Is My Dog Too Skinny or Too Lean?

(What follows is a gross oversimplification of a somewhat nuanced issue.  If, by the end of this post, you remain skeptical of my conclusions, I urge you to grab a copy of my book, Dogs, Dog Food, and Dogma. It includes a much more fulsome discussion of this important topic, one complete with citations, end notes, original sources, and all that good stuff.)

When we talk about body fat and its impact on canine health, we usually use terms like “too fat,” “obese,” and “overweight.” These terms have something in common: they all suggest that there is a bright line separating the healthy from the unhealthy. If your dog falls on the bad side of the line then she’s too fat.  If she doesn’t then she’s not.

We do this because this kind of yes-or-no framework has been handed down to us from the world’s leading public health authorities.  When the World Health Organization talks about the dangers of excessive body fat, it uses words like “obesity” and “overweight” to define the problem.  The American Veterinary Medical Association does the same thing.

But there’s a problem with this kind of thinking: it doesn’t really reflect the scientifically-verified reality about the dangers of body fat.

What the science actually shows is that we should think of body fat as being like a kind of natural poison.  The more of it inside your dog’s body, the worse off she is. The less of it inside her body, the healthier she is likely to be.

So how can I make this counter-intuitive and somewhat revolutionary claim?



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