16 March 2010
Overview on Weight Part 2
Yesterday's post was focused on overweight dogs. Today, I will go over underweight ones.
Dogs that have a lighter frame than most include the sighthounds:
With possibly a few exceptions, these are really the only breeds where it is not always a bad thing if you can see their ribs easily. On a Greyhound for instance, you should be able to see a little rib (1 to 3). Allowing a sighthound to gain too much weight is very unhealthy for them because their bone structure and body frames are not designed to withstand a lot of weight.
That being said, sighthounds are anything but weak. These are among the most athletic of dogs and are built for speed and endurance. Think of these guys as the jocks of the dog world. They are light on their feet but are also muscular, powerful and very fast. Whippets can run up to 40mph, and Greyhounds can reach 45mph in three strides. Some think that a fast dog must translate to an active one, but that is a misconception. Although sighthounds love the chance to run on occasion, most are actually very mellow indoors and are known for making excellent house dogs; content to lounge around. Greyhound owners say their dogs are playful and will sprint a few laps around a yard, but after that they are done. This is also something to take into consideration because even breeds built for athleticism can be low key and won't require the same amount of calories as a more active dog.
For instance, retired racing Greyhounds generally only require 2-4 cups of food a day and they weigh 60-70lbs.
Even though sighthounds are narrow, they can still become too thin.
Severely underweight Greyhound
These Greyhounds are in the proper weight.
Salukis often appear even lighter than Greyhounds, but they too can be terribly underweight.
Dogs that require extra calories aren't limited to breeds but rather activity level.
Dogs are the same as people in the sense that how much they eat depends entirely on the individual and their activity level. In my experience, sometimes when a dog is overly hyper, it can actually be an indication that it needs more calories and is suffering from stress. For instance, have you ever been so hungry that you begin to feel anxious or shaky?
It's fairly safe to say that a dog with a daily job to do (hunting, herding, competetive sports etc.) will on average require more calories than one that simply watches TV all day with its owner. But there are many busy, active dogs that expend a great deal of energy even if they are kept in the house all day. If your dog does a lot running up and down stairs, uses your furniture as a jungle gym, gets anxious, cold, or nervous, he most likely uses more energy than an average dog and it's possible he should be fed more than a laid back dog of the same size. At the same time, it should be noted that giving an already energetic dog extra calories can create excess energy and lead to behavior issues.
When a dog isn't getting enough to eat, his focus will be on his next meal, which can make for some behavior that is annoying to us but is a desperate attempt to our dogs. Behavior such as running to the bowl every time you get up, becoming overly possessive of food, stealing food when he never used to, and obsessively licking an empty bowl are all signs that your dog may need more food. On the opposite end, these behaviors can also be seen as dominant, bad habits your dog has formed. So again, it depends on the individual dog. If you are unsure of why your dog is acting this way, get a second opinion.
Horses for example will "fret" when they aren't getting enough to eat. This means that the hungrier they are, the more they move, which is most likely a panic driven instinct to get moving and look for food. And it becomes a vicious cycle.
Severely underweight dogs are sick in more ways than one. They aren't getting the proper nutrition to keep everything functioning properly and it's only a matter of time before they begin suffering from health ailments. They are also not in a proper mental or emotional state and will begin to rely on their survival instincts more and more.
Dogs also put weight on differently depending on their age. A 6 month - 1 year old puppy is going to be lankier, whereas a 4-5 year old is going to appear more "filled out". But neither are necessarily underweight or overweight for their age.
If you feel that you are feeding your dog plenty and he/she is still not putting on weight, there could be an underlying health problem such as parasites, bad teeth, diabetes or the brand of food you are feeding may not be right for your dog. Consult a veterinarian if this is the case.
Healthy Vizsla. Vizslas have a thinner than average body type, but notice how this dog's ribs are not showing and the muscles are visible.
Severely underweight Dalmatian.
For dogs with long hair or thick coats, it can be hard to tell just by looking if they are underweight. So if you have a breed like that, make sure you can feel the ribs easily through a thin layer of fat and make sure hip and back bones are not protuding. This Malamute mix is unfortunately past the point of not knowing.
Boxer in excellent condition
Underweight Italian Greyhound
Healthy Iggy (as their owners often refer to them :) )
I honestly don't know very many dog owners who don't want the best for their dog. The problem clearly doesn't always lie in uncaring owners but rather owners who are unaware, for whatever reason, that their dog is too thin or too heavy.
When deciding if you need to cut back on food or be more generous with it, it's extremely important to not just go off of what you read, but to get the opinion of your vet or someone who knows your dog personally.
Lastly, here is a weight chart by Purina to compare your dog to.
Dog Weight Chart
Thanks for reading!
(I do not take credit for any photos used in this post!)