Healthy Dog Weight - How to Tell if Your Dog is Overweight

Dr. Jason Gagné, DVM, DACVIM
By Dr. Jason Gagné, DVM, DACVIM
Updated: 5/9/20242-4 minutes
Healthy Dog Weight

According to recent studies, an estimated 56 percent of dogs in the United States are considered overweight or obese. So how do you identify a healthy weight goal if you’ve got an underweight or overweight dog?

To answer this question, most people turn to resources on the internet to research what an average weight range is for dogs. Unfortunately, because all dogs are different, it’s not quite that simple.

Dog breeds can have large weight ranges and they usually vary from male to females, too. If you have a mixed breed dog, this makes things even more complicated.

Fortunately, The Body Condition System (BCS), was developed by Purina veterinarians and scientists and is now the global standard for assessing pet weight in the veterinary industry. According to RuthAnn Lobos, DVM, CCRT, CVAT, Purina Senior Veterinarian, “The BCS is a nine-point scale that can help your veterinarian assess your dog’s body condition and whether their weight needs adjusting one way or another.”

Feeding your dog a healthy weight dog food can help them achieve and maintain their ideal weight.

Problems With Identifying an “Average” Dog Weight

Since dogs come in so many different breeds and sizes, it’s impossible to identify an average weight for all dogs. Weight may also depend on the dog’s sex and whether they’ve been spayed or neutered.

Although many resources provide an average weight range for different breeds, the weight range is often broad. Plus, these ranges often don’t take the dog’s sex and other factors into consideration.

For example, a typical weight range you might see for a Labrador Retriever is 55 to 80 pounds. That’s a wide range, and most female Labs should not weigh 80 pounds. They should fall closer to the lower end of that range.

Weight ranges also don’t account for the many mixed breed dogs out there. Just because the typical range for a Lab is 55 to 80 pounds doesn’t mean your Lab mix will or should fall within that range. It depends on the other breeds mixed with your dog.

Further, what if you don’t know the breed makeup of your mixed-breed dog? What then? Most resources say to use the dominant breed, but even then, you’re guessing what that is. An average dog weight or range doesn’t work for mixed breeds.

A Better Solution for Determining Healthy Dog Weight

Rather than going off an average, which can be grossly inaccurate, many veterinarians use the BCS referenced above. With this system, your veterinarian uses physical and visual observations of your dog to assess their current body condition and whether they’re too heavy or too thin.

You can assess your dog’s weight from home by giving them a Healthy Hug. Watch this video for step-by-step instructions.

What if My Dog Is Overweight?

Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most important concerns when it comes to your dog’s health. Factors like diet and exercise in the right amounts can keep your dog at an ideal weight.

If you suspect your dog is overweight, there are ways to help them lose weight. Consider switching to a weight management dog food to help them achieve and maintain a healthy weight. “Definitely have a conversation with your veterinarian to develop a personalized plan for weight loss and exercise. They may want to run blood work to determine if there is a medical condition contributing to your dog’s weight,” recommends Dr. Lobos.

Do You Need to Adjust Your Dog’s Diet?

Here are three simple ways to tell if your dog’s diet needs adjustment:

  • Rib Check: Place both of your thumbs on your dog’s backbone and spread both hands across their rib cage. You want to be able to feel their ribs. Actually feeling your dog is important, as the coat of many dogs can make a visual check difficult.
  • Profile Check: Examine your dog’s profile – it’s best if you are level with your dog. Look for the abdomen to be tucked up behind their rib cage – this is ideal.
  • Overhead Check: Looking at your dog from overhead, identify whether you can see a waist behind their ribs. Most dogs at a healthy weight should have an hourglass figure.

If you find that your dog’s ribs and waistline aren’t in good condition, talk to your vet about adjusting the amount of food offered accordingly. Hopefully these tips will help you keep your dog healthy and fit.

It’s also a good idea to consult with your veterinarian to rule out any potential medical problems that could be causing weight gain.

What if My Dog Is Underweight?

Many people focus so much on whether their dog is overweight that they fail to ask themselves, “is my dog too skinny?” Even so, it’s important to know how to help your dog gain weight.

If your veterinarian says your dog is too thin, “They may recommend increasing the amount of food you’re feeding them or suggest a higher calorie food to help them gain weight,” says Dr. Lobos. “Once they reach a healthy weight, an adult maintenance formula can help them to maintain it long-term.”

Although it’s tempting to give your dog lots of treats and even people food during this time, it’s important not to overdo it. Even if your dog is underweight, treats should make up no more than 10 percent of their daily caloric intake to ensure their overall nutrition remains complete and balanced.

You should also not overlook exercise during this time, as it’s important for building muscle and improving their mental health.

Average Dog Weight Is a Myth 

In truth, there is no average weight for dogs, because there are no average dogs. Each dog is unique, and their ideal weight will vary based on several factors.

To learn more about dog weight and overall health from our experts, visit our Pet Expertise page.

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