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Keeping On Top of Your Raw Fed Dog's Weight
Julie Austin Photography

For Christmas, I bought the dogs a ton of toys, some chews, and a scale.  One thing I learned in 2017 is that people think my dogs are horribly overweight.  I used to get so pissed off by this statement because my dogs aren't fat, well, Sydney and Zoey can stand to lose some weight, but Rodrigo and Scout are fit as a fiddle.

And then I started paying attention to discussions in my raw feeding group and realize that the reason people think my boys are overweight is that they can't see their ribs.  While I thought dogs that had visible ribs were either sick, naturally underweight, or starved.

Huge Disconnect Here!

So for Healthy Pet Week, I thought I would write about my dogs' weight and why I get so offended when people call my dogs fat.

Purina’s Body Condition Chart
Credit: Courtesy of Nestle Purina PetCare Co.

Body Condition Score for Dogs

There are several body condition score charts online and I've found the most useful one to be the above image created by Purina – go figure.  I like it because it shows us the side of the dog as well as an image looking down at the dog.  From this image, the “Ideal” weight doesn't show ribs.  The two that show ribs are emaciated and thin – I've been shooting for “Ideal” and I thought I had achieved that weight with Rodrigo and Scout.  And I was proud that Sydney and Zoey are “Heavy” instead of “Grossly Obese.”

All this time, I thought my dogs were healthy (according to Purina?) while others saw fat dogs.

Why I Hate When People Call My Dogs Fat

I hate when people call my dogs fat because (1) two of my dogs are in great shape and (2) because they rarely ask why my dogs are fat or offer suggestions on how to help them trim down to a healthier weight.

Sydney's Weight Loss Journey - October 2017 - seven years old
Sydney at 82 pounds

When Sydney suffered an injury a few years ago, I failed to adjust her diet to account for the decrease in her activity while she recuperated and she gained weight.

Zoey is heavy because I screwed up with her too.  I used to walk the dogs regularly and after an accident where a man released his dog to come play with mine (I got hurt pretty badly) I began to stay home.  While Rodrigo and Scout are active no matter where we are, Zoey is hesitant to play fetch with them and tends to just wander on her own and she was getting less exercise.  I should have decreased her food.

And, to be honest, I get mad because I know my girls are heavy, I'm doing the work to help them lose weight, and when people remind me that they're fat, it's a reminder that I screwed up big time.  So I'm really mad at myself.

I Purchased a Pet Scale

Keep on top of my dogs' weight is a nightmare.  Taking all four dogs to the vet for a weigh-in was never easy and I never felt comfortable that the scales were accurate.  And I tried weighing them at home on my scale (weigh myself, then pick a dog up and weigh us together) and it turns out that this is less than accurate.

So I purchased a scale for the dogs.  Weighing them from a machine meant for dogs and being able to trust the results is heaven!

The scale isn't perfect. It doesn't freeze on a weight like the scales at the vet's office, so you're still picking a number; but instead of the results being off by 10 pounds, it's off by one pound.  And Zoey is afraid of the scale, so I give her a small piece of jerky before and after she gets on the scale.

What My Dogs Weigh Today

I've been weighing the dogs for a few weeks and I'm excited to say that Sydney has dropped 2 pounds.  My dogs weigh in as follows:

  • Rodrigo – Mixed Breed* – 64 pounds
  • Sydney – Mixed Breed* – 79 pounds
  • Scout – Mixed Breed* – 82 pounds
  • Zoey – Mixed Breed*- 72 pounds

*I tested the dogs using the Embark Vet DNA/Health tests: CLICK HERE to see their breed mixes.

Goal Weights:

  • Rodrigo – 64 pounds **10/23/19 Update: 53 lbs
  • Sydney – 74 pounds **10/23/19 Update: 70 lbs
  • Scout – 80 pounds **10/23/19 Update: 72 lbs
  • Zoey – 65 pounds **10/23/19 Update: 60 lbs

How Much My Dogs Eat

The subject of how much I feed my dogs is controversial because people don't always agree with the percentages.  I like to remind people that every dog is different and my dogs are under the care of a holistic veterinarian who is experienced in raw feeding.  I'm comfortable with my choices.

  • Rodrigo – 3.5% of his body weight = 2.24 pounds per day or 1.12 pounds per meal
  • Sydney – 2.0% of her body weight = 1.58 pounds per day or 12.6 ounces per meal
  • Scout – 2.5% of his body weight = 2.05 pounds per day or 1.025 pounds per meal
  • Zoey – 2.0% of her body weight = 1.44 pounds per day or 11.52 ounces per meal

I'm feeding my girls less than the number before and making up the difference with vegetables to help them feel full.  I've also added coconut oil (grass-fed butter for Sydney) to their meals to boost their metabolism.  I do not add the fat in addition to their meals, it's included in the totals above.

What Does a Fit Dog Look Like

All of this information does me no good unless I know what a fit dog looks like so I asked friends to share pictures of their dogs for comparison.  Kathryn Li shared images of her dogs Gus and Douglas.  Gus is 35 pounds and Douglas is 105 pounds.

Fit Raw Fed Dogs: Gus, 35 lbs, hanging out at the beach
Gus, 35 lbs – shared by Kathryn Li

To me, Gus is the perfect example of a raw fed dog and what I strive for with my dogs.  I don't see ribs, but you can tell that you would feel them under the skin when petting the dog.  There is a nice tuck in the tummy area and no hanging skin.

Douglas, 105 lbs, standing on a hill on a beautiful sunny day.
Douglas, 105 lbs – shared by Kathryn Li

Douglas is also rocking that fit body that I'm striving for with my dogs.  Again, you can't see pronounced ribs (which are easier to see in certain breeds, but not all), there is a nice tuck, and there is muscle definition.

With these examples and others, I have a goal for my girls and I feel more confident about my boys.  I'm mean, really, do these guys look grossly overweight to you?

Scout Running Across Our Property
Scout at 82 pounds
Rodrigo Running with a Puller Ring
Rodrigo at 62 pounds

More Fit Raw Fed Dogs

*Sorry, I don't have a clear picture of Zoey so that you can see her current shape. She sits in all of the pictures I take of her.

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