Show Off Your Dog’s Waistline Campaign – Or, Shiva’s Lovely Lady Lumps

I typically consider all of my spaces, including this website, official diet-free zones. There is a lot of rhetoric out there and I am usually the first person to shut down any talk of body-size. Yes, I talk about exercising and getting out and being active, but this has nothing to do with trying to achieve a certain weight. Not for me, anyway. That line of thinking is pretty dangerous on a personal level and I just won’t go there. Regardless, I am shoving my internal misgivings aside to broach the unfriendly topic for an important cause.

Today I am participating in the Dawg BusinessShow Off Your Dogโ€™sย Waistlineย Campaign”. Blogger Jana Rade came up with the concept to raise positive awareness of the importance of weight management for our pets. With all the recent media around unfortunately overweight cats and dogs and with the numbers rising every year – especially for cats – I do think it is a serious topic for our animal companions. So many websites love to poke fun. Images of fat cats parade through Internet memes and commercials. They are all presented as an amusement, a hilarious “Garfield” stereotype.

In reality, joking about an overweight dog is about as funny as joking about an emaciated one. They are both worthy of concern.

In Jana’s post she shared a graphic showing the basic “Body Condition Scores” of dogs and cats. I’ve seen these charts before and many find them a useful way of gauging their dog’s health based on body size. According to the graphic, the ideal animal should have a score of 3 out of 5, ribs can be felt, and there is a slight waist when viewed from above.

It might just be my own dragons breathing fire on my brain, but I’ve personally found it difficult comparing my own pets with the images on the charts. Real dogs and cats have muscles and fur and legs that stick out in weird places. I have a lot of trouble deciding where exactly Shiva fits in. Looking at her from the side she looks like the first dog yet when I look at her from the top she is more of a number three. Given that I’ve always been told by random strangers on the street that Shiva is much too thin, I don’t know how to read this.

So, in other words, I decided to join in Jana’s Campaign for primarily selfish reasons: I really want to know if I am the only one who struggles understanding these things.

It was a lot harder getting Shiva to pose for a picture than I thought it would be. Maybe because I took it right after I got home from work but I couldn’t get her to stand still. None of the photos give a truly good idea of what her waist looks like. In the end, I had to put a peanut butter cracker on the floor in front of her to get her to quit wiggling. Does that defeat the purpose of a weight-related challenge?

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The Cat was surprisingly easier to photograph. Of course, his general poofiness makes it hard to actually see his waist so I tried to show it with a hand. This displeased him immensely so again I had to pull out a treat. I am not worried in the least about his weight as he has weighed the same for years. He is a large cat with a lot of fur but there isn’t one bit of fat on his body. We keep his bowl full and he eats when he’s hungry.

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I don’t know. I think it comes down to trusting your instincts. If your dog or cat is developing new health issues or has less energy than before, you might want to check with your veterinarian. Really your vet has probably been monitoring your pet’s weight anyway. If he or she hasn’t brought it up, you might be fine.

Dogs are individuals. As I said to a friend on Twitter earlier today, what is ideal for Shiva may not be ideal for your dog, and vice versa. If your dog is still running around after the ball for hours on end or if your cat is still chasing invisible mice at three in the morning (yes, felines get zoomies too) then you probably don’t have to worry. When in doubt, ask a veterinarian. I think that’s all anyone can do.

41 thoughts on “Show Off Your Dog’s Waistline Campaign – Or, Shiva’s Lovely Lady Lumps

    • For sure. I do think Shiva has gained a bit of weight in the last year. I can tell when i look at the photos. But I am not too worried about it. At around forty pounds she can handle it. I will check in with the vet at our next visit this spring and see what she thinks.

      I look forward to your post!

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  1. Seeing this pop up in lots of places today. I may have to make it my WW entry.

    Bella’s waist-line is a tad bigger than we’d like it to be but for us it’s a trade-off: treats and training vs. a few pounds overweight. (And literally, we’re talking 3 – 4 pounds in a ~60 lb dog). But we do watch what we feed her – she’s been at 57 lbs for a couple of years now. If she started to jump up in weight all of a sudden, we’d do something different. For now, we’ll stick with yummy treats to deal with her fear.

    I love this campaign though. I haven’t been able to read that story about the Doxie because I just can’t understand how someone could do that to their dog. It breaks my heart.

    I think Shiva and The Cat are looking pretty svelte. ๐Ÿ™‚

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    • That’s what I mean! It’s so hard to tell as each dog has specific needs. I think it’s especially hard when your dog is a mixed breed so there is no general standard to go by. We have no real idea of what a Shiva is supposed to look like in size. All we can do is go by her track record. I imagine it’s much the same with Bella.

      I didn’t realize Bella was so much larger than Shiva, though. I always assumed she was similar at around 40 pounds. She must have some height on her too then. Do you have any thoughts on her breed heritage? I usually consider myself good at guessing but Bella is a mystery for sure. Not that it really matters. ๐Ÿ™‚

      It breaks my heart too. It really bothers me when I see posts on the Internet treating such things as a joke. There is nothing funny about it at all to me.

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      • FTR, I totally gave up on trying to get a picture of Bella’s waistline. You weren’t kidding when you said that was harder than it looks!

        I realized when you were teaching Shiva to jump through your arms the size difference between our dogs. I’d have to be Wilt Chamberlain (you know who that is, right?) to have arms long enough for Bella to jump through. ๐Ÿ˜‰

        And yeah, that is such a good point about breed standards and how they can help with what a dog is supposed to look like. We do have the same issue there but I can tell Bella’s got a few too many pounds on her – she has ‘lady lumps’, as you called them, in a few places she shouldn’t. She is taller than you might think and should definitely be lankier than she is.

        (As for her breed, funny you should ask. I told that story waaaaaaaaay back when the blog first started: http://www.bringingupbella.com/2011/09/failing-test.html ) Trust me, it’s amusing.

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        • It is hard! I have no idea why as Shiva is usually pretty good at posing. I guess she’s just not used to me looming over her head like that.

          I admit, I had to Google him. ๐Ÿ˜› I’ve heard the name before and when I saw the photo I remembered, but I am not always good at keeping athletes sorted out in my brain. Especially basketball players. I know Michael Jordan and that’s pretty much it.

          Hahahahaha! That is hilarious! I can’t believe she failed it. I guess it’s just as bad as Shiva coming up as a Pomeranian on her test. It was nice of them to give you your money back!

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  2. Both my dogs have quite pronounced waists – probably more to do with their genetic makeup as they are both long-legged lanky animals!! Barbie’s ribs are more visible than Bender’s. I like to keep my dogs on the lean side, especially Bender as he’s starting to show signs of hip soreness after exercise and has had issues with his right wrist for years. I also think having a low body fat percentage helps them deal with the heat. A lovely side effect is that I can lift them more easily. Bender did get a bit of a chub up a little while ago and got close to 30kgs – which meant he was very hard for me to lift! Now he is back around 27 I think as we have cut down on his treaties a little. Barbie’s weight has barely changed, she put on a couple of KGs when she came to us and is probably around 25kgs now.

    Mittens is probably on the skinny side, she is fussy and I try hard to make sure she eats enough. She will probably be slightly heavier at her next vet visit but that’s a good thing. Frou was overweight when she was an exclusively inside cat and the vet warned us not to let her get any fatter, but since I have been allowing her outside time she is much better, though she now has a saggy belly. At 7 years old she is the oldest animal in the house.

    I think I might put some photos up. I bet people will say the dogs are a bit thin. That’s OK though, they eat well and have shiny coats/bright eyes and plenty of muscle mass.

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    • That’s true! One of the reasons I do think Shiva has gained a little weight in the last year is because she is slightly heftier to lift. I had no issue raising her 39-41 pound frame into my arms but I have noticed a bit of extra bulk lately. I’m not worried about it, she can handle it, especially in winter, but it’s definitely there.

      I think weight management is probably even more important in cats than it is in dogs. Dogs get outside and they are easier to exercise. Most cats live entirely indoors and if we don’t make an effort to keep them active, they can put on unhealthy weight quite quickly. Frou and Mittens are very lucky to have you looking out for them!

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  3. I think pet obesity is a tough subject but one of great importance and your right every pet is different and some hide their stealth body under a lot of hair, but what is important is what’s under that fur and how to find it. Looking at my dogs you would never see a waistline and that’s because your not suppose to, but if you take your hands and slide it along the side of their body you’ll feel their shape. Speaking to your vet is always the best way to go and hopefully most vets will provide tools to owners that they can use in achieving a healthy weight for their pet but owners have to be willing to use them!

    I think Shiva looks great and she gets to eat peanut butter treats, I would love to have her metabolism!

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    • Yay! I was able to catch this in my spam folder and approve it. Hopefully this will prevent other comments of yours from ending up there in the future. Jeepers.

      It’s true that it is up to the owner to utilise the tools that are available. That’s why I fully support this campaign. Hopefully it will get people talking about it and asking questions.

      I would love to have her metabolism too! She is still relatively young. It may change as she gets older, like mine did. ๐Ÿ˜›

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  4. I really like this campaign. But I, as well, have issues with the picture things to compare my animals’ weight to. According to those charts, Koira is underweight. But she isn’t. It is simply a combination of being a very in shape sporting dog and a build in which a waistline, ribs, and spine are easily visible. It would take a lot of extra weight to get rid of her ribs showing or make her waist just barely visible, instead of glaringly obvious. That doesn’t mean she is underweight, it means she is a body type different than that used for those silly pictures.

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    • Very true. As I mentioned in another comment above, I think it’s hard for those of us with mixed breed dogs as there is no breed standard to gauge by. Given how active your dogs are and how involved you are in their lives, I am pretty sure they are exactly where they need to be.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I will definitely check out your post!

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  5. It’s so hard to see Cali’s waistline – but it’s there! I agree, this is a very worthwhile campaign – I get really sad when I see overweight dogs and cats! I have to confess that my kitty Ashley doesn’t have much of a waistline . .but we like to blame it on the daily steroids that she has to take . .she is my little chub chub ๐Ÿ™‚ Your babies seem to be in great shape!! (no surprise!!)

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    • When you mix health problems into it there isn’t much you can do. Ashley has to take the steroids and that is much more important than an obvious waistline. I am sure your vet would agree!

      The Cat I can’t take any credit for. He manages his own weight and seems to understand precisely what he needs. I wish I had the same ability!

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  6. Oh neat….this is the first I’ve heard of this!

    (it seems like I used to be on top of everybody’s posts. Oh, January.)

    A good guideline I’ve heard on the Doberman board is that the last rib should be visible, and you should be able to feel the backbone when you run a hand down the dog’s spine, but not necessarily see it. Of course, this works for Dobermans, on whom you can see a bug bite from across the room, and not necessarily for all breeds.

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    • It definitely helps to have a breed standard to work off of. Elka is such a gorgeous dog and you have worked so beautifully with her. I have no doubt you will make all the best decisions you can for her health!

      If it makes you feel any better, I didn’t know about the campaign until yesterday either. I just had nothing else on the go so I figured I’d jump in!

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  7. Shiva is looking very good. And you are right, it is more than the just the waistline, and it is individual for each dog as well. Our cat is probably the best example. Her waistline looked great from above … but she had a potbelly.
    Glad you also have the cat to join the campaign!

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    • Ha! Yes, I suppose every angle has to be looked at in order to get a full picture. Our animals gain weight in different places, just as we do.

      Thank you for participating and putting me on to it. I do think it’s a vital discussion all pet owners should have.

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  8. Thank you for participating in my campaign!

    I’ve seen so many overweight dogs, who end up either sick or simply not having any quality of life. I have not seen dogs who would have been emaciated (with exception of abuse cases).

    It is true that every dog is an individual (and with some you just can’t see the dog for the fur) but they all should have a waist (even if buried under fur). Of course, the waist is not the only criteria, there is the ability to feel the ribs and how well the tummy is tucked. Actual weight can also serve as a guideline but can be misleading – don’t forget that fat weighs less than muscle. So one can have a dog gain weight and yet be in a better shape if they loose the fat and gain muscle and vice versa. For example, our late rescue was very obese when he came to us. He had no shape to his body (unless you could round as a shape). He thinned out to half of his size, yet he was heavier than when he came.

    To simplify things, I think the rule of thumb is this: when you feel your dog is too skinny, that’s when they’re quite likely at their ideal weight (with exception of medical conditions). We have this ingrained bias we cannot shake – that skinny is unhealthy. Well, it can be, but too many too skinny dogs isn’t our problem, is it?

    Just recently Dr. Khuly wrote an article about people giving her heck in the dog park for not feeding her dogs. So you’d not be the only one. Our conceptions of what dogs should look like is skewed. Thus the campaign.

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    • Thank you so much for your comments and for putting together the campaign! I agree that it is such an important subject and you are definitely right that weight is not the whole story. I guess I was focusing more on the pictures themselves instead of thinking about what my hands can feel. That’s probably the best guideline.

      I hope we can all make a difference and at least get people thinking about it. It’s not something we can just shrug off, not when it comes to the health and lifespan of our pets.

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  9. Vet told me if you can feel the ribs, but not see them that was about right. Totally agree that dogs even of the same breed can be different, just like we are.

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    • I think I was forgetting the importance of actually feeling my dog’s body with my hands. That is probably much more telling than matching her to a picture. Thanks for sharing that!

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      • Feeling your dog’s body with your hands is important for other things too. You can feel any lumps, bumps or abnormalities early. I guess my next campaign should be “Hands On Dog” ๐Ÿ™‚

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  10. You have a highlighted a very important issue. Making sure any pet is at an optimal body weight is really important when maintaining good health. Have you seen the body score charts that the clever people at Harringtons HQ produced http://www.harringtonspetfood.com/content/UK/dog-feeding-guide and as we didn’t want cats to feel left out http://www.harringtonspetfood.com/content/UK/cat-feeding-guide. Every pet is different and just like us so seem to struggle to keep weight on while others just need to look at food and it hits the hips (ok maybe that’s typists complaint rather than my own!) As you have said anyone with any concerns should always contact their vet who would be able to advise the best course of action.

    A great post โ€“ thank you!

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    • Thanks for sharing the links. I will be checking them out. I still struggle with understand just how many calories my dog needs based on her daily activity level. It changes all the time and I want to make sure she gets all the nutrients she needs without over-feeding. She certainly isn’t going to tell me when she is full!

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      • Shiva is a dog after my own heart as I would eat all day if allowed to!
        You have to remember to try to feed according to the energy level, for example you will need to decrease the amount you feed as she ages. If you are very concerned it may be worth measuring the weight of food you are feeding her at the moment, and continue to feed that weight for a number of months and keep a close eye on what happens to her waiste line and weight. If she looses weight over this time you may need to feed slightly more, and if she gains weight cut back slightly.
        Once you think you have reached the right amount you may want to alter it slightly depending on the days activity – it is always worth remembering to take into account the activities you have had that day adn to cut down on food fed slightly if you feed lots of treats. For example if you have had a training class that morning and feed lots of treats maybe just a light dinner that evening or if you take her out all day hiking maybe a few more treats or a larger dinner can be enjoyed that day!
        If i can help further please let me know!

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  11. I think all of our dogs are where they should be right now, and we’re pretty careful to make sure it stays that way. I think Shiva looks fine from all I’ve seen of her, and I know she’s a pretty active dog. We are often told our dogs are too skinny — usually by people whose dogs are huffing and puffing as they try to lumber on under their own weight.

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    • Thanks! All of your dogs look great, of course. You work so much with them and pay such close attention to their health. I do my best but I still worry I don’t know enough. I guess I just have to trust my instincts and follow some of my own advice.

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  12. Hmmmm, soaking wet, both my dogs look like the number 2 dog. Even when the are fluffy and dry I can see a clear waistline….which I like seeing. My vet has never said anything about them being underweight.

    I’d actually like Chewy to gain a pound or two, but he burns everything off with his maniacal spinning.

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  13. My post about this is scheduled for tomorrow, but I have some of the same issues. My conclusion was that the infographics all assume that “dog”=”labrador.”

    People in public are used to dogs being overweight, so a fit dog looks too slim to them.

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  14. What a great awareness campaign. I think a lot of people overlook how important it is to keep pets at a healthy weight. I’ve always had a hard time with those charts. Every time I try to figure out where they are on that scale I end up more confused. I tend to rely on my vet (who never hesitates to tell us if they’re gaining too much weight!).

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  15. Right on Kristine! When my vet told me the dogs needed to lose some weight that was all I needed. I think this blog hop is a great way to get people talking about an uncomfortable issue. No-one wants to heart that they (or someone they care for) is over-weight.

    However, it was much easier for me to hear the dogs are overweight than say if my Dr. told me that…:-)

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  16. I do know I have read a couple of articles written by vets who say it is often very difficult to bring up the topic of weight. Owners often take it quite personally, often to the point of quitting the vet. So the vets have to walk a fine line between doing what is good for the pet and keeping the human as a customer.

    I keep my guys slim for all the health benefits and also for agility. I’ve had many people comment on their svelte figures, saying they have never seen a corgi shaped like mine before….Gee…that’s what they are supposed to look like!

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  17. I don’t think she looks too thin, or overweight for that matter. A lot of people think Meadow is too thin, but Vs are really thin looking, so I think that is what throws them. Leah maintains her weight no matter how much she eats or how much exercise she gets, and she’s never been an active dog. (Wish I could have her metabolism.) When it comes to Toby, however, I struggle. Labs are built differently than a lot of dogs, and some people think he looks fat, and sometimes I do too, but my vet says he’s fine. I’ve asked them many times because I have doubts, and they say he’s in good shape, so I just try my best to believe them. LOL!

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  18. People probably tell you Shiva looks too thin because they are so used to seeing dogs that are too fat. People say I am too thin pretty often and they said that about mom’s first pup too. But mom is an RVT and she thinks Shiva’s weight looks good from what she can see in the pictures ๐Ÿ™‚

    And for most pets it is better to be a little on the thinner side than the fatter side. Mom likes to keep me on the thinner side because pups like me are prone to cruciate ligament injuries and other knee and hip problems and too much weight can make these problems worse. Plus it’s hard on the heart.

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  19. I think Shiva looks good. But, I agree, the vet is probably the best on to determine if a pup is at an ideal weight. Our last dog was very thin and had a tiny waist – that was mainly her body type, but she was also just not interested in food and got a ton of exercise. The vet said studies show it’s much better (in terms of longevity) for a dog to be slightly underweight than slightly over. (Of course… she later got bone cancer and died at only 2 1/2 years old… so there’s that… So… maybe she’s not the best “longevity” example. Okay, and now I’m just rambling… but, yes, normally I think it’s better for a dog to be on the thinner side! Rita could be a tiny bit thinner I think, although the chart makes her look “ideal”. I just try to keep her super active.)

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  20. Weight is such a hard issue with pets. I have the opposite problem from most people when it comes to my pets. My dog will self moderate his food consumption and has been around 62 – 64lbs his whole life. My cat on the other hand will eat anything in sight and keeping her weight down to the right level can be a challenge. She still looks obese but the reality is that she is now a good weight, but has extra skin to carry around.

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  21. I think Shiva looks great. During the training season, our dogs look very thin, but we like it that way. It is much better for them not to carry any extra weight when in heavy training.

    Storm lost her waist during her false pregnancy. It is finally back!

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  22. This is a great post, Kristine, I think this is something all pet owners should be aware of. So many think endless treats are the way to make their pet happy. We just keep an eye on ours, we can usually tell if they are getting heavier, and adjust food and treats accordingly. Oh, it’s so much harder to tell with the golden retrievers and all their fur! With the cats, I can usually notice a change when I pick them up. Our vet is also great about helping us keep an eye on them, and will let us know when he thinks they are getting heavy, or have lost any weight. But I also think it does just come down to trusting your own instincts, as you said.

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  23. I am always questioning myself on Charlie’s weight. I can never give myself an answer I’m satisfies with. The only comfort I can give myself is that the vet says he is healthy and looks great, but the fact you keep an eye out says a lot!

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