The Healthy Dog Weight and Body Condition

You love your dog just the way they are, so you probably won’t worry too much if they seem to put on just a few extra pounds. But from a health point of view, size really does matter! Although weighing your dog and monitoring their weight regularly is a good idea, this can be tricky as there is a lot of variation between breeds and it’s not always easy to know what is right for your pet. That’s where dog body condition scoring can make things easier.

What is the dog Body Condition Score?

Dog body condition scoring allows you to assess the amount of fat your dog is carrying, it is easy to do at home without scales, and can identify problems in overweight dogs before the scales show a big change. What’s more, the scale applies to nearly every kind of dog, so you can easily check them between visits to the vet whether they’re big, small, wiry or extremely furry!

Why is the dog Body Condition Score important?

Owning a dog means keeping a close eye on your dog’s body score and working to maintain an 'ideal' score of four or five throughout all stages of your dog's life. This can also decrease the risk of health problems associated with owning an overweight dog. These include arthritis, heart disease, and even diabetes, which not only mean large vet bills but an unhappy, uncomfortable dog – more reason than ever to get them in shape!

Like people, each one processes their food in a slightly different way, particularly depending on their age and activity level. If your dog gets more calories than they need, those excess calories may be stored as fat, which in the worst case can lead to obesity in dogs.

"Learning how to perform a body condition score for your pet, and regularly assessing this in combination with appropriate nutrition and exercise, will ensure you're doing your best for your pet's health and well-being," says Zara Boland, Purina's vet.

Some specific problems that puppies can develop from excess weight include:

  • Arthritis, joint damage, and joint pain
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Reduced exercise endurance and stamina
  • Increased anesthetic and surgical risks
  • Reduced liver function due to a fatty liver

How is the dog's Body Condition Score measured?

To work out your dog's current body condition score, there are three areas you should check:

  • Rib Check: Get your dog comfortable and run both of your palms across their ribcage, one hand on either side (your dog will probably think they’re enjoying a nice stroke!) Simply note how it feels and compare it to the images below.
  • Profile Check: View your standing dog from a side-on angle. It’s best if you are level with your pet so you get the most accurate view.
  • Overhead Check: Look down at your standing dog from an overhead angle.

PURINA® Dog Body Condition Tool

Created by experts in pet care, our PURINA® Dog Body Condition Tool is designed to help you determine if your dog is a healthy size. It uses a scale of one to nine, with one meaning ‘underweight’ and nine meaning ‘obese’. We try to avoid putting the emphasis on weight alone, which can be misleading. The dog body condition score tool encourages you to get hands-on with your dog, feeling them to really judge their actual size underneath their lovely coat! It also recommends looking at your dog from every angle to get an all-round view before deciding if they are a healthy shape and size. Be patient and gentle – your dog may not be accustomed to being handled in this way, but don’t worry, they’ll soon get used to it.


  • Ribs, backbone, and hip bones easily seen; with no overlying fat layer.
  • Some mid muscle loss particularly noticeable around shoulders and thighs
  • Exaggerated waistline
  • Severe tummy tuck.

Score is: 1


Ribs can be easily felt and may be seen, with backbone and hip bones just visible and no overlying fat layer.

  • Obvious waistline
  • Marked tummy tuck
  • In short-haired dogs.
  • When viewed from above.
  • When viewed from the side.

Score is: 2 - 3


Ribs can be easily felt and may/may not be seen with a minimal layer of overlying fat

  • A clear waistline can easily be seen
  • Noticeable tummy tuck in short-haired dogs.

Score is: 4 - 5


Ribs can be felt, but generally can't be seen, with an obvious layer of overlaying fat.

  • Waistline is visible, but not clear
  • Tummy tucks slightly upwards towards back legs.

Score is: 6 - 7


Ribs are very difficult to feel under a very thick layer of overlying fat.

  • Chunky pads of fat can be felt along the back and at the base of the tail
  • Waistline is absent
  • Tummy bulges outwards and may sag downwards.

Score is: 8 - 9

Your dog's body score is underweight if:

You have an underweight dog if their ribs are easily palpated (felt) and may be visible, with no palpable fat covering them. The tops of their lumbar vertebrae are visible, their pelvic bones becoming prominent, and they have a prominent waist.

Your dog is too thin if:

Ribs, lumbar vertebrae, pelvic bones and other prominent bones (ones that you can see the shape of) are visible from a distance. They will have no discernible body fat and an obvious loss of muscle mass.

They have ribs, lumbar vertebrae, pelvic bones and other prominent bones (ones that you can see the shape of) are visible from a distance. They will have no discernible body fat and an obvious loss of muscle mass.

Your dog's body score is ideal if:

You’re able to feel their ribs without too much of a fat covering. Their waist should be easily visible from above (look for an hourglass shape) and their abdomen (the part of their underside just in front of their hind legs) should be tucked up towards their pelvis when viewed from one side.

Your dog is overweight if:

Their ribs are palpable but with slight excess fat covering. Their waist is discernible viewed from above, but is not prominent and an abdominal tuck is apparent.

You have an overweight dog if you find it difficult to feel their ribs because a heavy fat cover is in the way. There are noticeable fat deposits over their lumbar area and the base of their tail. Their waist is absent or barely visible, and their abdominal tuck may or may not be present.

Your dog is obese

Your dog's ribs are not palpable under a very heavy fat cover or palpable only if you apply significant pressure. There are heavy fat deposits over the lumbar area and the base of their tail. Their waist is absent, with no abdominal tuck. Obvious abdominal distension may be present (their belly is large and hangs a little).

They have massive fat deposits over their thorax, spine, and the base of their tail. Their waist and abdominal tuck are absent, and they have fat deposits on their neck and limbs. There is obvious abdominal distention (their belly hangs).

Interpreting the Dog Body Condition Tool results

The ideal dog body condition score is leaner than you might think. In fact, pet owners tend to dramatically underestimate the weight of their puppies. Each individual dog will require different food, a different feeding quantity, and varying levels of exercise. Depending on body shape, size, and breed, two puppies could actually weigh the same but one could be overweight and one underweight.

After you have determined your dog’s body condition score, it’s time to think about what action needs to be taken as a responsible dog owner. If your dog is over- or underweight, ask your vet for advice on getting them back into shape.

Once your dog is where they should be, life will be even more exciting than ever for them – and they’ll have so much more energy, fun, and enthusiasm to share with you!

Is my puppy overweight?

If your dog is still a puppy, you might find their chubby frame a sign of utter cuteness. But be mindful of those extra rolls of puppy fat as they might also predict a future overweight adult dog. As puppies grow, they tend to get slimmer, so you can expect your puppy’s body shape to change as they reach their teenage years and move into adulthood. This is one of the reasons why owners can find it difficult to tell the fluff from the fat in the first 12-18 months of their puppy’s life. This is where the dog body condition tool comes in to help, so pay attention in particular to how palpable their ribs are and whether their waist and abdominal tuck are visible. A tiny belly is usually to be expected with puppies, but don’t hesitate to check with your vet if you think the puppy fat is more stubborn than you expected.

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