How to Maintain a Healthy Weight for Your Dog

Learn how to establish and maintain a healthy weight for your dog through proper diet and nutrition.

Mar 3, 2024By Donna Hobson
how to maintain a healthy weight for your dog

Dogs must maintain a healthy weight to lead active and fulfilling lifestyles. Achieving the right balance involves adequate daily exercise and a nutritious diet. Still, getting this balance right can be challenging, so you must monitor your dog's body condition and modify its fitness regime as necessary.

Discover what a healthy weight looks like for your dog and how providing the right balance of nutrition can help maintain this. In addition, learn the signs of an underweight or overweight dog and how to address these issues.

What Is a Healthy Weight For Your Dog?

happy healthy corgi lying in grass
Credit: Image by Csilla Ozsvath on Pixabay

An ideal weight is not as simple as achieving a certain number on a scale. If you take your dog to the vet, they won't determine body health by weight alone; they'll also use muscle condition scoring and body condition scoring to assess your puppy's overall health.

If you own a purebred dog, the American Kennel Club offers an extensive guide to the ideal weight for each breed. But, if you're one of the millions of dog owners with a mixed-breed canine, then scales and charts can only go so far.

Instead, you need to check your dog's overall body condition, paying attention to any sudden weight loss or gain and any changes to their overall body shape. If your dog is an ideal weight, you should be able to feel the ribs without excess fat covering them, and the abdomen should be tucked in.

A 2002 study by Purina and a group of animal nutritionists found that a properly balanced diet could increase a dog's lifespan by up to two years - a considerable percentage of their total lifespan.

Continue reading to examine the best ways to monitor your dog's body condition and use these tips alongside twice-yearly vet visits to maintain optimum health.

Signs That Your Dog Is Underweight

thin skinny dog
Credit: Image by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke on Pixabay

Canine obesity is rising, but that's not the only problem regarding a dog's weight. An underweight dog can also experience several health issues, which can have a long-term impact. Some common signs of an underweight dog include:

  • A bony appearance even from a distance.
  • Ribs, vertebrae, or pelvic bones that are visible beneath the skin.
  • Noticeable loss of muscle mass.
  • Lack of body fat beneath the skin.

If your dog becomes severely underweight, the ribs will become easily visible and felt; the waist will protrude, and the abdomen will angle towards the rear rather than the back legs.

When you notice your dog is underweight, the first step is to check that you are feeding your dog the right amount of food. Next, pay attention to their eating habits; do they seem interested in food? Do they have a good appetite? Finally, try adjusting their diet to increase the nutritional content.

As you monitor your dog's eating habits, try to establish the cause of their weight loss. If there is no apparent reason, refer to your vet or nutritional specialist, who can check for any underlying illnesses that could be causing your canine to shed pounds.

Signs That Your Dog Is Overweight

golden retriever dog overweight
Credit: Image by Barbara Danázs on Pixabay

If your dog becomes severely overweight, you will see substantial fat deposits over the thorax, running from the neck down the spine. In addition, the abdominal tuck is absent; instead, the belly hangs down. You may also feel fat deposits around your dog's neck and legs.

Some early signs of an overweight dog include:

  • Fat-covered ribs which are difficult to feel.
  • Noticeable fat deposits between the pelvic bone and back ribs.
  • Your dog's waist is undefined and difficult to spot.

If you notice any of these signs, it's vital to take action to prevent your canine from becoming obese. These steps can include diet modifications and increased exercise. Still, before you make any significant changes, always talk to your vet.

To keep your dog safe, there are some foods you need to avoid altogether, including chocolate, onions, grapes, spinach, soya, and beetroot, as they are toxic to dogs and can lead to food poisoning. While other human foods are "safe," they must be kept in moderation.

Along with a balanced diet, you must ensure your dog gets enough exercise; ideally, aim for around 60 minutes per day of walking, running, and playing. This helps your dog to maintain a healthy weight while building muscle and strengthening their body.

Tips For Providing a Balanced Diet

dog lying down next to food bowl with kibble
Credit: Image by Mat Coulton on Pixabay

Maintaining a balanced diet is essential to your dog's long-term health. When choosing the right diet, you need to ensure it has a healthy balance of protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. The best way to ensure this balance is to purchase high-quality dog food; specially designed to meet your dog's nutritional needs. You can create your dog's meals from scratch, but you'll need to pay careful attention to the nutrition levels of each dish.

When you adopt a dog, ask the shelter or breeders about your puppy's diet and maintain the same routine until they are at least 16 weeks old. Avoid introducing new foods as they can easily cause stomach upsets, and feed your puppy little and often. Raw food is not suitable at this stage as your puppy does not yet have a developed enough immune system.

Once your pup reaches 16 weeks, you can start introducing new foods to their diet, carefully monitoring them for allergies or reactions. This is a good time to test out the best diet for your dog so that you can establish and maintain a routine throughout their adult life. Adult dogs only need food once to twice daily, so be mindful of this when you schedule their mealtimes.

At the age of six, your dog will approach seniority; this is a point where you will need to assess your dog's diet.

Donna Hobson
By Donna Hobson

Donna believes that keeping a pet is the key to a happy life. Over the years, many creatures have passed through her home - Sooty the cat, Millie the rabbit, Stuart (Little) the guinea pig, and Trixie the tortoise, alongside her pet goldfish, Zippy, who lived to the grand old age of 24 years! She currently resides with her black kitten Jinx and an aquarium full of fish and snails to entrance them both. When she is not looking after her pets, Donna enjoys researching and writing the answers to all your pet-related wonders.