Under or Overweight Italian Greyhounds
The Italian Greyhound breed is known for being naturally thin by nature. Dogs being surrendered to rescue often range from the smallest full-grown adult dogs weighing only 5-7 pounds, all of the way up to 16-18 lbs at the largest. However, this doesn't mean that if your IG weighs between five and eighteen pounds that they are at an ideal weight. Even a few fewer or extra pounds on any dog from their ideal weight can cause health issues over time, or could be indicative of other problems that may need further analysis by a veterinarian.
As with any dog, it should be fairly easy to locate a few ribs by rubbing your hand on either side of the animal, just underneath the coat and skin. Upon visual inspection when an Italian Greyhound is in a resting position (such as sitting or laying down) a slight outline of a few ribs (2-3) may be seen. However, seeing the majority of the ribcage may indicate that an IG that is too thin. When an Italian Greyhound is breathing heavily, you may additionally be able to see the outline of more ribs as they inhale and exhale.
However, on the opposite end of the spectrum if you cannot easily feel, or visually see any indication of any ribs, then an Italian Greyhound could potentially stand to lose some weight. Few Italian Greyhounds weigh 18-20 lbs or greater, and a pure-bred IG at or above these weights should be evaluated by a veterinarian to ensure it is not becoming obese. Rescue in the past has seen a handful of IGs that could be considered morbidly obese weighing 25-30 lbs or more even, resembling a sausage shape from above.
Any sudden changes of weight over a short period of time (a few months or less) should be discussed with a veterinarian, either if the dog has gained or lost weight.
Underweight Italian Greyhounds
Although Italian Greyhound owners are often told their dogs are too thin, or need to be fed, there is a point at which an IG is too thin. If you can see more than a couple of ribs on an IG, then they may need to gain a little weight. Often an underweight dog is just simply being given the wrong diet, and a change in diet will cause the dog to reach a healthy weight. Many dog foods are mostly fillers which provide little nutritional benefit, so changing to a better quality food could be a simple change that needs made. Additionally, hard kibble foods are difficult for a dog's digestive system to break down in to nutrients the body can use, so changing to a partial or full soft-food diet may help increase weight on an IG.
A sudden loss of weight could also indicate other underlying issues that need addressed which may include:
- Dental Disease or Pain - A dog who doesn't want to eat normally, or drink may be telling you that they need a vet visit. A painful infected tooth may be bothering them when eating or drinking water. Thus, due to diminished nutrition they may be losing weight.
- Parasites - Worms and other parasites rob the Italian Greyhound's body of critical nutrients needed to maintain a proper weight, and health in general. If the parasites are taking away nutrients from your iggy, then they may start to lose weight or not be able to gain any back. Parasites can be picked up not only from other animals, but exist naturally in the environment too.
- Thyroid Issues (Hyperthyroidism) - Most people associate thyroid issues with being overweight, but it also can be the cause of an Italian Greyhound being underweight too. A dog diagnosed with hyperthyroidism, or an overactive thyroid, will have difficulty putting on weight, and may want to eat or drink more without being able to put on weight.
- Kidney Issues - Loss of weight or difficulty getting an Italian Greyhound to gain weight could indicate either the beginning or advanced stages of Kidney issues. A special diet can greatly help treating dogs with these issues live long healthy lives, especially when diagnosed early, regular testing and with proper maintenance.
Although food is often one of the most common causes of an Italian Greyhound being too skinny, there are some IGs that just have a higher metabolism and are naturally more slender than others. A vet can also run blood tests (panels) to help eliminate other causes behind an IG being underweight.
Overweight Italian Greyhounds
Far above any other reason, the most common cause for a dog being overweight is their diet, or food portion size being consumed. A small Italian Greyhound may only eat 1/3 cup of food twice daily, while those on the larger side may eat 1/2 cup or slightly more per day. If a dog eats more than this, then it is likely they are getting too many calories per day which is causing them to gain weight. Some tips to help keep your dog at a healthy weight include:
- Do not leave food down for an Italian Greyhound to eat throughout the day. Put the food down for 15 minutes, and pick it up at the end of that time. They will learn to eat while the food is available.
- Measure portions of food as recommended by the suggested serving, or by a veterinarian, and feed only 2 or 3 times per day.
- Ensure each pet in a family is given their own bowl, and other pets do not finish off portions from other bowls.
- Put any cat food out of reach of an IG. Cat food is naturally very high in fat, much more than dog foods, and not a healthy option for your dog to eat.
- Don't feed table scraps for food. The discarded portions of your dinner are often the most unhealthy bits of fat, skin and contain the most calories too. (Note: NEVER feed animal bones, they easily fracture in to sharp pieces which easily can get lodged in the esophagus and need surgically removed.)
- Limit the type and number of treats given. Rewarding your dog is important for training, but keep it in moderation, and use only naturally derived treats rather than many well-advertised brands which may contain low-grade ingredients or fillers.
If the above precautions are being taken, and followed strictly, an overweight Italian Greyhound could have other issues which may need analyzed by a veterinarian. Some of the more common issues we have seen in Italian Greyhound which are not caused by dietary issue have included the following:
- Thyroid Issues (Hypothyroidism) - If a dog's thyroid is under producing hormones, they can tend to be heavier in weight. A simple blood test can check thyroid levels, and daily medication to treat thyroid issues is relatively cheap.
- Diabetes - As in humans diabetes in pets is relatively common, and has many of the same symptoms. An Italian Greyhound may have increased appetite or thirst, and the dog may need to urinate more. In many cases an iggy or other animal may need daily insulin shots to help keep the dog's body processing food properly, similar to how it is treated in humans.
- Cushing's Disease - Weight gain in combination with temporary loss of control of some limbs may indicate the presence of this syndrome.
View a slideshow of an obese foster dog in 2014-15, showing his transformation from being extremely heavy to an ideal weight in the Diary of an Obese Italian Greyhound.
Short and Long Term Effects From Excessive Weight
Overweight Italian Greyhounds can suffer from both short and long-term health effects from being allowed to remain overweight, similar to what happens in people too. It is vital to keep an Italian Greyhound at a proper weight to contribute to a long healthy life.
- Skin or Coat Problems - Often with extra weight comes increased oils on the skin, or in extreme cases overlapping skin. Both of these are ideal conditions for skin conditions for develop and fester.
- Joint Issues - Not only can existing issue like luxating patella, arthritis, or hip dysplasia be exacerbated by a few extra pounds, but other joint, cartilage or tendon issues which didn't exist before can be caused by excess weight straining the entire body.
- Decreased Lifespan - Heart or circulatory, digestive issues and increased cancer risk are only a few of the issues that can be linked to an overweight dog. Even simple procedures such as dental cleanings which require anesthesia can be complicated by extra weight.
- Breathing Difficulty or Snoring - Extra pockets of fat in and around the respiratory system, neck and face can cause a dog to snore, or have difficulty breathing. Lack of sleep causes a dog to have less energy compared to healthy companion pets.
The above list is not comprehensive by any means, and so many other health issues are caused by an Italian Greyhound being overweight. Additionally, other existing problems are often aggravated by any pet being too heavy. However, it is always important to remember that the primary cause of overweight or obese Italian Greyhounds usually is their owners' failure to act, maintain a healthy diet, and regular exercise for their pet(s).