of breeds look skinnier than others, but this is because of their slender builds and short fur.
Don't continue feeding your dog just because they beg for food and treats or aren't as full as other dog breeds. Determine how much food your dog requires daily and stick to a nutrition plan supporting their health and longevity.
When your dog is underweight, they are also more prone to illness. Being underweight causes dogs to have a weakened immune system preventing them from overcoming small illnesses normally.
Medical Conditions That Impact Your Dog's Weight
Many medical conditions contribute to a dog's weight gain or loss. Make yourself aware of these conditions so you know what to look out for.
Diabetes affects your dog's metabolism which causes your dog to carry excess weight. This condition affects their blood sugar levels and requires insulin for regular maintenance. Diabetes occurs due to genetics as well as eating habits.
Hypothyroidism is a hormone imbalance in dogs. This condition damages the thyroid gland altering its function and ability to secrete proper levels of thyroid hormones. Weight gain and an increase in appetite are signs of this condition.
Fur quality and density are also affected by hypothyroidism.
Arthritis is another common condition in dogs that contributes to weight gain. Arthritis is joint pain and inflammation making it difficult to exercise. Canines develop arthritis as early as one year old, but this condition is most commonly found in senior dogs.
Chronic infection is a common condition that causes weight loss in dogs. If your dog continually has infections, their ability to absorb and maintain nutrients is weak, preventing them from gaining weight.
Dental issues make it difficult for a dog to eat — especially if there's an infection in their teeth. This is particularly difficult when it gets in the way of eating their evening dinner. Taking your dog in for routine dental exams allows them to maintain proper dental hygiene.
Parasites and worms also affect your dog's weight. These parasites feed on the nutrients that your dog consumes making it difficult for them to maintain a proper weight. Combat parasites with over-the-counter medicine or a prescription.
Certain types of cancer also make it difficult for a dog to gain weight.
How Your Dog Can Overcome Obesity
Creating a weight loss plan is essential for your dog to lose weight. It's best to create a game plan with your veterinarian to decide how much food you need to cut from your dog's diet for them to lose weight at a healthy rate.
Removing too many calories from their diet quickly causes them to lose weight too fast, negatively impacting their health.
Review your dog's food and see if it contains filler ingredients such as corn, wheat, and soy. These ingredients aren't necessarily bad in smaller quantities, but if these are the base of your dog food formula, it doesn't offer your pup proper nutrition.
Without proper nutrition, your dog wants to eat more to compensate for the lack of vitamins and nutrients.
Slowly increase their daily activity. Any physical activity that you include in their routine is helpful. Add five to 10 minutes on their walks or rough house with them a little before bed.
Lastly, cut back on treats! Your dog won't be very happy to hear this, but treats aren't going to assist them in losing weight.
How To Help Your Dog Gain Weight
When your dog is overweight, you first want to make sure they don't have an underlying condition contributing to their weight loss. If so, consult your vet to set up a healing plan or maintain their condition.
Otherwise, start looking at the food your canine is eating. Poor dog food formulas don't contain ingredients that support proper nutrition which doesn't allow your dog to maintain a healthy weight.
Introduce a higher-quality dog food blend that has meat or vegetables as the base of its formula.
Cooking your dog's meals is also a great way to ensure they receive proper nutrition, and it's often cheaper than buying store-bought food. This way, you are able to include any ingredients your dog needs to pack on a few pounds without any unnecessary filler ingredients. Include healthy fats like fish oil into their diet for added benefit.
Lastly, cut back on their exercise for the time being. Even underweight dogs need to exercise daily, but they don't require as much exercise as a dog at a healthy weight.
It's Not Just Water Weight
No matter how much your pup tries to tell you their extra pounds are just water weight, don't believe them.
Your dog's weight and health are in your hands, and it's up to you to ensure they eat a fully-balanced diet, receive enough exercise, and address any health issues or concerns.
You want your dog to live a long, comfortable life, and maintaining proper weight is one of the most important ways for them to thrive.
Whether your dog is overweight, underweight, or somewhere in between, it's time to change their eating habits and start them on their journey to Wellville!