How to know if your large-breed puppy is too skinny - Dr. Marty Becker

How to know if your large-breed puppy is too skinny

Thursday, Aug 4th, 2016 | By Dr. Marty Becker

adorable rottweiler puppy posing outdoors in summer

What do you do if your dog’s breeder, someone in the dog park, a family member, or a friend think your growing puppy needs to put on some weight? Here’s what I told a reader who had that exact question!

Q: My vet says my 9-month-old Rottweiler is in good shape and not too skinny, but the breeder wants me to put more weight on him. What should I do?

A: I’m with your veterinarian. Large-breed dogs such as Rottweilers need to grow slowly to help prevent development of orthopedic problems such as hip dysplasia. Forcing the still-developing musculoskeletal system to carry too much weight can cause serious problems.

There are a couple of different feeding options for puppies who will be super-size at maturity. You can feed a puppy or adult food formulated specifically for large dogs. These diets tend to be lower in energy and calcium, allowing for slower growth. You can also feed a regular puppy food, but give a little bit less of it.

My colleague, Dr. Tony Buffington, a veterinary nutrition expert, recommends feeding growing dogs to a body condition score of 2, which is lean. When you put your hands on your dog, he should have good muscle mass, but you should be able to feel the skeleton easily without having to press through a heavy layer of fat. When you look at your dog from the side, his abdomen should be tucked up. When you look down at him, he should have a pin-up girl hourglass figure, with his body having an indentation behind the ribs and then flaring out again where the hips are.

Keeping a growing dog in this condition minimizes the risk of developmental orthopedic disease. The caveat here is that genetics and trauma can also contribute to development of orthopedic disease, so you’re not always in the clear, even if you feed your dog right.

It’s also important not to add vitamin or mineral supplements to your Rottweiler’s diet. That can throw off the balance of his food and cause orthopedic problems as well.

More, including dock dogs and pet goats, in this week’s Pet Connection!