It's true that a dog is your best friend, but that means they are also relying on you for the essential care they need to keep them happy, healthy, and strong. Showering love and affection is a great way to repay your dog's loyalty, but it can go too far if you aren't careful. Spoiling your dog and allowing them to become overweight is a sure way to do them more harm than good. Obesity can cause severe health problems such as respiratory and heart diseases, high cholesterol and diabetes, arthritis and muscle atrophy, and a shorter span of life. By contrast, a strict diet that puts your dog underweight is just as harmful. Read on to see how you can decide and maintain a healthy weight for your dog.
Determining A Healthy Weight
There are a few different ways to calculate the right weight for a dog. If you want to do it yourself, there are a few options.
1. A Chart
You can check a chart, like this one from the American Kennel Club. It lists the ideal weight range for nearly every dog breed, based on sex. For example,
- Australian Shepherds should be 50-65 pounds for males and 40-55 pounds for females
- Bloodhounds should be 90-110 pounds for males and 80-100 pounds for females
- Bulldogs should be 50 pounds for males and 40 pounds for females
- Dalmatians should be 45-70 pounds for both males and females
- German Shepherds should be 65-90 pounds for males and 50-70 pounds for females
- Irish Terriers should be 27 pounds for males and 25 pounds for females
- Pugs should be 14-18 pounds for both males and females
- Labrador Retrievers should be 65-80 pounds for males and 55-70 pounds for females
- Yorkshire Terriers should be 7 pounds for both males and females
These are only a few of the dogs they have listed; you can find just about any breed on the complete chart. This can be a great starting place for determining if your dog is in a good weight range.
2. A Calculator
Another online tool is PetMD's healthy weight calendar. This will ask for your dog's breed, age, weight, and appearance to determine whether they are at a healthy weight or not. However, this method is not comprehensive and cannot take into account your dog's individual needs and habits.
3. An Observation
To find a more accurate reading, you can also use your own best judgment to check based on their body. Feel their rib cage and back. If you can feel the ribs protruding, your dog is probably underweight. If you feel a lot of fat covering their bones, your dog is probably overweight or obese. You should be able to feel the ribs under a light covering of fat when they are at an ideal weight. Their abdomen should be tucked up and their waist clearly visible from above.
4. A Consultation
Finally, the best way to determine a healthy weight for your dog is to talk to your vet. They know your dog's personality, history, and needs better than anyone and can help you decide exactly what weight will best suit their daily activity and nutritional intake. A vet will evaluate your dog's body condition score (BCS), which determines the percentage of body fat that makes up their weight, along with their muscle condition score (MCS) and current overall weight. In an ideal situation, lean mass is around 80% of the body weight and body fat is between 15 and 19%. After determining where your dog sits on the scale, they can help you develop a nutrition and exercise plan to keep your dog fit.
Implementing a Nutrition Plan
To Lose Weight
If your dog is overweight or obese, you should implement a diet plan to help get them back to their healthiest weight. Your vet should calculate your dog's ideal body weight and recommend a daily amount of calories that will help them get there. During this process, it will be important for your dog to maintain the appropriate level of nutrition. Reducing calories also means reducing the total amount of protein intake. In such cases, it may be necessary to buy food with extra nutrients or supplements.
To Gain Weight
While it may be a less common problem, many dogs suffer from not weighing enough to maintain energy. Often, this is caused by an illness or stressor in your dog's life which must be eliminated before any serious weight gain can take place. But once you've taken care of that problem, you'll need to set up a plan to help your dog get stronger. There are a few steps you should take to get started.
- Start small. Your dog won't be able to handle a complete change in diet all at once. A good way to begin is by serving them several small meals a day instead of the typical two large ones.
- Use supplements. If your dog doesn't have a big appetite, supplements may be the perfect solution. They can add a great boost of nutrition and calories to improve your dog's weight balance and muscle tone.
- Create an exercise plan. In order to gain muscle weight, which is the best kind for your dog, you'll need to make sure they are exercising regularly. Again, start small here so they don't damage their muscles or wear out too quickly.
It's important to help your dog stay strong and healthy. Determine their ideal weight and get them on track as soon as possible so they can have many happy years with you. And if you're looking for the best foods and supplements to help them build strong muscles and lean bodies, check out all that XDog has to offer.