“I had no idea my dog didn’t weigh enough. Am I a bad person?” She wants to know if bad people raise thin dogs and is asking me??? Oh boy.
This is the note I received from a very loving, caring, dog mom a few months ago. Let’s call the dog mom “Wanda” for sake of anonymity. Wanda has a few dogs and she engages in many activities with them, has a pet sitter when she is away, someone to take them out when she works, and considers her dogs to be members of the family.
So why didn’t her dogs weigh enough? In fact, why did it come to Wanda’s attention only when the dogs’ veterinarian chose to say something to her? It was only then that Wanda realized her dogs were too skinny.
Underweight dogs are as much of an epidemic as overweight dogs, but the media and writers, in general, share more about portly pooches than we do thin ones. Trust me, I know: I wrote about overweight dogs just this week. So why the lack of attention for what is clearly a problem?
When we think of underweight dogs, we generally consider malnourished dogs that are saved by good Samaritans and either adopted or taken to a shelter. Consider the case of miracle dog, Patrick, whose abusive owner starved him oh so close to death, but his will to live and a team of caring people intervened.
Do you like someone telling you that you packed on a few pounds and it shows? The truth hurts and the same goes for our canine family members. “Your dog could afford to lose some weight” or “your dog is chubby” are comments none of us want to hear. I imagine it isn’t comfortable for a veterinarian to tell a client that their dog needs to lose weight. What if that client decides to cease coming to the practice? What if the client gets insulted? But what if the client listens and heeds the advice?
Underweight dogs of the world in loving homes need that same dedication and advice from those in the know. Right now, I personally know of a few dogs that are underweight. This is not my opinion, but rather, in following the “how do I know if my dog is the ideal weight” scale.
How to Determine a Dog’s Ideal Body Weight
The folks at Dog Food Advisor have a wonderful article on how to determine a dog’s ideal body weight. Rather than re-hash the entire article check it out and keep this key point in mind:
Most notably, do this for your dog on a regular basis. You’ll want to visually inspect your dog and then palpate, or touch, him or her.
According to the Body Condition System, your dog will be one of the following:
- Too thin
- Too heavy
You know those charts seen in human doctors’ offices that tell you what your ideal weight should be? The weights are different according to your bone structure and height, and often times, according to your age group. For a dog, however, you can get a general sense of their ideal weight using the Body Condition System.
What if a Dog Is Too Thin?
This is as much of a problem as a dog who is overweight. A malnourished dog is lacking the nutrients he or she needs to survive and thrive. If ribs are visible or bones are protruding from hips or ribs, this is a problem. A bloated abdomen and bleeding gums are also key signs of malnourishment.
We’ll spare the visuals of dogs that have been starved and/or malnourished, but the diagrams below are a pretty good assessment of what to look for, again according to the Body Condition System.
Are You a Bad Person?
If after reading this article, you assess your own dog(s) and find that there is an underweight issue, don’t beat yourself up. Maybe someone was afraid to say something to you; after all, it’s not fun to hear your dog is chubby and it can’t be heartwarming to hear your dog is too thin.
Taking weight off needs to be gradual, and putting weight on a dog has a set of guidelines, too.
Here’s an excellent article on caring for an emaciated dog from our friends at petMD.
Assuming (and hoping) your dog is not emaciated, here’s an excellent article from our friends at petMD on how much food in terms of calories your dog needs.
So while the Internet is resplendent with articles on overweight dogs, take a moment to think of all the dogs who aren’t eating enough. Maybe one of them is your dog. Talk to your dog’s veterinarian before making any dietary changes or adjustments, and even better, seek the assistance of a veterinary nutritionist.
Too thin is just as bad as overweight: For people and for pets.
Question: Are you aware of the underweight pet epidemic and has this issue ever crossed your mind?