Is my dog too thin?


Vet John Burns advises on what your dog's ideal body shape should be...

(Q) My rescue Staffie pup, George, is fit and healthy, but doesn't seem to eat very much. I can see his ribs and I get comments from other dog owners that he's too skinny. 

(A) Vet John Burns says: So many dogs are overweight that a lean dog now attracts criticism for being too thin. This is what is happening to you. It is obvious that George is eating enough for his own needs even if he isn't satisfying yours. Better that he should be healthy even if he is a bit ribby - he will fill out in time.

Another plus is that he isn't obsessive about food. I find it mentally draining if my dog is looking hopefully for food and I know he doesn't need it. There is room for improvement in his diet even if his weight shouldn't be a concern.

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Giving lots of treats and sausage rolls will not encourage him to eat a proper meal so I suggest you drop them and concentrate on feeding him a nutritionally balanced canine diet. A highly digestible complete dry food will ensure that what he does eat will be absorbed rather than passed undigested.

You could try a food intended for growing dogs. This has more fat than a food specifically for adult dogs. Or you could give a few cooked eggs each week. But don't lose sight of the fact that he is happy and that fattening him up may cause health problems.

A dog's ideal body shape

According to a recent PDSA Animal Wellbeing (PAW) Report, only three per cent of owners can identify the ideal healthy body shape of a dog. Here's how you can keep an eye on your dog's weight.

  1. When looking at your dog from above, there should be a slight narrowing between the end of his ribcage and his hips, giving him a noticeable waist.
  2. Looking at your dog's profile, the line of his undercarriage should curve from the end of the ribs towards the groin. This is more pronounced in deep-chested breeds such as the Greyhound and Whippet.
  3. When stroking your hands along the side of your dog's body you should be able to feel each rib easily, although they shouldn't be visually prominent. Check your dog's weight regularly.