How heavy should my dog be - dog body condition score

Jack Russel sat on the floor with owner

It's important to know what a healthy body weight looks like for your dog from a young age. It's easy to check at home while you are petting your dog, and using a body condition score will help you identify early warning signs of weight gain or loss. This can make it easier for you to act in partnership with your veterinarian and help your dog achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

Illustration of a dog body condition assessment

Weighing your dog on a scale might initially seem like the only option when assessing whether their weight is ideal or not, however, this method doesn't take into account the physical attributes of each dog. 
 
A body condition score takes into account your dog's natural body shape alongside their weight.
 
Typically, a dog body condition score is used by veterinarians and evaluates whether your dog is under, over or at their ideal body condition. It focuses on the look and feel of your dog, not just their weight.
 

How to use a body condition score

A dog body condition score typically uses a 9-point system to assess a dog's weight. Scores are ranked from 1, indicating your dog is severely underweight, to 9 at the other end of the scale, which indicates severe obesity. 
 
The ideal body condition for a dog, according to the score, is marked as a 4 or 5. For a dog to score a 4 or 5 this means you can easily feel their ribs, identify a visible waist from above and can see their abdomen tuck up behind their rib cage when looking at your dog from the side. 


Assessing your dog's body condition score

Follow our easy-to-use dog body condition score strategy below to understand whether your dog is underweight, overweight or at an ideal weight.

Illustration of a dog body condition assessment

Step 1 - Look

Using our body condition score below, check which body shape best matches your dog. When assessing a body condition score, look at your dog from above and from the side. Compare their body shape against those highlighted under each score, from 1 to 9, to see which best matches your dog's physical appearance.

Illustration of a dog body condition assessment

Step 2 - Feel

Using your fingers, gently apply small amounts of pressure around your dog's ribs. If you can clearly feel their ribs without pressure this could indicate they are underweight. However, if you are struggling to feel their ribs without applying a significant amount of pressure this could be a sign of excess weight gain.

Illustration of a dog body condition assessment

Step 3 - Weigh

Check your dog's weight on an appropriate scale. This along with their body condition score will help you assess their weight and condition. Your veterinarian will be able to address your dog's nutritional needs based on their current and ideal body condition. 

 

Dog body condition score 1 - 9

A dog body condition scale ranges from 1 to 9, with 1 indicating a dog is severely underweight, to 9 meaning severely obese. A dog is considered to have an ideal body condition if they score between 4 and 5. Assessing your dog's body condition score is easy to do and can be carried out when petting your dog.

 

Underweight dog - body condition score 1 - 3

Dog body condition score 1

Score 1: Severely underweight 

What to look for

  • Ribs, pelvis and other bones are severely evident from a distance
  • No recognizable body fat

Dog body condition score 2

Score 2: Underweight

What to look for

  • Ribs, pelvis and other bones are evident from a distance
  • No visible body fat

Dog body condition score 3

Score 3: Too thin

What to look for

  • Ribs can easily be felt and may be visible with no noticeable fat
  • The lower spine is visible and pelvic bones are prominent
  • Obvious waist and abdominal tuck when viewed from the side

Why is my dog underweight?

Weight gain isn't the only weight problem your dog may experience throughout their life. If your dog is underweight this can also pose a serious risk to their health and wellbeing, so it's good to know how you can help get them back to their ideal weight. Your veterinarian will be able to carry out a physical examination of your dog and recommend appropriate management options.

Weight gain for dogs

 

Ideal dog weight - body condition score 4 - 5

 

Dog body condition score 4

Score 4: Ideal

What to look for

  • Ribs can easily be felt with minimal fat
  • The waist is visible when viewed from above
  • Abdominal tuck is clearly visible when viewed from the side

Dog body condition score 5

Score 5: Ideal

What to look for

  • Ribs can easily be felt without excess fat
  • The waist can clearly be seen when viewed from above
  • Abdominal tuck is visible when viewed from the side

My dog is a healthy weight

It's great news if your dog is already an ideal and healthy weight, but you should still maintain healthy feeding habits. Make sure you continue to feed your dog the correct portion sizes, avoid giving them too many treats and ensure they receive daily exercise as recommended by your veterinarian. Keeping on top of these factors will help your dog's weight remain stable. 

As your dog ages remember that feeding and exercise habits will need to be adapted. Regular check-ups with your veterinarian will provide opportunities to discuss changes to your dog's diet and how their activity levels should be altered.

Maintain a healthy weight


Overweight dog - body condition score 6 - 9

Dog body condition score 6

Score 6: Above ideal

What to look for

  • Ribs can be felt with only a slight excess of fat
  • The waist is apparent when viewed from above but is not prominent
  • Abdominal tuck is visible when viewed from the side
Dog body condition score 7

Score 7: Overweight

What to look for

  • Ribs palpable with difficulty, heavy fat cover
  • Noticeable fat around the lower back area and base of the tail
  • The waist is absent or barely visible
  • Abdominal tuck may be absent when viewed from the side
 
Dog body condition score 8

Score 8: Obese

What to look for

  • Ribs cannot be felt under very heavy fat cover or may only be identified with significant pressure
  • Heavy fat around the lower back area and base of the tail
  • No visible waist
  • No abdominal tuck when viewed from the side
  • Obvious abdominal swelling may be present

Dog body condition score 9

 

Score 9: Severely obese

What to look for

  • Excessive fat between the neck and the abdomen, spine, and base of the tail
  • Waist and abdominal tuck is absent when viewed from the side
  • Fat around the neck and limbs
  • Obvious abdominal swelling
  • Ribs cannot be felt under very heavy fat cover

Is my dog overweight?

If you think your dog might be overweight, don't panic. First, speak to your veterinarian and understand what next steps you should take. But remember, the most effective weight loss programs for dogs result from the commitment and effort of the pet owner. So, work with your veterinarian to create a weight loss plan for your dog and also ask them if Royal Canin's Satiety Support diets would be suitable for your dog.

Weight Management for dogs

Still unsure about your dog's ideal weight?

If you're unsure how to use a dog body condition score or need help interpreting your dog's score, speak to your veterinarian for advice. They will be able to assess if your dog is underweight, overweight or at an ideal weight and will advise the most suitable next steps. They may suggest additional exercise, a targeted weight management diet, reducing treats or a combination of measures. 

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