May issue

May issue
May issue

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Weight off my mind


I find it hard to know if my dog's weight is right or not. It's my first dog and I don't know yet what is too thin or just right. He's a Lab and I know they're prone to putting on weight.

Is there a way of telling just by looking at him if he's too big?

Is there anyone I can get to just keep an eye on me without paying the vet for a consultation fee every time?

Pam Bass, by email 

Alison Logan, vet, says...

Let me start by asking you to contact your veterinary practice to find out if there is a weight clinic, often run by a veterinary nurse and if not free-of-charge then at a reduced price. Indeed, I am sure my practice is not unusual in having scales in the waiting room which you can use to simply weigh your dog and then have the weight entered on his record.
To address your query more fully: it is great that you have appreciated the need to avoid your dog becoming overweight. It is not, as you mention, a question of the actual weight in pounds or kilogrammes but how your dog is carrying the weight. A breed’s bodyweight average is meaningless if your dog is a particularly small or large individual. The weight of a dog who has stopped growing and developing (around fifteen months for a Labbie) can be recorded and provide a quantitative guide to change over time. Photographs will give you a qualitative guide to any change.
Body condition score is a numerical expression of how an individual dog is carrying his weight. The ideal is three out of five, able to feel ribs and a distinct waistline, with five being an obese dog (a footstool!). It does also depend on personal preference – some people like their labbies to carry a little more on the waist than I like and think my labbies could carry a little more.
Do remember that your vet will be happy to advise on bodyweight, exercise and diet at a routine appointment such as the annual health check.
I think all dogs are prone to putting on weight if they are allowed to have all the titbits they would like!


  1. Firstly, you can look at the breed standard and weigh him - many vets will let you use their scales in between their consultation times, and many pet shops now have weighing scales too; or if it's safe for you to pick him up (i.e. no back issues etc) you could always weigh yourself, and then pick him up and weigh both of you - not very scientific but it works!

    In terms of visual checking, when your dog is standing straight, he should have a waist if you look at him from above; you should also be able to feel his ribs easily, though not necessarily see them.

  2. You could get your Lab weighed at the vet, if the weight is fine according to your vet, then put a tape measure around your dog's waist when you get home, and keep a record of what the measurements are. You can then take a measurement every few weeks, make a note of it and the date, and you will be able to tell more easily if your dog is putting on or losing weight.

    Lab's are notoriously greedy, I have had a two of them, and their motto seems to be 'If it's there, eat it!' So don't fall into the trap of feeling so sorry for them when they use those expressive eyes on you, and keep an eye open for scavenging when walking your dog.


  3. Hi Pam,

    First of all, well done for rescuing.

    As this is your first dog you would be best to buy a book all about dogs & another about Labradors. In a nutshell you would be best to keep him on the lean side if possible as Labs do have a lot of joint related health problems, like hip & elbow dysplasia. Keeping his weight down would mean less weight on his joints. Also consider joining a dog forum or even a forum dedicated to Labs. If you find the forum at all cliquey & (no pun intended) - bitchy - look for another. There will always be a friendly welcome at D for Dog

    Re your question about someone to keep an eye on you without paying a consultation; you'll find most vet surgeries will have weight clinics run by nurses, which should be free of charge.

    Good luck with your first dog, you have started well.

  4. Hi, as a canine remedial massage therapist I see a lot of labradors with joint problems which are exacerbated by excess weight. It's difficult to suggest an ideal weight as labs tend to vary so much in their build depending on whether they come from show stock or working stock. The general rule of being able to just feel their ribs and being able to see a waist from above is a good one though. Maintaining a good weight throughout a dog's life is important to help prevent conditions like arthritis and reduce difficulties caused by hip or elbow dysplasia. As with people it's better to prevent the weight building up in the first place than to lose it later but you need to be tough not to give in to those pleading eyes! Good Luck