If your hunting partner is an underweight dog, make sure he has the proper nutrition he needs to give you his hunting best. Hunting dogs are athletes. But, sometimes you can have an underweight dog. Their excellent work ethic and eager-to-please spirit make them the ideal partner for a variety of athletic endeavors.
Like human athletes, the nutritional requirements for active dogs must be adjusted to meet their unique needs. Due to their high activity levels and the strain placed on their body during hunts and trails, performance and hunting dogs require a superior level of nutrients and calories than the average house dog. It is not uncommon for hunting dogs to be on the thin side, and often a healthy, athletic hunter, may seem like an underweight dog compared to the same dog kept as just a pet. However, it is important to access your dogs nutritional requirements, and balance them with the proper diet to ensure optimum health and best performance.
Veterinarians use a standardized Body Condition Score (BCS) system to evaluate the condition of a dogs overall health and ideal weight. The BCS scale is from 1-9, with 1 being malnourished and 9 being morbidly obese. As a general rule, the “ideal” range for the body condition score for dogs is between a 4 and 5. At this level, the dog should have ribs that can be easily felt under the skin, but not seen. The dogs should have a waist (a narrowing of their width behind the ribcage), as well as an abdomen that is “tucked up” when seen from the side.
In highly active, performance dogs, a BCS of 3 may be considered a healthy weight. These dogs have a high percentage of lean body mass, with ribs that can be slightly seen under the skin, and obviously felt. The very tips of their spine or pelvis bones may be discernable, and they have a waist. Dogs with a body condition score of a 1 to 2 are underweight, and their diets and or performance demands must be adjusted. In these dogs, their ribs, hip, pelvic and backbones can all be clearly seen, and a loss of muscle mass is evident. Dogs with a body condition score of 3 or less should be evaluated for possible diet changes, to provide more balanced, high-calorie nutrition for the dog. In dogs that are well fed, but score persistently low on the BCS system, a veterinarian should be consulted to check for possible underlying medical problems, such as internal parasites that may be preventing the pet from absorbing the nutrients from his food.