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all articles by Lisa Lafferty unless otherwise noted.  Some previously published on K9Station (defunct) under author's previous name Lisa Giroux

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Dog Body Weight:  Is Your Dog Fat, Skinny or Fit?

by Lisa Lafferty

Importance of Dog Body Weight

Optimum weight: 

  • Allows your dog to enjoy a longer lifespan

  • Allows your dog to be active with comfort

  • Prevents early onset of age-related arthritis

  • Allows dogs with skeletal or joint problems (healed injuries, elbow and hip dysplasia, etc) to suffer less painful symptoms


  • Shortens your dog's lifespan.

  • Dramatically increases the chance of early-onset, painful arthritis (especially in larger breeds).

  • Increases problems with skeletal or joint problems such as healed injuries or dysplasia, by placing more stress on the areas. 

  • Overweight is usually combined with under-fit, which can cause activity issues such as no stamina, breathing problems, heart problems, etc


  • Leaves no reserve during illnesses

  • Usually combined with under-fit

  • Rarely seen except in extreme cases of neglect.

How to Tell if Your Dog is Overweight, Underweight, or Fit

Perform the following "touch test" on your dog:

  1. Place your hands flat on both sides of the dog's body over the ribcage.  Now rub lightly.  Can you feel the ribs?

  2. Stand your dog and position yourself behind him.  Now place your hands on either side of his body on the ribcage.  Run your hands all the way down his body, stopping at the hip bones.  Can you feel a "dip" or "waistline" between where his ribs stop, and his hips begin?

  3. Stand your dog and place your hand on the underside of his ribcage, under his chest.  Run your hand along the underside of his body into the groin area.  Is there a "tuck-up" past where his ribcage ends and his groin begins?

Overweight:  Ribs not easily felt, waistline not easily felt, tuck-up not easily felt.

Fit weight:  Ribs easily felt, waistline easily felt, tuck-up easily felt.

Underweight:  Ribs prominent (to the eye on short-haired dogs, to the hand on long-haired dogs), waistline extreme with "hollow" appearance, tuck-up extreme with "hollow" appearance.  Spine prominent.

Note:  Prominent hipbones are not necessarily an indication that a dog is underweight.  Depending on the rear assembly (the way that the spine, tail, hips and back legs join together) even a very fat dog can have quite prominent hips.  Breeds such as most herding breeds, sighthounds, and curly-tailed breeds can have hipbones that are easily seen/felt during normal circumstances.



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Lisa & Kerry Lafferty  /  ozarklisa@gmail.com  /    Mountain Home, Arkansas