During the many years that I have spent working with dogs, I have been asked repeatedly “Is my dog too fat?” Normally the answer is a resounding yes. We tend to dote on our animals to the point of excess – especially with their diet.
One of the most important points that I try to teach my clients is that dogs can be part of our family but they are never going to BE human. The human body says “I’m hungry” and we feed it. This is a different concept for dogs. If you consider a Labrador and their eating habits this makes sense. Most Labradors will eat simply because food is present. The Labrador is cold water retrieving dog by God’s design and therefore their body needs to store body fat to keep warm when swimming in the cold water. Most of our labs have never seen cold water but are certainly built for it. You should always consult with your veterinarian on the amount of food that your dog should be fed. Unfortunately, we do not seek this advice until our dogs are overweight and the damage is done.
Ideally, when you are standing over your dog looking down at their body you should see a slight indention at the base of their last rib and then extend out at their hip bones. An underweight dog will show more than one indention in the rib cage. An overweight dog will show no indentions and there will be no tapering at the base of the ribs. If your dog does not have a waistline, or worse, it expands it is time to see your veterinarian and change your feeding habits.
Overweight dogs can have a large number of health issues such as diabetes, heatstroke, breathing difficulties, heart disease, dysplasia, arthritis, and many others. Underweight dogs can suffer from health issues as well. Dogs can lose weight due to stress or illness so it is important to maintain a balanced diet. Some breeds can be naturally slim due to their high metabolism. If you are concerned that your dog is underweight the best plan of action is to consult with your veterinarian.