Weight is a tricky topic in the doggy kingdom. All dog breeds are different, and within each breed, weight varies between males and females. One Labrador Retriever can be healthy at 55 lbs, while another can be healthy at 80 lbs. There’s a massive range in play and sex is often the reason why.

What’s more, mixed breed dogs are particularly difficult to judge because there’s no baseline to measure them against.

That’s why it’s often best to make a judgement based on the naked eye, and for the purpose of this article, we’re going to rely on a system Purina has developed; one that we’ve summarized – and linked to – in the article below.

Rule number one: If your dog’s ribs are visible, he or she is underweight

Bones are a sign of malnourishment in all animals, and a dog whose ribs are on show is a surefire example of this. In fact, any visible boniness (be it the lumbar vertebrae or the pelvis) is a sign that your dog needs to eat more.

If your dog’s waist/gut hangs low and ribs can’t be discerned, he or she is likely overweight

Again, the ribs are a telltale indicator, and if they’re indiscernible, or only noticeable when you apply pressure to the body, you might be feeding your dog too much food. Moreover, dogs that are overweight often carry deposits of fat around their neck – and even at the base of their tail.

For a side-by-side visual comparison of underweight and overweight dogs, take a look at the Purina Body Condition System chart.

What do I do if my dog is overweight?

The first and most obvious course of action is to increase the amount of exercise your dog is doing. Make walks a daily priority and invest in toys he or she can play with around the house.

Second, consider buying calorie-controlled “weight management” food from reputable outlets and seeing whether this has an effect.

Third, restrict the number of treats you give him/her – treats should account for no more than 10% of the daily calories ingested.

It’s always a good idea to get a professional’s opinion before you change things up, though. Ask your local vet to assess your dog; this will allow you to rule out the possibility of a medical condition causing the problem in the first place.

What if my dog is underweight?

Ironically, many of us are so concerned with excess weight gain that are dogs are often more likely to be too thin rather than too fat.

Again, consult a professional for their opinion, as medical conditions are not only responsible for weight gain – but extreme fat loss too.

From here, up the meal sizes and the calorie content of said meals. There are plenty of high-calorie meal plans online you can browse if you’re unsure about the content of the food – and the quantity of it. That said, don’t feed your dog too many treats, as you want the weight gain to be gradual and healthy. Finally, don’t fall into the trap of pulling back on the exercise too much, as you want your dog to gain muscle and fat, not just the latter.

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