I’ve been hearing a lot about the high rate of pet obesity and I wondered if my own dog is overweight. She is a proper Heinz 57 – and we have really no idea what breeds might be in her. If you have a pedigree, you know what your dog is supposed to look like, but is there a way of knowing if she is a healthy weight when we don’t know what she is supposed to look like?

Wolfgang Dohne advises…

Even after more than 25 years in practice, I am still sometimes amazed by all the different shapes and sizes of my canine patients with individual bodyweights varying from less than 1kg to well over 100kg (and with this running the risk of destroying our surgery scales!). As a guide through the maze, I tend to employ two simple measures.

The first of these is the layer of fat between the skin and the ribs of your dog – this is easier to measure in short-haired than in long-haired breeds.

In a dog with a normal bodyweight, you should be able to slightly feel the ribs underneath the skin when running over the side of the chest, but you should not be able to see them. If you have to apply some pressure to feel the ribs, your dog is likely to be too heavy and if you can see the ribs underneath the skin, chances are that your dog is too thin.

However, some variations apply, with most normal-sized sighthounds usually presenting with visible ribs and some active and well-muscled Staffordshire Bull Terriers and related breeds displaying a slightly thicker layer of subcutaneous fat.

The second test is by looking from above and behind at the back of your dog. In a dog with a ‘normal’ bodyweight, I would expect there to be a narrowing at the waist in comparison with the chest. If your dog has very long hair, you can check this by running your hands on both sides from the front to the back of your dog.

If there is no visible or palpable narrowing – or if the waist is even wider than the chest – it is very likely that your dog may need to lose some weight.

Once again, some breed variations apply and with a crossbreed you might have to compare the body features with those of the most similar pedigree breed you can find.

If still in doubt, find out if your vet offers weight checks, which is a service most practices provide free of charge. A vet or a dedicated veterinary nurse will not only tell you the exact weight of your dog, they will also give you an idea if your dog has a normal bodyweight or if dietary or lifestyle changes are necessary.

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