“My dog is 105 pounds of solid muscle.”
We hear this often in Weim circles. Yet almost anyone that is involved in Weimaraners as a breeder or in any of the various performance venues will tell you that “105 pounds” and “solid muscle” simply cannot describe the same dog.
I don’t mean to offend —- but let’s be honest here. The Weimaraner standard allows for females to be 22-26” at the withers (highest point of the shoulder) and for males to be 24-28” when measured the same way. While the AKC does not specify a weight, the standard does stress moderation and an ideal specimen should “present a picture of grace, speed, stamina, alertness, and balance. Above all, the dog’s conformation must indicate the ability to work with great speed and endurance in the field.”
We stress endlessly about our own health and want the best for our dogs, too. The best thing you can do for yourself is also the best thing you can do for your Weim — keep him or her at a healthy weight. Why? Well, to keep him looking like a Weim, for one. Sleek, well-muscled, the picture of health. But the risks of keeping your dog even 10-15 pounds overweight are pretty scary:
- Increased risk of hip dysplasia
- Arthritis related to inactivity and stress on bones, joints, and ligaments
- Ligament tears and joint instability
- Disc disease and back problems
- High blood pressure, heart disease, and valve problems leading to congestive heart failure
- Difficulty breathing due to increased abdominal girth (in extreme cases), leading to a cycle of inactivity
- Decreased stamina
- Heat intolerance (polar bears have loads of fat, but it’s not too helpful for your dog!)
- Decreased liver function/elevated liver enzymes (it’s called “fatty liver” for a reason!)
- Increased surgical risk
- Increased risk with anesthesia
- Reproductive problems: difficulty carrying and delivering puppies, decreased libido, etc
- Decreased immune function (the cause of this is unknown, but overweight dogs seem to have trouble with recovering from both viral and bacterial infections)
- Skin and coat problems
- Increased risks of certain cancers
- Decreased quality and length of life. Do we REALLY need to say more?!
So here’s the deal. Most people have never seen what “solid muscle” looks like. We’ll show you:
Compare to this dog, who has also been described as “solid muscle”:
How Do You Know if Your Weim is Too Fat?
Look at her when she’s standing normally. You should see a noticeable tuck-up behind her ribs. Stand above her and look down. Your dog should have a definite “hourglass” shape, with hips, waist, and ribcage clearly defined. Her spine should be easy to find, not covered by fat. The muscles that run alongside the spine should be strong and lean. Run your hands along her ribcage. What do you feel? There is only a thin layer of muscle covering the ribs, so anything you feel on top of your dog’s ribs is (surprise!) fat!
The muscles of your Weim’s shoulders and thighs should be well-defined and firm to the touch. When she sits, is there a little roll or dimple that collects at the base of his tail? There shouldn’t be! This last test especially pertains to females: When she’s sitting, does she get a “roll” in her lower abdomen? Or does her belly look sleek and hard? Spayed and older females will often have a little tummy, but (just like us!) if you can grab a handful, Baby Girl needs to go on a diet. Dogs have six-pack abs under there, too!
Now that we’ve convinced you that you should see some rib 🙂 we’ll tell you how to do it. Just like you, your Weim will feel her best — in the form of more energy and better focus — when she drops those extra pounds.
- Learn what a healthy Weim looks like and admit that yours may be carrying some extra poundage. The first step is the hardest! Pfizer found that while 47% of vets noted that dogs in their practice were obese, only 17% of those dogs had owners who agreed. Wow!
- Take a trip to the vet if your Weim is carrying more than 10-15 extra pounds. Just like people, you need to make sure your dog is healthy enough to start a weight loss program. Don’t let your vet talk you into a “special” diet though, unless your dog has a legitimate medical condition. Your dog’s “regular” food will be just fine — when fed correctly!
- Look at your dog’s bag of food. The feeding guidelines are there for a reason — follow them! Get a measuring cup and use it! No more guessing! If you are already feeding per the bag’s guidelines then feed a bit less. The bag is a guideline and not all dogs have the same kind of metabolism. Often this step alone will help your dog drop the extra pounds. Split this amount into two feedings a day. No free feedings!
- Make a plan, and talk to all members of your family about your plan. Nobody can sneak Baby Girl treats!
- If your dog acts hungry (She will, she’s a Weim!) add a filler. Green beans work great. Adding some water to your dog’s food also helps him feel full and may help prevent bloat associated with excessive water intake after a meal.
- Cut out treats. Just kidding! But do make them healthy: broccoli florets, asparagus, carrots, apples, string cheese, low fat hot dogs. Yes, your dog will like these things!
- Exercise! And take your dog. Just as if you were starting an exercise program, begin slow and work up to your goal. Your dog’s fitness level will determine how you start exercising. Off leash walks can be great because all Weims love to smell and explore. Some of them just may do it slower than others.
- Weigh in to monitor your dog’s progress! Once a week or every other week is the best way to do this. Aim for a pound or two a week, depending on how much your dog has to lose.
– Alenza, DP; Rutterman, GR; Pena, L; et al. Relation between habitual diet and canine mammary tumors in a case-control study. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine. 1998;12:132-139.
– Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc. Nutrition and the Management of Weight Control. In Healthcare Connection: Clinical Module Level II: 117-154.
– Markwell, PJ. Canine Calorie Control. In: Applied Clinical Nutrition of the Dog and Cat. Waltham USA:1-15.
– Wolfsheimer, KJ. Obesity in dogs. The Compendium on Continuing Education for the Practicing Veterinarian. 1994:981-998.
– Wolfsheimer, KJ. Obesity. In Ettinger, SJ; Feldman, EC (eds): Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine. W.B. Saunders Co. Philadelphia, PA; 2000;70-72.
Next up… Why you should have a skinny puppy…
Photo of lean Weim is courtesy of SaraRenee Photos & Design