Finding Your Dog’s Healthy Weight

Each dog is unique and can vary in size even within their breeds. The “average” weight for a cockapoo is impossible to determine. Each breed has its own unique physical characteristics. While the breed standard weight of two breeds could be 45 pounds, the breeds could side by side look completely different. The only way to know if your dog is at a healthy weight is knowing their bodyweight and their Body Condition Score. Designer dogs have no known breed standards and one mutt is as loved as another and even within litters, some dogs favor one parent or the other. Vets use a weight target formula that covers all breeds and size of dogs by knowing their body weight and their body condition score (BCS). Your Schnoodle may not be even fat, he may just be fit for a full-size Schnauzer bone structure if you look under the fur and check his BCS in comparison to his weight.


Body Condition Score

The Body Condition Score is widely used to determine a dog’s percentage of body fat to lean mass. The BCS for dogs is evaluated on a 9-point scale. A healthy body condition is defined as having a BCD+S between 5 or 6. If a dog is outside this range, a dog is considered underweight or overweight. Dogs scoring only 3 or less are considering underweight and are lacking the minimal fat and necessary lean muscle mass for health.  6- and 7-point earning canines are overweight. Dogs can even be obese and score an 8 or 9. The morbidly obese dog is very rare but not unseen in vets offices and a morbidly obese dog can achieve a score above nine.

BCS evaluates the dog’s physical conditioning based on the criteria of the canine waistline, the abdomen, and ribs using both touch and visual appearance.

An owner should be able to feel a dog’s ribcage with soft pressure. The ribs should be covered by a thin layer of fat.  When viewing the dog from directly above and using a birds-eye, a dog should have a visible waistline. The waistline is seen as slight indentation inward on a curve behind the ribcage. A healthy body condition in a dog is also shown with the dog having a visible upwards curvature of the midsection behind the ribs. This is called the “abdominal tuck.” For very furry dogs or dogs with long hair, it can be harder to see these but these curves should be able to be felt when gently running your hands over your dog’s body to determine the BCS if you did not get a number from the vet or are doing a BCS calculation or update at home.

Dogs that are overweight have ribs that the ribs cannot be felt at all or only one or two may be felt at all due to fat being underneath the skin there. Obese dogs have a protruding rounded or drooping belly instead of an abdominal tuck and there will be no indentations or visible waistline. A fat pup can even protrude in the sides and be wider in the middle than at the ribcage in that area when viewed from above.

An underweight dog has a skeletal appearance and the bones of the body are also easily felt. They feel like loose thin fur over bones. The ribs are easily seen with a low BCS dog, but the pelvic bones, hip, and knee joints and the spinal vertebrae are visible and able to be palpated (felt) in an underweight dog. There will be a strong obviously exaggerated abdominal tuck and waistline


Calculating A Goal Weight

Once you have your dog’s BCS and have used the numbering charts available from multiple pet care resources, you can use that BCS number to calculate the target weight for your individual dog. The University of Liverpool and Royal Canin created the mathematical formula used.


  • Take your dog’s BCS and subtract 5 from that number.
  • Add 10 to that number.
  • Divide 100 by the sum of your dog’s BCS -5 number. You should round to 3 decimal points.
  • Multiply the sum of the previous step by your dog’s current weight to get the target weight.


The following example is how to calculate the ideal weight of a morbidly obese dog. The dog weighs 50 lbs. and scored 9 on his BCS.

  • 9-5 = 4
  • 4 x 10 = 40
  • 40 + 100 = 140
  • 100 / 140 = .714
  • .714 x 50 pounds = 35.7 pounds

Target Weight: 35.7 pounds


If a dog’s BCS changes, the weight changes. If your dog is not anywhere near the target number, then making an appointment with your vet and consulting the experts for professional care and advice is the responsible thing to do, along with annual well-pet visits and always protecting your pet with up to date vaccines and spaying and neutering non-breeding animals. Flea, tick, and worm infestation prevention are also necessary for your pet’s safety.

Vet visits for underweight pets can help make sure that there is treatment provided to a medical cause such as a metabolic or chronic health condition that has led to. Dental disease can also make eating very painful and avoided. Parasites can likewise contribute to weight loss and need to be treated. Even a new spouse, new house or stress can cause a dog to lose their appetite.

If you have a chubby puppy, the vet can check for metabolic issues and help you provide a balanced and complete nutrition diet and increased activity to help your dog lose weight safely and gradually. By having a target weight, you can reduce your dog’s calories but still ensure they get the macro and micronutrients needed. Monthly visits to have a dog weighed are usually free veterinary services.

Knowing how to calculate your companion animals BCS to calculate their target weight and doing so protects your dog’s health and allows you to enjoy a better and quality of time with your pet.



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