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Rib Check | Fall 2011 Out Here Magazine

Get hands-on to monitor your sporting dog's body condition

Reprinted courtesy of Nestle Purina Petcare
Illustrations by Tom Milner

Maintaining your hardworking dog with a healthy body condition is critical to its health and performance in the field.

Body condition is a way of estimating if your dog is too thin, just right, or over weight, without actually putting the dog on a scale to measure body weight.

This is important for two reasons: first, ideal body condition is associated with a healthy proportion of lean tissue (muscle) and body fat; and second, most pet owners probably don't have a scale that is ideally suited for our four-legged companions.

Very simply, the best way to monitor your dog's body condition will be to use your eyes and hands to observe subtle changes with your dog, as opposed to trying to get your dog on a scale on a weekly basis to monitor body weight.

Regularly observing your dog's body condition will assist you in assessing changes to your dog's calorie need as you progress through the season and all year long. Truly, it can be as simple as assessing body condition to make appropriate adjustments to your dog's daily feeding amount.

Three Key Things to Observe in an Ideal Body Condition

  • The "hourglass" shape of the body when viewed from above, with a narrowing at the abdomen. You can see in the illustration that the dog on the left has an ideal "hourglass" shape, whereas with the dog on the right, this is much less noticeable.

  • A tuck in the belly when viewed from the side is also a good indicator of ideal body condition.

  • Being able to slightly feel the individual ribs, possibly without being able to see the ribs. Of course this last characteristic will be dependent on your dog's coat.

  • You likely pet your dog daily; why not also pet down the dog's sides to feel the ribs? Undoubtedly, your dog will enjoy the attention, and you will be getting a good measurement of your dog's body condition.