It would be convenient if one could simply weigh their dog and immediately determine if the pet is at an optimal weight and in good health. However, this is not the case. For owners of purebred dogs, the American Kennel Club provides a detailed weight chart for adult dogs of both sexes, categorized by breed. This chart can give an estimate of the potential size of a new purebred puppy. It’s important to note that a small weight difference, even a pound or two, can have a noticeable effect on the appearance and health of certain purebred dogs, even within the suggested weight range. For the numerous mixed-breed dogs in the country, weight calculators and charts offer limited assistance.

Determining a healthy weight for a dog is challenging. Veterinarians do not rely on a single numeric value to judge a dog’s healthy weight. They also employ body condition scoring and muscle condition scoring to assess whether a dog has excessive or insufficient body fat, or if the dog is experiencing a loss of muscle mass and definition. To evaluate a dog’s healthy weight, regular veterinary check-ups are essential and owners must also pay close attention to changes in their dog’s weight or body condition over time.


Canine Healthy Weight Criteria:

Severely Underweight

  • The dog appears bony from afar.
  • Ribs, lumbar vertebrae, and pelvic bones are visible beneath the skin.
  • There is no discernible body fat under the skin.
  • Loss of muscle mass is evident.


  • The dog’s ribs are easily felt and may be visible under the skin.
  • Body fat is hardly detectable under the skin.
  • Additional bony areas may be visible beneath the skin.
  • Viewed from above, the waist is noticeable behind the ribs.
  • From the side, the abdomen is markedly tucked up.

Ideal Weight

  • The dog’s ribs are palpable without an excess layer of fat (visibility varies).
  • From above, the waist is visible behind the ribs.
  • The abdomen appears tucked up when viewed from the side.


  • The dog’s ribs are difficult to feel due to fat coverage.
  • Fat deposits are noticeable over the tail base and lumbar region.
  • The waist is either not visible or barely discernible.
  • An abdominal tuck may still be present.

Severely Overweight

  • There are extensive fat deposits over the thorax, spine, and tail base.
  • Both the waist and abdominal tuck are missing.
  • Fat deposits on the dog’s neck and legs are visible or palpable.
  • The abdomen is noticeably distended and hangs.


What Should You Do If Your Dog Isn’t Their Ideal Weight?

If an owner suspects their dog is not at an ideal body condition or weight, being either underweight or overweight, they can take measures to guide their pet toward better health. The first step should always be to consult a veterinarian. The vet can offer guidance on caloric intake by either calculating the dog’s caloric needs based on current weight or by referring to recommended daily calorie intake charts for different weight categories. Many veterinary practices have programs or staff dedicated to assisting pets in safely gaining or losing weight over time. It is always best to follow the vet’s tailored advice for one’s individual dog.

For Underweight Dogs

  • Investigate common reasons for the dog being underweight.
  • Follow the vet’s advice to increase calorie intake, which may involve larger portion sizes, altered meal frequency, or high-calorie foods.

For Overweight Dogs

  • Incorporate more exercise and play into the dog’s daily routine.
  • Limit treats and snacks, especially human food.
  • Learn how to calculate the calories needed to be restricted in the dog’s diet.
  • Follow tips for healthy weight loss.

By adjusting caloric intake and adopting veterinarian-approved methods to manage weight, along with patience, an owner should notice an improvement in their dog’s well-being over time.


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