Keeping Your Agility Dog’s Weight Healthy All Year

petiquetteWinter can be a hard time to keep our dogs and ourselves from gaining those extra pounds because we don’t adjust our calorie intake.  Or, maybe you live in a cold climate and feel bad for your dog in the cold so you up his intake.  It is important to maintain a healthy weight year round.  Some even say keeping your dog at the ideal weight can add as much as 1.8yrs to their life span.  That should be reason enough to pay close attention to your dog’s weight.  For some of us our dogs are active and self regulate their intake and do a darn good job.  However, many more dogs will stay at the dinner bowl all night eating if you allowed them.

So how do you monitor your dog’s weight?  While regular vet checks will give you a great baseline to follow, even the vet will rely more on observation and palpation than just what the scale says.  So you should learn how to do the same so you can keep your dog fit and trim between vet visits.  You should also be familiar with your dog’s breed characteristics as they may have variances in what you are looking for in your dog. (Below is a great visual guide as well.)

When you look at your dog from the side you should see the tummy tuck up from the chest to the flank, not level with or worse hanging below the chest.  The ribs should not be visible, but you should be able to easily feel them through a thin covering of flesh like a blanket covering them.  Keep in mind that some breeds such as the Greyhounds and Whippets should show ribs at the ideal weight.  Other breeds may show the last few ribs when in top condition.  Coated breeds will require you to palpate them as you will not be able to see much under their coats.  If your dogs ribs and spine are protruding or on a coated dog are well defined to your touch, your dog is under weight.

Next look at your dog from above and you should see a visible curve in at the waist but the hipbones should not severly protrude.  Again, depending on the coat of your dog you may need to palpate in order to be sure your dog is at proper weight.  If from above your dog looks like a barrel with no waist or worse a beach ball with legs, they are severely over weight. If your dog’s hips protrude sharply it is a good sign your dog is under weight.

Just like in people obesity will cause serious health problems in dogs of all ages.  That excess weight puts unnecessary stress on bones and joints, strains the heart as well as other organs, crowds the lungs making breathing a chore as well as running an agility course a health risk.  And while dog agility is a great way to get you and your pooch in shape, you should not expect an obese dog to take on the challenge, risking injury to joints and ligaments as well as heart attack.  Get your dog’s weight closer to the ideal with diet change, exercise and advise from your vet.

In the same realm, malnourished and underweight dogs have their own set of risks.  They are lacking crucial nutrients, energy and protein that can lead to serious nutritional issues.  Under weight dogs are also more prone to chill as well as dehydration.  They too should be brought closer to the ideal weight, slowly, with careful monitoring of your vet before taking on a high intensity sport such as dog agility.  In severe cases, the signs of malnourishment include a bloated abdomen, bleeding gums, and an emaciated body with ribs clearly visible.

If you find your dog needs to either lose or gain weight the best thing to do is contact your vet or trusted breeder and work on a diet plan that will safely bring your dog to the ideal weight.  Just adding to or taking away your dog’s current feed may not be the right thing to do.  Your dog may need a higher protein or lower calorie food in order to maintain safe nutrient levels.  Play it safe and keep your dog trim and healthy so they can enjoy their time on the agility course with you.