Is my dog too skinny? Answering this question can not only help you decide whether you might be over or underfeeding your dog; it can also tell you whether your pet might need to be seen by the veterinarian.

Here's how to tell if a dog is too skinny, what might be causing your dog to lose weight and what being skinny means for your dog's health.

Is My Dog Too Skinny?

Many people have a hard time judging what's a healthy weight for dogs. This is likely due to the prevalence of dog obesity, which has led many dog parents to view overweight dogs as being at a normal weight, explains the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. As a result, dog parents might see dogs who are at a healthy weight as too thin, which can lead to overfeeding them.

How to Tell If a Dog Is Too Skinny

Tufts University suggests having either a veterinarian or a certified veterinary nutritionist check your dog's body condition score. This score offers an overall assessment of a dog's body fat, similar to the body mass index for humans.

If they're at a healthy weight, your dog will have a body condition score of 4 or 5 on a scale from 1-9 (or a 3 on a scale from 1-5). Dogs with these scores appear lean, with a clearly visible waistline when viewed from above, and an abdomen that's tucked up and not even with or pooching past the rib cage. You should be able to feel their ribs beneath a thin layer of fat.

Why Is My Dog So Thin?

If you feel that your dog is too thin, you should consult your veterinarian. They will assess your dog's body condition to either confirm your suspicions or put your mind at ease. And if your dog is underweight, it could be a sign of a larger health problem that needs to be addressed. Apart from starvation and improper care, here are the biggest reasons dogs tend to be underweight.

Poor Nutrition

If your dog is too skinny, one of the first things to check is that you're feeding them properly. Be aware that not all dog foods are created equal in terms of calories and nutritional value. Depending on the manufacturer and brand, one cup of dry dog food can contain anywhere from around 200 to 600 calories, says Tufts University. So while you might think one cup a day is plenty for your pooch, it's possible their food isn't meeting their daily calorie requirement.

Some commercial dog foods also use improperly balanced and/or poor-quality ingredients that don't provide your dog with adequate nutrition. Check with your veterinarian for their recommendation on a high-quality dog food, and be sure to check the number of calories per cup to be sure you're giving your dog the correct amount for their size and activity level. Ask your veterinarian if you're not sure how many calories your dog should be getting each day.

Getting Your Dog to a Healthy Weight

If your dog has an underlying illness, proper treatment may help restore them to a healthy weight. Depending on the condition and your veterinarian's treatment plan, this might include switching your dog's food to a therapeutic formula. Your veterinarian will give you guidance on how much to feed your dog to help them achieve a healthy weight. For very thin dogs, veterinarians might also provide a high-calorie option to help them gain weight more quickly.

If your dog is otherwise healthy, adjusting their daily meal plan to ensure they're getting the proper amount of calories and balanced nutrition should gradually restore them to a healthy weight.

Jean Marie Bauhaus Jean Marie Bauhaus

Jean Marie Bauhaus is a pet parent, pet blogger, and novelist from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she usually writes under the supervision of a lapful of fur babies.