Veterinary Articles and Case Examples

Assessing Puppy Weight

Posted on in Nutrition, Prevention, Puppy Care, weight control Comments Off on Assessing Puppy Weight

How to Assess Puppy Weight

Now that we realize how bad it is to have an overweight puppy (, and no one wants to feed their puppy too little, the next question becomes “How do I tell if my puppy is the right weight?”

Ideal puppy weight

Ripley is an ideal weight. Because he is a boxer, it is normal to see his ribs like this.

The number on the scale is useful, but not nearly as useful as feeling your dog all over and assessing its body condition, paying particular attention to the ribs, shoulders, back and pelvis.

Remember that not all breeds are the same.  Different dogs have different amounts of muscling.  What may be acceptable for a Greyhound is not acceptable for a Bernese Mountain Dog.  For some breeds, it is acceptable to see the last few ribs, but for some it is not.

To make matters worse, overweight puppies have become so prevalent, that for some breeds it has become the new norm.  When that happens, it’s the dogs that are actually at a fit weight that look abnormal.  Every day in parks across this country, owners of overweight dogs scold the owners of fit dogs, accusing them of starving their pets.

ideal puppy weight

Rain is an English style black lab. Although you should be easily able to palpate each rib with no fat between the rib and skin, for her it is not normal to see the ribs.


Below is a list of general guidelines to help you decide if your puppy is the correct weight.  If you have any doubts, consult your veterinarian.


Shoulders:  Palpate the shoulders and feel for a bony ridge running up the shoulder blade.  It is normal to feel the top of the ridge, but the sides of the ridge should be buried in muscle.  If you can feel the sides of this ridge, your pet may be underweight.

Ribs: Palpate the last 3-4 ribs.  You should be able to feel them distinctly, bumping your finger over each rib and into the depression between.  If you can feel any softness between the skin and the last few ribs, then your puppy is too fat.  For some dogs (whippets, pitbulls, boxers, dobermans, pointers etc.) it is normal to see these last 2-3 ribs through the skin.

Spine: It is normal to feel the bony tips of each veterbrae down the middle of the back, but as your fingers roll to the side, the rest of the vertebrae should be buried in muscle.  If you can feel bony points along the sides of the vertebrae, you pet may be too skinny

Pelvis: You should be able to feel the tip of the hip bone, but not the spoon shaped bone behind it; once your fingers roll off the tip, they should encounter muscle.

Ideal Puppy Weight

Posted on in Dog Hip Dysplasia, Nutrition, Puppy Care Comments Off on Ideal Puppy Weight
Teaching the young grasshopper

Epic lectures his young protégée on metaphysics, and how to beg for cookies.


Maintaining the Ideal Puppy Weight


It is very important to monitor your puppy’s weight and keep your puppy lean.  Not only does excessive weight during puppyhood contributes to developmental orthopedic conditions like hip dysplasia and arthritis, but it can reduce life expectancy.

Experiments have demonstrated that puppies fed too much in do not live as long as other dogs.  Dogs that were kept lean lived 1.8 years longer than their chubbier counterparts.  In particular, the incidence of hip dysplasia and hip arthritis was reduced, as were the level of serum triglicerides, insulin, glucose and thyroid hormone.

The mighty retriever

Rain practises her retrieving skills on a stuffed duck.

The reason that orthopedic disease is more common in overweight puppies is simple to understand:

(1)   The more food a puppy has access to, the faster it grows.

(2)   The fastest growth rate is not the best growth rate.

Genetics is the underlying cause of diseases such as elbow or hip dysplasia, but maintaining optimal puppy weight helps reduce the chance of these diseases manifesting.

Another key way to prevent these diseases from expressing is to not over or under exercise your puppy.  For more information on puppy exercise, visit

Rain and Caligula

Rain is about to find out the hard way that toy ducks are much less fearsome than the real thing.


The bottom line?  Strive for feeding the perfect amount of food to your puppy, but if you had to make a mistake, it is better to see a temporary weight loss from too little food than it is to feed too much and have a overweight puppy that might suffer permanent damage as a result.

To learn what a proper puppy weight feels like, visit


Kealy, RD, et. al, Five-year longitudinal study on limited food consumption and development of osteoarthritis in coxofemoal joints of dogs, Journal of the American Veterianry Association, Vol 210, No. 2 , Jan 1997

Lawler, DF, et. al, Influence of lifetime food restriction on causes, time and predictors of death in dogs, Journal of the American Veterianry Association, Vol 226, No. 2 , Jan 2005

Kealy, RD, et. al, Effect of diet restriction on life span and age-related changes in dogs, Journal of the American Veterianry Association, Vol 220, No. 9 , May 2002

Kealy, RD, et. al, Effects of limited food consumption on the incidence of hip dysplasia in growing dogs, Journal of the American Veterianry Association, Vol 201, No. 6 , Sept 1992








Case Report: Dog Hip Dysplasia

Posted on in Case Reports, Dog Hip Dysplasia, Non-surgical Therapy, Veterinary Chiropractic, weight control Comments Off on Case Report: Dog Hip Dysplasia

Dog Hip Dysplasia: Humphrey’s Tale


Normal Dog Hips

This radiographs shows a dog with well formed hips. Notice the deep sockets and a round femoral head. There is no roughening of the bone, or thickening of the femoral neck, or other signs of arthritis.


Dog hip dysplasia is a genetic condition in which the hip joint forms improperly.  Normally the hip joint should consist of a deep pelvic socket (acetabulum) supporting a round ball (femoral head).  If the hip joint develops a shallow acetabulum or flattened femoral head, then there is reduced bony support.  The body must then rely on muscle and connective tissue structures to compensate.  This added strain can trigger pain in other parts of the pelvis.  With time, arthritis inevitably develops.Most cases of dog hip dysplasia can be managed well with non-surgical techniques.  Humphrey is a good example; the level of dysplasia in his hips is considered `severe`, which is the worst rating for dog hip dysplasia that exists.



Dog Hip Dysplasia

In contrast, Humphrey’s hips show poor seating of the ball and socket joint, a thickened femoral neck, roughened bone and calcifications indicative of hip arthritis.


In contrast, Humphrey’s hips show poor seating of the ball and socket joint, a thickened femoral neck, roughened bone and calcifications indicative of hip arthritis.

Despite such appalling hips on x-ray, with a program of nutritional supplements, weight control, massage, and appointments with Dr. Lane every other month, Humphrey enjoys an active pain free life without the need for prescription medication.  He averages two hours of exercise a day and is an accomplished tracker.

For more information about the treatment options available for dog hip dysplasia, or the other causes of hind end pain in dogs, visit


ADDENDUM: Sunday Nov 4, 2012 – Humphrey just earned his CKC TD tracking title.  Congratulations!