Your dog's ideal weight
51% of dogs in the UK are obese, and this figure rises year on year (1). 100% of domestic dogs are fed by their humans. Meaning? Our dogs' weight, resultant health and well being is in our hands. January is traditionally a time we humans use for a health overhaul, to set out new goals and practices for a fresh start, and a similar assessment of our dogs' health and wellbeing is equally essential.
Dog obesity can be a delicate subject, tricky to broach with defensive parents, finger pointy and blame ridden when approached wrongly. But the onus of the subject is not whose fault it is, rather who might be suffering as a result.
Being overweight does not mean obese.
A dog does not have to be of astronomical proportions to quantify being overweight, and even a few spare, seemingly inconsequential, kilograms could be making all the difference. In fact, a lot of dog owners are unaware of what their dog's ideal weight and body shape is in order to gauge their current condition. The rising prevalence and increasing normality of overweight dogs in the UK is skewing our view as parents to what is "normal", and we are often err on the more generous side with our assessments as a result.
So, what is their "ideal" weight?
Without an expert veterinary assessment on an individual basis it is difficult to define a general weight goal per breed due to considerations of age, health status, existing conditions, neuter status, gender, mixed breeds, and so on... Just like us, there is no One Size Fits All. However, a "body condition" assessment can be made by every dog parent at home, right now! This is a visual and physical assessment which, at its simplest, can be stripped back to 3 basic categories; underweight, ideal weight, overweight.
Ribs easily felt or visible. From above, hip bones and rib cage jut out distinctly. If a long haired breed, do this when wet or by touch.
DO increase portions slowly and steadily
DON'T feed excessively in quantity or quality
Sudden changes in diet can cause stomach irritation and upset which can reduce any benefit being gained from their changing diet. Changes are best made incrementally rather than overloading your dog with rich foods in excess.
A soft outline of rib cage from above, belly tucks up between their ribs and hind legs from side view.
No noticeable belly tuck that ideal and underweight dogs have. From above, a bulge outward (even if only slight) between the rib cage and hips (this should gently curve inward on a healthy dog). By touch, ribs have thicker padding on them or are not easy to feel.
DO decrease portions slowly and steadily
DON'T cut down their daily intake drastically
As with an underweight dog, a sudden and sharp change in diet restricting what they normally consume to much less can cause similar stomach upset.
In short, there should be some 'shape' to your dog's figure, with clear but gentle distinctions between chest and stomach, a visible waist and inward curve up and in to their hind legs.
PRO TIP: Avoid allowing your dog to graze
To help with your dog's weight management, whether they are gaining or losing, it's important to know what they have eaten, how much and when. Allowing a dog to visit a full bowl as and when they please throughout the day and it being topped up continuously does not allow for any consistency in their meals, much less any way of tracking or managing what they are eating on a daily basis. Set meal times, controlled portions, appropriate exercise and commitment to your dog's diet and nutrition is a winning combination to see them on track for a new year of success, health and happiness!
Explore how a RAW diet can transform your dog's life here!