According to some experts, obesity is our pets’ number one health threat. Obese pets,  like humans, are at higher risk of developing diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, and certain forms of cancer.  Obesity may also be a risk factor in IVDD.

Weight ranges and the breed standard - a starting point

Breed standards are a starting point for understanding your dachshund’s ideal weight, but they don’t tell you everything.  Breed standards are obviously relevant if you show your dachshund or wish to breed from them. 

My first dachshund Max was rejected professionally by his breeder as a mini dachshund back in the 1990s.  After he was born she had run him on to six months old to check his likely adult weight and length. When he turned out to be over the mini maximum weight and length for that age, it  meant she couldn’t sell him as a pedigree mini.  That didn’t matter to me at all, I thought he was wonderful in his non-typical way.  He was perfectly proportioned, but just not a mini.  If I had him now, I couldn't use the breed standard to start thinking about his ideal weight. 

According to the Dachshund IVDD website from the Dachshund Breed Council in the UK, the breed standard requires that Standard dachshunds fall in the range 9-12 kg (20-26 lbs), depending on their body height and length, while Miniatures should have an ideal weight of 4.5 kg (10 lbs). But breed standards are not to be taken as target weights, according to the Dachshund Breed Council.  

As dachshund parents we know that our dachshunds and dachshund crosses come in sorts of sizes, so for both pedigree and non-pedigree dachshunds there need to be other ways to evaluate and think about the optimum weight and shape of your dog for her health.  A widely recommended approach is to use a body condition scoring system.

Body condition scoring: probably the best approach

Several experts including the Dachshund Breed Council, recommend a body condition score approach.  This simple system evaluates body appearance and size relative to the frame of the individual dog, and sidesteps the issue of weight completely.  Using this approach you assess the shape of your dog to determine factors such as their shape when viewed from above and from the side, and how easily you can feel or see their ribs, spine, and hip bones.  If you can see ribs then they are less covered by a fatty layer than if you can only feel them, for example.  A dog in ideal condition will have a shape, not look like a toilet roll tube or cylinder, without a waist or a drooping tummy area.

For example, with an ideal score of 3 on the 1-5 scale, your dachshund - or any other dog - will have “a visible waist with an abdominal tuck”, their “ribs, spine and hip bones can be easily felt” and “a small amount of fat can be felt”. Comparing the five different scores makes it easy to see where the ideal body type fits. 

You’ll need to get hands-on with your dachshund to evaluate her body condition.  Depending on the type of coat your dachshund has, it may be difficult to judge body condition purely by sight alone.  Long or wiry coats can disguise ribs, hip bones and the spine, while a short coat may highlight these areas. If in doubt, check with your veterinarian.  

Dog Size-O-Meters are user friendly versions of Body Condition Score Charts used by veterinarians, designed for use by pet parents and readily available online (here at the Dachshund IVDD website).  While researching for this blog we found Size-O-Meters for rabbits, birds, guinea pigs, and exotic pets as well as dogs and cats.  

Regular body condition checks are the key to a healthy long-lived dog

To keep your dachshund in great shape, experts recommend monitoring weight and body condition on a regular basis throughout her life.  Her food intake needs will vary depending on her activity level, age and health, and for females whether she is carrying puppies.  Portion size recommendations on commercial dog food packs may need to be adjusted for your own dog.  We found this out when our dachshund put on 2 kilos in four months on a new dry food. 

You can make small corrections to weight gain or weight loss more easily than drastic changes.  This post won’t suggest ways to help your dachshund lose weight, though there seems to be consensus around portion feeding and regular mealtimes.  Always seek advice from your vet based on your dachshund’s age and general state of health.  If your dachshund appears to be losing weight on the recommended amount of food, this should also be brought to the attention of your veterinarian.

Don’t forget that reduced exercise (if you are stuck in bed with flu, or if your dog has had surgery), or extra food intake (more treats during training sessions or at Christmas), may result in weight change.  Changes in a pet parent’s lifestyle, even temporarily, can have a knock on effect on their animals.  

When was the last time you checked your dog’s body condition?