Most dogs are known to eat until food runs out. This is a survival instinct, but also a bad habit that is difficult to control. With an estimated 50% of all dogs overweight or even obese, how can you identify weight issues with your dog and ensure that your pet is at a healthy weight?
Since dogs come in a variety of shapes and sizes based on breed and other factors, it can be difficult to tell if your dog is at a healthy weight. Most of the resources used to determine a dog’s weight are based only on breed and can vary widely. For example, the average weight range for an adult Labrador Retriever is between 55 to 80 pounds. We know that labs over 80 pounds are considered overweight, but what if your dog is a mixed breed? For pet owners who have mixed breed dogs, or have or are adopted rescue dogs and don’t even know what the breed is, how can they identify if their dog is at a healthy weight?
One technique that veterinarians use to identify weight problems in dogs is a body condition score, or BCS. Rather than using dog breeds as a guide to a healthy weight, BCS uses visual observations to assess a dog’s body condition and determine whether it is underweight, overweight, or an ideal weight.
Checking your pet’s BCS is something most pet owners can do regularly at home to monitor their dog’s weight health. Finding a dog’s body condition score is based on how easy it is to feel your dog’s ribs, how big the animal’s waist and abdomen are, how much excess fat is under its skin, and how much muscle mass it is present in the dog. An overweight dog will have a visibly sagging stomach, no visible waist, ribs that are hard to feel, and a flat, wide back. By contrast, underweight dogs have ribs, a spinal column, and other skeletal features that are visible from a distance.
Just like their human counterparts use BMI to accurately determine weight, dogs with a higher BCS tend to be overweight, while dogs with a lower BCS are underweight and often underweight.
If you determine that your dog is underweight, he will need to increase and control his eating habits. For many underweight dogs, it is less likely that their owners will not give them enough food, as it is a particularly picky dog. If this is the case, it is key to find a type of dog food that they like to eat and control their eating habits. For overweight dogs, the best solution is to slowly decrease food intake and increase physical activity. Don’t abruptly cut your dog’s meals in half, but gradually reduce your food intake over time.
You can use these techniques to find your dog’s BCS and identify weight issues early on, however if feeding problems persist or you think your dog may have another health condition, it is always a good idea to bring your dog to your local vet.