Like many pup parents, you might be curious how much your dog should weigh and if your puppy is growing to be a healthy adult dog. Healthy dogs can range in size and weight, depending on their breed and age. Understandably, this can make determining your dog’s ideal weight tricky.
Obesity in dogs (and the health conditions it causes) is on the rise—excess weight and obesity are the most common nutritional disorders seen in dogs, according to Dr. Valerie J. Parker, Small Animal Internal Medicine & Nutrition professor at The Ohio State University.
You can track your dog’s weight against their respective dog breed weight chart. However, the number on the scale is just one step in determining if your dog is at an ideal weight and body condition. During routine visits, your veterinarian will check your dog’s body condition and muscle scores—two important assessments you can learn to do at home.
If you’ve asked yourself how heavy should my dog be, this guide is for you. Let’s take a closer look at why dog weight matters, plus explore ways to help keep your dog at a healthy weight.
Dog Weight: Why It Matters
Like obesity in humans, a dog who is overweight or obese is at an increased risk of developing costly and life-threatening conditions. “Being obese can both shorten lifespan and contribute negatively to the quality of life,” Parker says.
Overweight or obese dogs have a greater risk of developing or experiencing:
- Pain and loss of mobility associated with osteoarthritis and other joint-related diseases
- Respiratory disease
- Decreased ability to deal with hot weather
- Urinary incontinence
- Predisposition to cancer
- Anxiety or depression
- Decreased overall life span
According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 39 percent of dog parents think their dogs might be overweight. But the reality is that upward of half of our pets are overweight or obese and 78 percent of the veterinary community agrees that pet obesity is a disease.
Cutting back on your dog’s table scraps and daily kibble can feel like tough love, but studies show that it has major benefits. Dogs who maintain a healthy weight live up to 2.5 years longer than overweight or obese dogs .
The bottom line is that preventing obesity-related diseases is easier than managing the irreversible effects of obesity, Parker says.
What is a Healthy Dog Weight?
A healthy weight for one dog might be different from another, especially for dogs of different genders, ages, and breeds. But becoming familiar with the benchmarks of an ideal weight for your dog can help you spot the first signs of sickness and track weight management goals at home.
Beyond the number on the scale, you might notice behavioral changes that indicate your dog is heavier than they should be. “Many overweight or obese dogs can demonstrate exercise intolerance and difficulty in rising or jumping,” Parker says. Overweight brachycephalic breeds (smush-face) can experience increased respiratory discomfort and in general, overweight dogs are more likely to develop joint pain.
How Heavy Should My Dog Be? Dog Breed Weight Chart
The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognizes 199 of 340 dog breeds found throughout the world, setting breed standards for each one. If you know the breed (or breed mixes) of your dog, these standards can be used as a guide when determining your dog’s ideal weight. While these standards provide a framework for determining your dog’s ideal weight, your veterinarian can tell you the most accurate healthy weight range for your dog.
|Dog Size||Toy Dogs||Small Dogs||Medium Dogs||Large Dogs||Giant Dogs|
|Breed Examples||Chihuahua, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Affenpinscher, Japanese Chin, Shih Tzu||Basenji, Beagle, Australian Terrier, Lhasa Apso, Shiba Inu||Bearded Collie, Basset Hound, German Pinscher, Jindo||Boxer, Bernese Mountain Dog, Greyhound, Hanoverian Scenthound, Komondor||Anatolian Shepherd Dog, Broholmer, Bullmastiff, Great Dane, Leonberger|
|Healthy Weight Range||3 to 18 pounds||9 to 30 pounds||25 to 70 pounds||50 to 115 pounds||80 to 150 pounds|
Is My Dog Overweight? How to Tell
“Breed weight standards do not necessarily apply to all individual dogs,” Parker says. That’s why your veterinarian uses a qualitative assessment called the Body Condition Score to evaluate your dog’s physical health at every routine check-up.
Based on a 5 or 9 point scale, the Body Condition Score is a physical evaluation of body fat that can be used in your veterinarian’s office or at home. The lower end of the scale is representative of an underweight pet, a median score is of an ideal weight, and above a median score indicates that your pet needs to slim down.
In addition to taking note of any behavioral clues, you can evaluate your dog’s body condition at home between routine veterinarian visits. To do this, start by gently running your fingers from the front of your dog’s rib cage to the back, applying minimal pressure. You should feel the ribs gently trickling under your fingers. If pressure needs to be applied to feel the ribs through a fat layer, your dog’s body condition is on the higher end of the scale. The ribs of a dog with an ideal body condition feel like running your fingers along the knuckles of a flat hand. The ribs of an overweight dog feel like running your fingers along the base of your open palm .
Next, with your dog in a standing position, look at them from above. They should have an hourglass shape—wide at the ribs, an abdominal tuck at the waist, and wider again at the hips. If a dog appears to have a square or rounded appearance or if their tummy hangs lower than their ribs, they score higher on the body condition chart.
Is My Dog Underweight? How to Tell
Dr. Alex Avery, a small animal veterinarian in New Zealand, heeds a warning when it comes to evaluating our pet’s health without the appropriate tools. Many pets that we see are overweight, he says in his podcast Call the Veterinarian, “and it’s skewed our perception of normal.”
Pet parents have seen Avery after being told by friends, family members, and neighbors that their pet is underweight. “Actually, these cats and these dogs are a picture of health. They’re really lean and they’re nice and well-muscled. It’s exactly what a dog or cat should look like.”
Underweight dogs typically suffer from an underlying illness and should see their veterinarian right away . In senior dogs, dramatic weight loss may indicate the presence of inflammatory disease, hormonal diseases (such as diabetes), or even some types of tumors.
If you believe your dog is below the average dog weight for their breed and age, you can start by looking at and feeling their ribs. If the ribs and other bony structures like the back bones of a dog are prominent from a distance, your dog may be underweight. Then, gently run your fingers from the front of your dog’s rib cage to the back, applying minimal pressure. Unlike the ribs of an ideal body condition that feel like the knuckles of a flat hand, the ribs of an underweight dog feel like the knuckles of a closed fist .
Next, look at your dog from above. An underweight dog has a too-obvious abdominal tuck and waist and may have a loss of muscle.
In addition to the Body Condition Score, the Muscle Condition Score can help determine if a pet is underweight or could be suffering from common conditions related to muscle loss—like cancer or chronic kidney disease . Some senior dogs experience muscle loss even in the absence of medical conditions, due to age-related changes in their activity level.
To check your dog for muscle loss you can visually and physically examine your dog at home in four key locations: the head, shoulder blades, along the spine, and the pelvic bones. Muscle loss associated with a disease is called cachexia while muscle loss not associated with a disease is called sarcopenia. Sarcopenia naturally occurs with aging . So, talk to your veterinarian about what you can expect as your dog ages and how you can slow muscle loss during their senior years.
How to Keep Your Dog at a Healthy Weight
All breeds of dogs are at risk of developing obesity. But popular breeds of dogs like Golden Retrievers, Pugs, and Beagles are at higher risk of developing obesity, says Parker. Plus, dogs that were previously overweight have an increased chance of becoming overweight again and your dog’s metabolism will naturally slow as they age. So, weight management is a life-long commitment.
Luckily, there are ways to create and maintain good eating and exercise habits. Just be sure to speak to your veterinarian about the right tweaks to fit your dog’s breed, age, and lifestyle.
The right amount and type of exercise for dogs vary. Most dogs should get between 30 minutes and two hours of exercise every single day. If your dog is older or overweight, start with low-impact and short-duration activities that build and strengthen their muscles. Walking is often a better option for senior dogs than high-impact games of Frisbee or fetch. If your pup is a water dog, swimming might be a good option.
Talk to your veterinarian about how the breed, age, and abilities of your dog might influence the type and length of exercise needed.
Feed an Appropriate Diet
Table scraps shouldn’t be a staple in your dog’s diet. But if you can’t resist occasionally feeding your dog human treats, reach for low-calorie snacks like baby carrots or celery. When shopping for your dog’s meals, look for high-quality, protein-balanced food and pass on low-quality treats packed with carbohydrates.
Talk to your veterinarian about foods made especially for your dog’s breed or size. If your dog is overweight, ask your veterinarian about the best food for weight loss. Senior dogs often benefit from a senior diet. These diets have a lower caloric content, in addition to containing supplements that can be beneficial for older dogs. Switching foods or offering a therapeutic weight loss diet might be the key to quickly and safely losing weight while satisfying your dog’s appetite and nutritional needs.
When it’s a picky eater you’re trying to please, reach for tasty meals that are nutritionally complete with the smells, flavors and textures that your dog loves. Meal toppers, bone broth, and appetite stimulants can all be useful for underweight dogs needing extra encouragement to eat a full meal. If your dog is not eating enough to maintain a healthy body weight, schedule an appointment with your local veterinarian to determine the problem and come up with a solution.
Feed an Appropriate Amount of Food
Instead of following the serving suggestions on the bag of kibble, Parker says to talk with your veterinarian or refer to the 2021 AAHA Nutritional Management Guidelines for an appropriate serving size. Then, buy a gram scale to weigh the right portions of food rather than relying on handfuls or heaping measuring cups.
If you’re in a multi-pet household, prevent a fast eater from eating two portions of food by feeding separately. Or use a food puzzle to slow down mealtime.
Boost Your Dog’s Gut Health
The gut microbiome plays a major role in your dog’s overall health. It’s made up of several hundred families of bacteria and it affects everything from immune system responses to mood, and it might impact your dog’s weight.
Recent studies have found that the gut microbiome of obese dogs differs from the gut microbiome of lean dogs. Whether the lean body condition of the dog caused this shift in good bacteria, or the good bacteria caused the lean body condition in the dog is yet to be determined. What researchers do agree on, however, is that the gut microbiome has a big effect on overall wellness and can alter the likelihood that your dog can lose weight and maintain an ideal weight .
At your next routine visit, talk with your veterinarian about gut health and your pet’s diet. They may recommend adding a daily probiotic to your dog’s meal.
Visit With Your Veterinarian
Tracking weight management goals at home is the first step in keeping your dog healthy, but it’s not a replacement for routine veterinarian visits. Regular veterinary visits are even more essential in senior dogs, who are prone to conditions that may affect their body weight and overall health status.
If you notice your dog is unable to lose or gain weight despite feeding an appropriate amount of a complete and balanced diet and regular exercise plan, talk to your veterinarian about underlying conditions that could be impacting your dog’s weight and body condition.