Weight can be incredibly hard to determine with dogs. There’s a lot of conflicting opinions on the point at which your dog is considered fat, and when they are too thin.
Honestly, it can get a little stressful, and we understand the pressure you might feel when trying to keep your dog at a healthy weight. Well, what if we told you there was a way to take some of that stress off your shoulders?
Your dog’s weight is important, and as dog experts, we are here to take you through how much your dog should weigh and how to determine the next steps you should be taking for your peace of mind.
What can cause weight gain? How can you help them lose weight? Are some breeds more prone to obesity? All of the questions, and more, will be answered below.
Why is Your Dog’s Weight Important?
Finding your dog’s ideal weight and then maintaining it can actually lead to them leading a longer and happier life.
In fact, extensive studies have found that dogs who maintain an ideal body weight live an average of 1.8 years longer than dogs who are a little on the chunky side.
Not only that, but it reduces the risk of them ending up with conditions like diabetes and pancreatitis, as well as some forms of cancer. Maintaining an ideal body weight means that they are more likely to lead a happier and healthier life, as well as a longer one.
What Issues Can Being Overweight Cause Your Dog?
There are plenty of reasons why being overweight or obese can be dangerous for your dog.
Think about how much extra work the heart has to do pumping blood through all the excess fat.
What’s more, did you know that recent studies have shown fat to be biologically active? It secretes inflammatory hormones and creates stress on the tissue, which can cause illnesses.
In many ways, canine obesity can be defined as an inflammatory condition. Overweight and obese dogs have an increased risk of the following:
- many types of cancer, diabetes mellitus, heart disease, and hypertension
- osteoarthritis and faster degeneration of affected joints
- urinary bladder stones
- anaesthetic complications as they are less heat tolerant
However, obesity and weight gain in your dogs can be an indicator of the following conditions:
- Cushing’s disease
Where Not to Get Your Weight Information
When you do a Google search for ideal pet weights, you will often be presented with a table that has a whole list of them.
However, you will also see that there are no exact numbers. Instead, you end up with a range. As an example, a Lab can be between 25kg and 40kg – that’s a massive weight range.
Furthermore, this weight range is also influenced by the gender of your dog. Using Labs again, a female has an ideal weight range of 25-32kg and a male is between 26kg and 40kg. On top of that, if you have a mixed breed dog there is absolutely no guidance available for you.
It becomes confusing and frustrating, especially when you have such wide numbers to work with.
You want your dog to be comfortable, but you also don’t want them wandering around with a load of excess fat that could be putting extra pressure on their bones and joints.
How to Determine the Ideal Weight for Your Dog
What if we told you that numbers are actually pointless? It’s true.
When it comes to your dog’s weight the numbers can have some benefit in that they offer you a rough guide to what they should weigh. However, there is a much better way to maintain your dog’s waistline.
While many vets and dog professionals use this method already, it has been coined as the Purina Body Condition Score. This uses visual inspection as well as your sense of touch to determine your dog’s current condition. It focuses on three key areas:
In addition to this, there is a scoring system for the condition of your dog based on these three areas. The categories for the scores can be broken down into three sections:
- Too thin (score 1-3)
- Ideal (score 4-5)
- Too heavy (score 6-9)
Purina has a great infographic for this, but let’s break it down so that you can get a clear understanding of what each score means. This will also help you to properly feel their body so that you can accurately determine their weight.
1: Ribs, spine, and pelvis all very prominent. They are visible from a distance and there is no obvious body fat. There is also an obvious loss of muscle mass.
2: Ribs, spine, and pelvis are all visible. When you feel the sides (palpate) there is little to no loose fat. Other bones may be slightly prominent, minimal loss of muscle mass.
3: Ribs easy to feel when you run your hands along their side. Might be visible with no palpable fat. Top of the spine visible, hips becoming prominent. Waist and abdomen obviously tucked.
4: Ribs easily palpable with a minimal covering of fat. The waist is easily noticeable with a clear abdominal tuck.
5: Ribs are palpable with minimal excess fat covering. The waist is behind the ribs when viewed from above, and the abdomen is tucked nicely when viewed from the side.
6: Ribs are palpable with a slight excess of fat covering them. You can see the waist from above, but it is not defined. The abdominal tuck is still apparent.
7: Ribs are palpable, but with difficulty. There is heavy fat cover. There are noticeable fat deposits over the spine and the base of the tail. Abdominal tuck might be visible, but the waist is either absent or barely visible.
8: Ribs are not palpable due to heavy fat cover, or they are palpable with significant pressure. Heavy fat deposits can be found along the spine and base of the tail. The waist is absent with no abdominal tuck, and distension of the stomach might be noticeable.
9: Massive fat deposits across the torso, including the spine and hips. Waist and abdominal tuck completely absent Fat deposits on the neck and limbs, obviously rotund stomach.
Purina also has this fantastic demonstration video that you can use to check over your dog and score them correctly. It gives you a clear visual idea of what you are looking for and how to check each area accurately.
How to Help Your Dog Lose Weight
The first thing that may come to mind is that you should reduce the amount of food that they are eating. However, doing this over prolonged periods of time can actually cause malnourishment.
Instead, you need to find a food that is lower in calories and fat, but that also contains all of the key nutrients your dog needs to thrive. In fact, we have a great guide to weight loss food you can check out.
You have to be strict, sticking with precise measurements to aid weight loss and also ensuring that treats don’t make up more than 10% of their diet. There are even low-fat and calorie options that you can use to minimise any weight gain.
Making sure your dog is weighed every 2-3 weeks is also key to keeping an eye on their progress and tracking how much they are losing.
Just as with humans, you want it to be a slow and steady pace to avoid risking them putting it all back on again and to keep them healthy.
Additionally, you can also create a weight loss plan with your vet. This is usually the best course of action if your dog is severely obese and in need of a drastic change in their diet. You may even find that your vet prescribes a specific food to help boost weight loss.
How Do You Maintain Your Dog’s Weight?
So, your dog has finally reached their ideal weight. The question now is how do you maintain that? What you will need to do is portion control your dog’s food in a way that ensures that they do not regain what they have lost, and also so that they don’t continue to lose it.
You can work with your vet to find the ideal portion for your dog, and you will need to stick with this. Just as with humans, a yo-yo weight is incredibly unhealthy for your pup.
Are Some Breeds of Dog More Prone to Weight Gain?
Yes, some breeds of dog are more prone to weight gain than others. This is largely down to genetics, a prime example being that Labs often possess a gene that leaves them constantly hungry.
Here is a list of some breeds that are more likely to gain weight:
- Cocker spaniels
- Basset hounds
- Cairn terriers
- Cavalier King Charles spaniels
- Labrador retrievers
- Norwegian elkhounds
- Rough collies
- Shetland sheepdogs
Do Dogs Gain Weight with Age?
Yes, dogs do gain weight with age. As they grow older, their metabolism slows down alongside their energy levels.
Therefore, they need less food and calories in order to maintain a healthy weight. As dogs age and mature, you will need to adjust their food accordingly.
Why is My Dog Gaining Weight but not Eating More?
Just like humans, dogs can gain weight without eating more than usual if they do not get rough exercise.
Similarly, it could be down to the fact that they are on a new medication, or they are suffering from an illness like hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease.
Is Obesity a Problem in Dogs?
Interestingly, obesity is the most common preventable illness in dogs. It’s so easy to let them get fat, especially when they give us big eyes at the dinner table. However, you could be doing them a lot more harm than good in the long run – especially once they start packing on the pounds.
Keeping on top of your dog’s weight is so important. You want them to live a long and healthy life, and they can’t have this if they are too fat or too thin.
Determining their ideal weight and working towards that goal and maintaining it is the key to keeping your dog’s waistline.
A lot of this is down to ensuring your dog is getting the right amount of food during each meal, and this is why measuring it is integral.
You can usually find a measurement guide on the dog food packet, and a lot of the time it is down to trial and error as you discover which quantities work best for your dog. It’s a journey worth taking together.
For over a decade, Adrienne has been a freelance content writer and blogger who’s passion lies in anything related to dogs. Growing up, dogs were a very important part of family life in the Hardwick household. Now, Adrienne is the proud parent to two Swedish Vallhunds called Moose and Pumpkin.