How do I know if my Dog is Overweight?

Surprisingly, even as a dog groomer, I’m asked this question a lot. And I actually love it! It’s great that people are thinking about their pet’s weight. Granted, I’m not a vet, but I can certainly help with what to look for.

Don’t Pop Pup on the Scales!
Dog’s come in all shapes and sizes. A 30kg Rottweiler is not necessarily underweight compared to a 45kg Rottweiler. And vice versa.
Unless you’ve spoken with your vet and you have a weight chart at home that you use to regularly track your dog’s weight and they’ve helped determine what the correct weight for YOUR dog is, weighing them is not really helpful. From a pet-parent perspective; without the above information, how they look and feel will be far more accurate than a weight reading.

How do they look?
Can you count your dog’s individual ribs? Are their hip bones showing? Can you almost see what looks like the shape of a few internal organs?
Then there’s a good chance they’re underweight. Naturally thin breeds like Greyhounds & other sighthounds have a whole different thing going on and deserve their own post.
You should be able to see the last 2-3 ribs, from above they should have a slight hourglass figure – that is – wider at the ribs, narrow and then a little wider at the hips. They should have a nice ‘tuck-up’ when viewed from the side as well.
If your dog has long or thick hair, you may not be able to see anything. But you will still be able to feel them. Or hopefully, you can.

How do they feel?
You SHOULD be able to feel your dog’s rib cage, hip bones, shoulders and breast bone. Don’t think that if you can feel a few bones here and there, that means they are underweight. Too much as shown below and they are underweight but a little bit of protrusion as shown as BCS-5, is perfectly fine.
They should not be cylindrical, have a thick roll around the base of their tail or have any thick skin around their necks. (it’s actually fat but I’m trying to be polite, sorry!)
Thin loose skin as seen on Basset Hounds and other breeds is different & totally acceptable.

This is a great chart from WSAVA. From looking at the pictures, you can get a rough idea of what to look out for.

Ignore the appetite – A little bit.
A lot of dogs, and I mean A lot! Are seemingly endless pits when it comes to table scraps. You will probably know if you have this particular type of dog; characterised by loitering in the kitchen, constantly searching the ground for fallen gems and the head on the lap ploy.
If your dog is always hungry, it can be hard to know if you’ve “fed them enough”. Follow the feeding guidelines on their particular branded food and watch their waist like (so to speak) for the next few days. Are they expanding a little too much? Reduce their food by 1/4 cup. Are they losing too much weight? Increase their food by 1/4 cup.
Do this until they are the correct weight. I even increase and decrease my dog’s food just a little depending on the weather and how active we’ve been.

Why is it bad if my pet is over/underweight?
Overweight pets often get the most attention, it’s associated with difficulty breathing, walking and exercising, they become more susceptible to joint & muscle injuries from carrying the extra load and being generally less fit than they may have once been and it’s also a contributing factor to diabetes & heart disease as well as many other medical issues.
An underweight dog is, however, just as alarming. Missing out on many essential nutrients can leave dogs with a dull & dry coat, physically colder than usual, lethargic and they can develop metabolic problems.

If you feed your dog as per the feeding guidelines of a particular brand or as you deem correct (if you’re providing a homemade meal) and they’re still overweight or underweight, they may not necessarily be eating too much or too little, their diet may actually consist of the wrong levels of nutrients, in general, causing them to be malnourished or over nourished. If this is happening, it’s time to look into what you’re feeding. Just because the dog food is “COMPLETE & BALANCED” doesn’t actually mean that it is right for your dog. In fact, those words can be a complete marketing strategy. To learn more, check out the below posts.

Is Expensive dog food better?
What’s in Dog Food?

What do I do if my dog is under/overweight?
Always speak with a trusted vet. Determine if the weight gain or loss is related to an underlying medical condition first. Once you have the all clear, it’s time to question the dog’s diet.
Most vets will recommend “Science Diet” as it’s made in conjunction with vets. I dislike the ingredient list of their products so I would never feed it, but, I have to admit, for dogs with serious health conditions, Science Diet is sometimes the only food they can safely eat.
I highly recommend seeking the help of a vet who has studied nutrition more thoroughly. Diet in both the human and pet world is extremely controversial. Ask 3 different professionals and you will most likely receive 3 different answers. The important thing to do is listen, research, question and then make up your own mind of how you want to feed your dog.
Listen to your dog too. Observe how they are on their current diet. Do they lack energy, is their coat dull and brittle, is their coat greasy & flakey, does their poo make you want to run away, is their skin clear etc…
Diet is really, really important! Good Luck! 👍

Quick disclaimer: You should always consult a vet as every dog and breed is different. These are guidelines written without actually seeing or referring to any specific dog. Weight gain or weight loss are also signs of a possible medical condition. If your dog suddenly changes in weight – a trip to the vet is a must!