Is My Labrador Retriever too Skinny?

by Beth Satterfield

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At What Age Does a Labrador Retriever Naturally Calm Down?

If you have recently added a Labrador retriever to your family, you might not know a ton of information about the breed. Sometimes, it can be worrying when a new pet seems to have a health issue, but you don’t know if it should be a worry or not. The weight of a Labrador is something that a lot of new owners, even long-time owners, worry about.

A Labrador retriever is too skinny if their ribs are visible through their skin and coat, if their hip bones are visible and jut out from a top view, or if they seem exhausted more often than not. Some labs are bigger than others, and not all thin labs are underweight.

If you worry that your Labrador retriever is too skinny, there are diets and exercise habits that can help your dog gain some weight. Keep reading to learn more about the health and weight of Labradors.

Are Labradors Skinny Dogs?

Before we talk about a Labrador that is too skinny, it can be helpful to know whether it is normal to have a thin lab or not. Labrador retrievers come in a variety of weights, but more often labs are thin instead of chunky. There are some very muscular or heavier labs out there, but generally, labs are thinner dogs.

People bred labs to help hunters, that is why we call them retrievers. These dogs had one job, and that is to go and retrieve the birds that were shot out of the sky or whatever else was hunted and can be hard to find. Because they would run off into the woods to find the dead bird, Labradors became thin, but strong, dogs. They would often have to swim or wade through streams and mud to get to the animal, they had to run through trees and bushes. This means they had to be thin, and the exercise kept them lean but muscular.

Another factor to consider is that labs vary in weight due to their breeding. Some sub-breeds of labs are known for being more wide-chested, muscular, and shorter in length. Others have longer legs, thinner hips and rib cages, and a longer body which makes them appear much thinner. Sometimes a Labrador’s weight and size depend on its specific heritage, and not its lifestyle.

Recognizing an Underweight Lab

While Labradors are skinny dogs, that does not mean that some are not underweight. A lab can become underweight if not fed or exercised properly. It is important to recognize the signs of your lab being underweight so you can help them get back to a healthy weight.

An underweight lab can be difficult to recognize, especially if they are naturally slender. On a thin but healthy Labrador, you will be able to feel their ribs as if they are covered by a blanket instead of a thin sheet. They shouldn’t be super visible, with only the last two ribs being visible, and even that is pretty thin. They will have a defined waist from a top view, and the hips will not jut out. (Source)

Besides appearance, a good indicator of your lab being underweight is their behavior. If they seem exhausted after walks, they often don’t finish all their food, or they always seem like they need more food, they could be underweight. These behaviors go along with the physical indicators. If your Labrador is not underweight but is exhibiting these symptoms, there might be a different health issue. You should seek out the expertise of a vet, and you can get a better idea of common Labrador health problems here.

How to Help Labs Gain Weight

Now that you know how to recognize if your Labrador is overweight, you can begin changing some bad habits and fixing your dog’s lifestyle. There are two pretty big ways to help a Labrador, or any dog, gain some weight. These ways are through their diet and their exercise habits.

Diet

The way that your Labrador retriever eats can be a huge factor in them being underweight. If the food you are feeding your dog is not rich enough in calories or nutrition, they can start burning more calories than they are eating. If your dog eats proportions that are too small for their age or size, then that can cause them to drop pounds. For a Labrador retriever, they should eat 3.5 to 4.5 cups of food a day, whether that is in two big meals or smaller meals and treats throughout the day. To learn more about how much food a lab should eat, you can read here.

If you are not feeding your Labrador much food each day, then it is a pretty easy fix. Start feeding your lab more food. They should acclimate to the increased proportions. If they are eating a lot less food than they should, increase the portion size bit by bit so they don’t get sick.

If your Labrador isn’t eating the food given to them, you should take them to a vet to check for underlying issues. You might end up needing to switch to a different food brand or style.

Exercise

The other big contributing factor to an underweight dog is their exercise habits. A Labrador retriever needs a lot of exercise, so it is normal to walk for two or more hours, and have a lot of playtime. Exercise becomes an issue when your dog is burning more calories than they are gaining from their food. These two factors go hand in hand, but they are essential to the health of a Labrador.

A good way to resolve the over-exercising issue is to limit the amount of time your dog walks, slow the speed, or limit their playtime outdoors. This requires teaching them to calm down on command, but it can be so helpful for their health and helps with obedience.

Each solution will be specific to your Labrador. Experiment with giving them more food, properly exercising them, and if all else fails, taking them to the vet to make sure there aren’t any underlying health problems.

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