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Home > Dogs > What Is the Ideal Weight for My Dog? Vet-Approved Facts & Tips

What Is the Ideal Weight for My Dog? Vet-Approved Facts & Tips

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Dr. Amanda Charles

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The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Keeping your dog at an ideal weight has significant health benefits. There isn’t a perfect weight for any particular type of dog, as all breeds, whether pedigree or mixed, have individual metabolisms and physicalities. Like humans, they come in all different shapes and sizes, so an ideal weight is unique to your dog as opposed to a generalized breed weight or in the middle of a given weight range.

Over the years, veterinary researchers developed a more accurate method to discover your dog’s ideal weight and shape by combining the body weight with a system called the body condition score (BCS) 1. The combination of these two findings will give you a more tailored and authentic target weight and body condition for your dog to achieve.

To further enhance these results, the muscle score and the body fat index have also been developed. Assessing these factors along with the weight and body condition score gives a great personalized full picture. Don’t worry, this sounds more complicated than it is! It’s quite simple to fathom, so let’s look into it.


How Does Weight Affect a Dog?

Weight is a vital component of your dog’s health and lifespan, and it’s important to maintain this equilibrium as best you can.

Being underweight is just as unhealthy as packing too many pounds. Dogs who are underweight are not consuming enough nutrients to sustain a healthy life. They can begin to suffer from weakened immune systems, delayed wound healing, lack of energy and vigor for life, or be unable to regulate their temperature correctly. They may also lose muscle mass and struggle with mobility.

Overweight dogs, or dogs who are classed as obese, are prone to a raft of health issues from diabetes to arthritis, heart disease, increased injuries, and kidney disease, to name but a few. Research has also recently shown overweight and obese dogs may live shorter lives 2, and it is estimated a staggering 59% of dogs in the United States are classed as overweight or obese 3.

obese golden labrador retriever dog looking upwards while it sits in the grass peacefully
Image By: iLight photo

How to Find Your Dog’s Body Condition Score

To discover your dog’s ideal weight or target weight, you need to weigh your dog, preferably on veterinary scales. Breed-specific weight guides or weight ranges alone are helpful, but too many variables exist to make these robust enough to be the only tool used for ideal weight assessment.

A long-standing system known as the body condition score can be done at home or at your veterinary hospital, and it has been used by veterinarians and nutritionists across the world for many years. This scoring aids you in keeping track of your dog’s specific shape, letting you know if they have lost or gained weight.

It is easy to perform, and the body condition score chart 4 is used to assign a body condition score from 1–9 (9 being obese). This 9-point system is universal, and the ideal or target is a score of 4–5.

How to Perform a Body Condition Score

  1. Run your hands over the sides of your dog. Their skin should move freely and easily over the ribs. You should be able to feel the ribs with your fingers but not see the ribs visibly.
  2. Next, move your hands down your dog’s back. You should be able to feel the spine and hip bones under the skin but, like the ribs, unable to see them.
  3. Feel around the base of your dog’s tail. There should be no pad of fat or fat deposits.
  4. Feel under your dog’s abdomen and view it from the side. Does it bulge out and drop down, or does it tuck up?
  5. View your dog both from the side and from above and note if it curves in, curves out, or goes straight across.
  6. Consult the chart and assign the correct number.
shiba inu dog running
Image By: Trybex, Shutterstock

What Is a Muscle Score in Dogs

Muscle condition score is another tool that can be used alongside the body condition score to accurately assess your dog’s ideal weight and bodily condition. It is assessed by visualization and palpating various areas of the body. This provides key information on muscle mass. This is especially helpful in overweight dogs and those already with mild muscle loss.

Body Fat Index

The body fat index offers an additional way to more accurately determine ideal body weight. It’s similar to the above body condition scoring technique, in that it uses observation and palpation. First the pet is weighed and then the body fat percentage is determined by matching it to the images and descriptions in the chart provided by Hill’s Veterinary Nutrition.

While the 9 point body condition score system only correlates up to a maximum of 45-47% body fat, studies have shown that as the incidence of obesity is increasing, so is the severity. Many dogs now have >50% body fat. When vets are able to base their feeding recommendation on a more accurate determination of ideal weight, the success of weight loss has been shown to be much improved.

What Is a Target Weight in Dogs?

A target weight is the best and healthiest weight for your dog. Once you have the body condition score plus or minus the muscle and fat scores (if you or your vet wish to use them), a tailored target weight can be decided upon by consulting either the guide ranges for your dog or using certain calculations your veterinarian can assist you with.

Once the target weight is known, this figure is used to calculate the calorie intake and then the amount of your chosen diet to feed per day. A dog on a weight program will be fed the number of calories (and therefore food) for their target weight, not their current weight.



Maintaining an ideal weight for your dog is one of the best things as a pet parent you can do. It keeps them fit, healthy, and happy. Obesity and carrying excess weight are unfortunately the primary nutritional disorder seen by veterinarians; it causes a plethora of secondary health problems and is a precursor to many of them.

There are many options available to assist you in working out their ideal weight, but your veterinarian will be more than happy to help figure out a target weight and feeding amount with you. It’s always best to check with a professional and not guess!

Featured Image Credit: Osetrik, Shutterstock

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