Instead of asking “how much should my dog weight?” You should probably be checking your dog’s body condition score.
This doesn’t mean your dog’s weight does not matter. A dog being overweight or underweight are indicators of health issues that can compromise your pet’s life quality.
It is challenging to set a normal weight for a given breed or age because the weight dimension is not telling us what that weight is made of (muscles? Fat? Bones?).
A much better way to evaluate the “mass” of your dog is the very easy-to-perform body condition test (with this bonus: you don’t need a scale). One of the most used systems is the dog body condition score of 9 categories.
What we should aim at is a dog body condition score of 5/9
If you are curious to know what an approximation to a normal weight in your dog check it out here
But we invite you to evaluate your dog’s more informative body condition.
Body condition score may help in the diagnosis of health conditions in dogs. For example, underweight dogs may be suffering from tumors (i.e., lymphoma, kidney stones, inflammation, and chronic diseases in general
So, let’s dive into how you check your dog’s body condition.
Body condition score (BCS)
First, let’s see from eyesight, what is the stripe your dog is roughly located in the body condition score to finetune later the exact placement in the 9 categories classification.
Your dog is athletic, does recommended daily exercise times, does not overeat (you follow a veterinarian or nutritionist guidelines), and generally looks lean. Here you are good to go.
GOOD (healthy scores):
BCS >>> 4 or 5
Your dog is too skinny, can see the ribs and other bony prominences, and probably has a sad look; therefore, your dog is underweight:
BCS >>> 1 to 3
Your dog is fat and, therefore, overweight.
BAD (unhealthy) scores:
BCS >>> 6 to 9
Now, let’s see the exact score of your dog (from 1 to 9 according to the body condition score):
Dog body condition score
If your dog is underweight, he will get a score of 1, 2, or 3 (from worst to better):
1) Ribs, lumbar vertebrae, pelvic bones, and all bony prominences visible. Muscle mass loss is obvious (cachectic state)
2) Ribs, some bony prominence are visible, like lumbar vertebrae, pelvic bones visible. Minimal loss of muscle mass
3) Ribs are not so much visible but palpable (you can easily feel them through touch). No visible or palpable fat in ribs. Only the top of the lumbar vertebrae is visible (spinous processes). Pelvic bones are a bit prominent or evident. Waist and abdominal tuck are obvious.
An evident abdominal tuck can be noticed as the abdominal area behind their rib cage slopes upward as it meets the hind leg (in a side view) instead of forming a straight horizontal line from the foreleg to the hindleg.
Notice: This area (abdominal tuck) varies greatly depending on your dog’s breed. A very deep-chested dog will have a very pronounced abdominal tuck. A skinny dog will have an extreme abdominal tuck, while an overweight dog will have no abdominal tuck.
Bony prominences underweight dogs (with low body condition scores; 1 to 3)
Prominent parts of the skeleton are visible and touchable in underweight dogs.
This is an infographic depicting visible bony parts in skinny dogs:
So, what is the ideal body condition score for a dog? When your dog is fit and has proper weight, she will get a score of 4 or 5 for body condition
4) Ribs are easily palpable, not visible, and almost no fat covering. The waist is easily visible or noted from above. Abdominal tuck evident. You don’t see bone prominences in categories 4 and 5.
5) Ribs are easily palpable, not visible, with little fat covering. The waist is visible from above. Abdomen tucked up in a side view.
When your dog is overweight, he will get a body condition score from 6 to 9, with 6 being the best scenario and 9 the worse:
6) Ribs palpable, not visible, with a slight amount of fat covering. Waist from above is discernible but not prominent (noticeable). abdomen tucked up in a side view
7) Ribs are difficult to palpate, not visible (cannot see or feel ribs) with heavy fat covering. Waist absent or barely visible from above. Fat deposits lumbar area and tail base. Abdominal tuck may be present (barely) or not.
Body condition scores of 8 or 9 mean your dog is not only overweight but also obese:
8) Ribs are still palpable, not visible, with a hefty amount of fat covering (you have to put considerable pressure to feel them). Heavy fat deposits in the lumbar area and tail base. Waist absent. Abdominal tuck absent.
9) Massive fat deposits: chest, spine (now not limited to the lumbar region). Waist and abdominal tuck are not present anymore. Fat deposits in the neck and limbs. Evident abdominal distension (because of fat weight)
Interpretation of the dog’s body condition score
Why my dog is underweight?
There are several reasons your dog may have low weight (body condition score lower than 3). The most common causes are:
- Undernutrition. Your dog is eating too few calories per day.
- Several chronic diseases (see below)
- Stress (some stressed dogs won’t eat)
- Maldigestion (malabsorption)
- Excessive exercise
What illnesses make dogs lose weight?
Cancer, parasites, heart failure, renal disease, hyperthyroidism, liver failure, pancreatitis, lung disease, like pneumonia, or any painful condition.
why is my dog overweight?
One or a combination of the following causes will make your dog overweight, or even worse, obese:
- Lack of exercise or sedentarism
- Excessive eating
- Breed predisposition: Basset Hound, Bull Dogs, Beagles, and Labrador Retrievers
- Senior dogs
Excessive eating comes in the form of mainly feeding snacks and treats between regular meals or supplementing balanced dog food with extra human food.
Hypothyroidism slows down the metabolism, and dogs tend to accumulate fat.
Senior dogs have lower calory needs, and their activity level drops.
A dog can be considered obese when 30% or more above the ideal weight. Obesity in dogs is usually linked to metabolic diseases like diabetes.
We hope you can now use the body condition score to assess the nutritional state of your dog quickly and reliably.
If you would like to get a free PDF chart with the body condition score system, click the button below