Keeping your dog at a healthy weight is of utmost importance. Your dog not only looks his best at a weight that’s not too hefty and not too thin but is most likely in his prime health. Conversely, at a weight that is too thin or too heavy, it could be more than just eating too little or not getting enough exercise. An underlying medical issue could be present.
Can you feel a dog’s spine?
If you can’t feel your dog’s spine, he is definitely too fat. You should be able to feel a dog’s spine. However, you shouldn’t be able to feel your dog’s spine too much. There should be a thin layer of fat and muscle mass between his skin and spine.
Is it bad if you can feel a dog’s spine?
It’s not necessarily bad if you can feel your dog’s spine. It’s only bad if you can feel his spine too much. If there is no padding over his bones, or if his vertebrae are protruding, he is too thin. You should be able to feel a thin layer under the skin, covering the spine that’s made of muscle mass and fat.
Should I be able to feel a dog’s spine?
How much you are able to feel your dog’s spine is what’s important. Furthermore, some breeds of dogs are naturally skinnier than others, so their spines are going to be a little bonier than other breeds. The eight dog breeds that tend to be skinny include the Greyhound, the Kanni, the Ibizan hound, the Saluki, the Azawakh, the Pharaoh hound, the Sloughi, and the Whippet.
What should I do if I can feel my dog’s spine?
If you’ve discovered your dog is overweight or underweight, it may be time to ask yourself the reason why. Here are the steps you should take.
Ask yourself if there is an obvious reason for the weight change.
You should question yourself about whether you have made changes to your dog’s diet that would cause him to lose or gain weight. Have you started feeding him a new brand of dog food, changed the flavor of his food, or changed from wet to dry food?
Has there been any change to his exercise routine? Has he been spending more time inside? If there haven’t been any changes in his diet or activity level, maybe you should ask yourself if it has to do with your dog’s age.
Ask yourself whether your dog could be aging.
Your dog could be gaining weight due to aging. When dogs age into their later years, they become less active. Being less active can easily cause them to gain weight.
Conversely, some dogs begin to lose their appetite as they become elderly. This usually just happens, similar to the way it happens in many elderly people, and there is often no apparent reason other than age. However, if it’s not his diet or activity that changes, and it’s not your dog’s age, it may be time to ask yourself a more somber question. Could your dog be ill?
Ask yourself whether there could be an underlying medical condition.
Weight loss or even weight gain can indicate an underlying medical condition. Dogs that are too thin have sometimes lost muscle mass; this loss could indicate conditions like intestinal parasites, heart disease, certain cancers, chronic stomach or intestinal inflammation, or kidney disease. If you feel your dog may be ill, take him for a visit with a veterinary doctor, who can make an informed diagnosis.
How can you tell if your dog is too skinny?
If you’re asking yourself whether your dog is overweight, underweight, or at an ideal weight, you must do an examination of your dog’s body to make an accurate determination.
Basic Weight Fitness Examination
Doing the following basic examinations can help you determine the general body fitness level of your dog. These exams will help determine whether your dog is overweight, just the right weight, or underweight.
Examine your dog’s sides.
Pay close attention to what you feel as you rub your hands firmly down your dog’s sides. You should be able to feel his ribs, but there should be a little padding in between his skin and ribs.
If you have trouble feeling your dog’s ribs at all, there is too much fat present on top of his ribs, meaning he is overweight. If you can feel your dog’s ribs too closely because there is no padding between his skin and ribs, he is too thin and is underweight.
Examine the base of your dog’s tail.
Pay close attention as you feel the base of your dog’s tail. It should be smooth, and you should be able to feel a thin layer of fat.
If you can feel no bones but only a large amount of fat, your dog is too heavy. If the bones poke out and there is no layer of fat and muscle, your dog is too skinny.
Examine your dog’s spine.
Pay close attention to what you feel as you rub your hands firmly but gently down your dog’s spine. You should be able to feel the bones of the spine, but there should be some padding of muscle mass over the vertebrae.
If you have trouble feeling your dog’s bones at all, he is carrying extra fat and is overweight. Conversely, if the bones of your dog’s spine are protruding with no padding over each vertebra, he is too skinny and is underweight.
Examine your dog’s waist.
Pay close attention to what you see when looking at your dog’s waistline while towering over him. You should see a visible waistline starting just behind his ribs.
If you can’t see a visible waistline, or if his ribs and hips protrude, he is too fat. If your dog’s waistline and his rib bones are extremely visible, he is too skinny.
Examine your dog’s belly.
Pay close attention to what you see when looking at your dog’s stomach from the side. You should see that the area behind his ribs tucks gradually up in between the back legs.
If your dog has no visible tuck past the ribs, or you observe low-hanging fat, he is too heavy. If your dog’s abdomen tucks severely just past the ribs, he is too skinny.
Canine Body Condition Scoring
You have probably discussed your BMI (Body Mass Index) with your primary care physician. A BCS (Body Condition Score) is the dog’s equivalent of the BMI. It is a way of measuring how much body fat is present in a dog’s body. It will probably appear a bit more complex than the BMI scale, but the BCS is a great indicator of a dog’s physical fitness.
Body Condition Score 5-Point Scale
|BCS out of 5||Description|
Body Condition Score 9-Point Scale
|BCS out of 9||Description|
How Do I Assign My Dog a Score?
After doing the examination in the section above, healthy dogs will obviously score a 3/5 or (4-5)/9. You should feel some padding over the spine and ribs but be able to feel the bones. The base of the tail should be smooth, and you should feel a thin layer of fat.
A dog with a 5/5 or a 9/9 is quite obese. You can barely feel his spine and ribs, if at all, and you cannot feel the bones at the base of the tail. A dog with a 1/5 or 1/9 is much too thin. There is no padding at all over the bones of his spine and ribs, and the base of his tail is extremely bony and not smooth.
Look at your dog’s waist from above. A healthy dog’s waist should begin just past his ribs. If you cannot see an obvious waistline, or if your dog’s ribs and hips protrude, he is going to score at least a 4/5 or 7/9. If his waistline and ribs are too obvious, he is going to score a minimum of 2/5 or 3/9.
Observe your dog’s stomach from the side. A dog’s belly should begin to tuck just past the ribs and gradually up in between the back legs. If you see low-hanging fat, or you cannot see an obvious tuck just past the ribs, he is going to score at least a 4/5 or 7/9. If his abdomen tucks severely past his ribs, he will score a minimum of 2/5 or 3/9.
A visual BCS chart and more detailed descriptions are available on this VCA Animal Hospitals page.
Why is my dog skinny in the back?
If your dog’s back is visually skinny, he may be too thin. There should be a layer of padding made of fat and muscle mass between the skin and the bones of the ribs and spine. If this layer is not present, your dog is too skinny.
He could be too thin for more than one reason. It could be his diet. Have you changed his diet — started buying him a new brand or flavor of dog food that he doesn’t like very much? Has his activity level changed? Has he been injured and unable to exercise as he normally does? Has he started eating less due to age or spending more time indoors for the same reason?
Hopefully, your dog isn’t sick. When a dog is ill, he, many times, will lose his appetite and begin to lose weight. This issue should be immediately addressed by a licensed veterinarian. Some serious conditions that could cause weight loss include chronic or intestinal inflammation, intestinal parasites, heart disease, kidney disease, or certain cancers.