A gradual loss of weight in a dog is okay and even beneficial if it is expected or there is an obvious reason for it (such as an increase in exercise or a deliberate change of diet). Unexplained rapid weight loss, however, is a concern and should be checked by your veterinarian as soon as you become aware of it.
For example a loss of 2 kg on an average person over a few weeks is generally insignificant. The same amount of weight on a 20 kg dog equates to 10% of their body weight and may indicate an underlying disease process.
There are some useful charts available that are a helpful guide to know the ideal weight for your pet. Click here to view the ideal bodyweight range for your dog by breed.
Please note: there can be significant variation between genetic lines within each breed and it can be difficult to predict the ideal weight of a cross-bred dog due to the presence of 2 or more breeds in its lineage.
The easiest way to assess your dog’s ideal weight is to follow a few simple steps:
All of the above aspects are jointly used to determine a ‘body condition score’ (see below diagram). Your veterinary team will be able to advise you on the ideal weight for your dog once the condition score is assessed. As indicated below, the ideal condition score is a 3.
As soon as you notice a loss in weight, especially over a short period of time it is important to get your dog checked by your veterinarian.
Some things to think about prior to your visit that may assist your veterinarian in determining the cause of the weight loss include the following questions.
2. When did you first notice the weight loss?
3. Has your dog had access to any toxins?
It is also helpful to know what medications your dog is receiving in regards to the prevention and control of intestinal worms, fleas and heartworm.
Your veterinarian will perform a thorough physical examination of your dog. From the clinical examination and history, a plan can then be formulated for the next step in the diagnostic process. Often a blood, urine or stool sample may be collected to assess your pet’s internal organs and general health.
Depending on the condition of your pet and the results from any initial diagnostic tests, further treatment and/or tests may be recommended. This could include admission into hospital for intravenous fluids and appropriate medical treatment, and further diagnostic tests such as radiography and/or ultrasonography.
Apart from weight loss due to dehydration, rapid weight loss also occurs when your dog has a negative caloric balance. This means that the body is not receiving the necessary calories it needs to maintain a normal weight range. There are several conditions that could cause this including:
The examples given are not an exhaustive list of diseases or problems causing rapid weight loss. Your vet will be able to give you more appropriate information and relevant treatment protocols once they have examined your dog and performed the appropriate diagnostic tests.
There are many reasons why a dog can lose weight rapidly so it is important that you take your dog to the vet as soon as you notice unexplained weight loss, as some of these conditions may be serious but many can also be treated successfully, especially if detected early.
It is recommended to visit your vet every 6 months once your dog is aged over 7 years old (which is roughly the equivalent of 50 human years). This allows for early detection and treatment of disease processes that may otherwise lead to weight loss and ill health in your dog.