This post was originally published at My Animal, My Health and has been republished with permission.
Just as in humans, weight is an important factor in determining the health of an animal. Generally, for our dogs (and other pets), an ideal optimum weight range is highly essential to keeping your dog healthy. Obesity can cause many serious health problems in pets of any age. Too much weight stresses bones and joints, strains the heart and other internal organs, crowds the lungs, and turns a simple walk around the block into a major core. Infact, overweight dogs suffer much the same risks and consequences as overweight humans. In underweight dogs, malnourishment,underlying illness or parasitic infections are usual precursors to underweight dogs and this is also as harmful and unhealthy as being overweight.
Now, what happens when dog is overweight or underweight? How do you even know if your dog is overweight or underweight? Let’s find this out together!
A lot of pets these days are overweight, even if their owners are in denial about it. However, its important for owners pay attention to this since being overweight puts the dog (or pet) at risk of many diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and arthritis.
To find out if your dog is overweight or not, you can make the following observations or carry out the following activities….
- When you cant feel the ribs
This may seem silly, but it’s one of the simplest methods for discerning whether your dog is becoming obese. The rib-cage test is significant because the ribs shelter the lungs, and lungs need room to expand. In obese or overweight digs, the presence of excessive fatty tissue curtails room for such expansion.
To observe, stand above your dog, look down on them and place your hands on each side of their chest/ribcage. You should be able to feel your dog’s ribs easily with just a bit of muscle and fat on them. Feeling your dog’s ribs is important, as the coat of many dogs will make a visual check difficult. But if you can’t find or feel the ribs without pushing through layers of skin, muscle, and fat, then your dog is probably overweight
2. Little or no body definition
While all breeds have different body shapes, every dog should have some amount of definition. They should have a chest, a stomach, and a “waist.” – giving a hourglass figure. To observe, position yourself at level and overhead simultaneously with your dog and look for the abdomen to be tucked up behind his rib cage giving an ideal waist or hourglass figure. Generally, obese dogs will have a pendulous abdomen, hip fat, and neck fat, all of which are very noticeable and may give the dog a blocky body shape.
3. Your dog cannot groom itself
Does your dog struggle to groom or scratch himself? Without other medical or physical constraints, your dog should be able to do this with ease. If your dog is finding it difficult to reach around and groom or scratch itself because of the impeding layers of fat and muscles, then your dog is definitely overweight.
4. Your dog has difficulty in breathing
If there is no stress or heat, and your dog still seems to pant a lot or has difficulty in breathing or little stamina, then your dog may be overweight. Dogs who are having consistent trouble breathing, or dogs who become tired quickly after very little physical exertion, may be obese. Excessive panting is a related sign, one that indicates that your dog is having difficulty getting fresh, oxygenated blood to his vital systems. Cardiovascular and respiratory disorders are common in obese dogs. Over time, complications from long-term obesity result in conditions such as congestive heart failure.
You can try observing how long your dog can walk or run until he starts panting hard. A dog that gets out of breath quickly and pants easily is probably overweight.
5. Trouble getting around
Because dogs are naturally athletic, they should be able to get up and down easily and move quickly. Barring any medical issues or undue stress, if your dog is having trouble getting up after lying down, or can’t jump on the couch, he has too much weight on his body
6. Constipation and digestive problems
If your dog is having regular problems defecating and struggling with repeated bouts of constipation, being overweight or obesity could be a major factor. Dogs who take in too many calories and burn off too few, particularly if they are eating rich or unusual foods, are at higher risk for developing dangerous conditions (such as pancreatitis, liver problems, and diabetes) that affect the body’s ability to regulate and cleanse itself.
7. Your dog is moving gingerly
Obese dogs may move gingerly or assume resting positions with effort. Obesity in dogs is a contributing factor to bone and joint problems such as arthritis or hip dysplasia. As with congestive heart failure, there are certain dog breeds that are predisposed to suffering from hip dysplasia, and the severe arthritis that follows, as they age. An obese dog’s legs, back, and joints are placed under constant, unrelenting strain. In dogs already at risk, obesity only speeds the rate of musculoskeletal deterioration.
Being overweight or obese poses significant health threats to your dog, but being underweight is not healthy either. If your dog seems too skinny to you, regardless of what the body check indicates, consult your veterinarian. Malnourishment is a sure precursor to a dog being underweight and this can lead to serious nutritional issues. Also, a thin dog may have an underlying disease or parasitic infection problem, and should be seen by a veterinarian.
A quick body check can determine if your dog is too thin. Let’s find out by making the following observations and exercises…..
Seeing the ribs
This is similar to the rib-check as described for overweight dogs. However, in this case, you should be able to feel their ribs but not see them. If you can see the ribs already without even touching them then your dog is too skinny. If your dog is of healthy weight, examined from above, his waist will curve in gradually from his ribcage. Underweight dogs appear emaciated, with dramatic waist lines.
Also, move to your dog’s side and note the appearance of his abdomen. If your dog is healthy, his abdomen will slope gradually upward from his ribcage, and his overall appearance will be muscular. However, a skinny dog will have no noticeable body fat, and his abdomen will appear sharply tucked. Furthermore, you can run your fingers down your dog’s spine and then feel for his pelvic bone. Prominent vertebrae and pelvic bones indicate your dog is underweight. Ideally, you’ll be able to easily find the location of your dog’s bones, but a thin layer of fat should offer some padding between the bones and skin.
In one of our next articles, we will discuss what to do if you notice unhealthy signs of overweight or underweight issues in your dog (and pet)