Written by: louise-horton
July 24, 2022

What is my pets ideal weight?  

Whilst it is always useful to know how much your pet weighs, it is not so easy to know what an ideal weight for your pet is. We can use body condition scoring to help assess and achieve an ideal bodyweight for your pet.  

An assessment of weight or body condition can be made by looking at the shape of your pet from the side and from above. Following this feel areas such as the ribs, spine, and hip bones. Finally once the assessment has been made, a scoring system can be used to see if they are underweight, overweight, or just right.  

Home weight assessment

At home you need to be able to decide if your dog is over ideal weight, under ideal weight or approximately ideal weight. This can be a confusing process. Weight charts are easy to access. However, these are of very limited use as the average weight for a breed is given only. The average size of a breed takes no account of individuals size and conformation. In the same way a ballerina and rugby playing human may both be their ideal weight but completely different sizes our pets can be too.

The most useful information to an owner is if their pet is under ideal weight, ideal weight or over ideal weight. This can be assessed at home without the use of weighing scales and complex charts. In summary our recommendation is that process is completed monthly and recorded for later evaluation. An explanation of a basic body condition score process is below for you to use.

Firstly your pet needs to be stood on a level non slip surface. This can be either the floor or a covered table top.

Next, view your pet from above. Assess their waist and contours. Finally run your hands gently along their ribcage and assess the tissue covering the ribs.

Under Ideal Weight

You will be able toe your dog’s ribs from the other side of the room. When you run your hands over the ribs and down the spine all the bones are easily felt with no fat or muscle layer under the skin. 

Similarly, looking from above the “hourglass” shape is quite severe giving a small waist, and from the side the tummy goes up steeply. 

Ideal Weight

You can feel your dog’s ribs with minimal fat covering and just feel the bones along the spine between the muscle.  

Similarly, looking from above there is a small hourglass waist behind the ribs and from the side a small tummy tuck.

Over Ideal Weight

You may have difficulty feeling some or any of your dog’s ribs, and the bones of the spine may be covered by fat.  

Similarly, looking from above there is no waist behind the rib cage, and from the side the tummy goes straight along or down. 

Veterinary body condition scoring

As veterinary clinicians we use a score out of 9. We aim for an ideal weight score of 4-5. A score below this means your pet is under ideal weight. A score above this means your pet is increasingly over ideal weight leading to very obese at a score of 9.  

Score of 1. Pet is very thin and severely under ideal weight.  

Ribs, spine, and hip bones all sticking out and easily seen from a distance. This indicates very little muscle mass. The pet has a very tucked up waist. Your pet looks very underweight.  

Score of 2. Pet is thin and under ideal weight.  

You can visualise the ribs, spine, and hip bones. There is no obvious body fat. Some muscle mass is present but the pet looks thin. You can see a tuck up and in at the waist.

Score of 3. Pet is a little on the thin side.  

Ribs, spine, and hip bones may be slightly visible. They are not as obvious but very easily felt. You can see a tuck up and in at the waist.  

Score of 4. Ideal weight, nice and slim.  

It is possible to feel the ribs, spine, and hip bones. They are nicely covered in tissue. This indicates a good muscle mass and a nice defined waist is present.  

Score of 5. Good weight, nice and trim.  Close to ideal weight.

You are able to feel the ribs, spine, and hip bones easily. They have minimal covering. A nice defined waist can be easily seen. A good level of muscle mass is present.

Score of 6. Getting a little on the heavy side, would benefit from watching those calories.  

You are able to feel the ribs, spine, and hip bones. These have an obvious fat covering. A good amount of muscle mass is present. The waistline starting to lose some definition.  

Score of 7. Oops getting a bit over ideal weight, may be time to consider a diet.  

You can feel the ribs, spine, and hip bones but with difficulty. Too much of a fat covering is present. Fat deposits are becoming present at the tail base and on the back. You are unable to visualise a waist line.  

Score of 8. Significantly over ideal weight, oh dear things are getting a bit out of hand, time to get some help with the diet.   

You are unable to feel the ribs, spine, and hip bones. A very heavy fat covering is present. You can not see a defined waist line. Your pet may be starting to look ‘potbellied’. Fat deposits in other areas are present, such as back and tail base.  

Score of 9. Pet is clinically obese and there is an increased risk to pets’ health.  

Unable to feel ribs. Rounded abdomen and further fat deposits to neck, chest, and limbs.  

What to do with the information

Under ideal weight pets need to be assessed by a Vet as soon as possible. These can be many causes for weight loss but it is a condition that needs to managed closely. Over ideal weight is also a cause for concern, but less urgently in most cases. Discuss weight management with your veterinary healthcare team during your next visit.

If you have further questions or any other pet health enquiries, speak to one of our Registered Veterinary Nurses.  

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