Caitlin UltimoHealth / Wellness

How to Maintain a Healthy Dog Weight

Find Out the Best Healthy Dog Weight for Your Pup

Contributed by Dr. Alison Birken, owner and DVM of Victoria Park Animal Hospital.

Just like us, our furry friends need to stay at their recommended weight to live the longest, healthiest lives they can. A dog’s weight can say a lot about their health. With over half of the dogs in the United States being overweight, it is more important than ever to make sure pet parents are informed about the true state of their dog’s condition. Then they can take the appropriate steps to properly handle any health issues that may be present.

Being a small animal veterinarian, I see so many overweight dogs, and I am always working with pet parents to create an ideal diet and exercise plan for their pet. Pet obesity is becoming an epidemic in our country and poses a dangerous health concern for our pets. Just like us, obesity can lead to many diseases and health concerns such as:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Osteoarthritis
  • High blood pressure
  • Skin disease
  • Thyroid issues
  • Seizures
  • Heart and respiratory disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Some cancers
  • Decreased life expectancy (up to 2.5 years)

Dog Weight Chart: BCS Assessment

How can we ensure our pups maintain a healthy dog weight so they can live longer, healthier lives? First, it is important to know what your pet’s ideal body weight should be so you can see when your pet may be overweight. Small animal veterinarians utilize a Body Condition Score (BCS) chart to assess the healthy dog weight and body condition of a pet. Using this scale, I give each pet a score ranging from 1 to 9, with 5 being the ideal body weight. The score enables me to assess your pet’s weight and body condition to formulate a diet and exercise plan that best fits their needs.

When assessing your pet, I evaluate your their silhouette from above and from the side, focusing on the ribs, spine, hip bones, waist, abdomen, muscle mass and overall fat.  Ideally, they would score 5 out of 9, meaning that you should be able to see your pet’s waistline from above, and while looking from the side, your pet’s abdomen should appear to be tucked behind the rib. You should be able to easily feel your pet’s ribs under a thin layer of fat. Below is a short description of each score on the BCS chart to help assess where your pet falls. Always have your veterinarian evaluate and give your pet a BCS assessment. They are your best resource for creating a proper diet plan and exercise regimen for your pet.

  • 1/9: Emaciated

    Bones such as the ribs, spine and hip are visible from a distance. There is no body fat, and there’s often loss of muscle mass.

  • 2/9: Very thin

    Bones such as the ribs, spine and hip are easily visible. There is no discernible body fat, and there’s minimal loss of muscle mass.

  • 3/9: Thin

    The spine and hip bones are visible. The ribs can be easily felt with no obvious fat covering them.

  • 4/9: Underweight

    The ribs can be easily felt with little to no fat covering them. The waistline is easily viewed from above the dog, and there is an abdominal tuck behind the rib cage when viewed from the side.

  • 5/9: Ideal

    This is the goal for pets. The ribs can easily be felt without excess fat covering them. The waist can be observed when viewed from above, and an abdominal tuck is present when viewed from the side.

  • 6/9: Overweight

    If you have an overweight dog, the ribs can be felt with excess fat covering them. There is still a waist present from above, but it’s not prominent. An abdominal tuck is present from the side view.

  • 7/9: Heavy

    The ribs are difficult to feel due to a heavy fat covering. There are obvious fat deposits over the lower back and base of the tail. The waistline is minimal, and there is no abdominal tuck. The abdomen may appear to be obviously rounded or saggy.

  • 8/9: Obese

    The ribs can only be felt with heavy pressure. There are significant fat deposits over the lower back and base of the tail. The waist and abdominal tuck are both absent. The abdomen appears to be rounded or saggy.

  • 9/9: Severely obese

    The ribs can no longer be palpated. There are large fat deposits over the neck, chest, spine and base of the tail. The waist and abdominal tuck are both absent. There’s obvious abdominal distention, and a broad, flat back may also be present.

How to Get Your Pup to a Healthy Dog Weight

Now that we all have a better understanding of how your pet should look, perhaps your pet may need to lose some pounds. I always recommend consulting your veterinarian regarding the best and healthiest plan for your pet. Here are some tips for helping your overweight dog shed some pounds and score a 5 on the BCS scale:

Our pets depend on us to make the right choices for them and to keep them healthy and strong. They give us so much love, devotion and loyalty, so let’s give them the benefits of health, happiness and a long, wonderful life.