What is a healthy weight for your dog’s age?

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What is a healthy weight for your dog’s age? - A corgi standing in the middle of a hiking trail

Determining a dog’s ideal weight is important to avoid obesity or unwanted weight loss in their lifetime. A dog’s healthy weight changes as puppies grow and adult dogs move into their senior years. If you have a dog, read on if you’ve ever wondered:

  • How much should my dog weigh?
  • Is my dog at a healthy weight?
  • Why is too much weight gain dangerous for dogs?
  • How can I help my obese dog lose weight?

Keeping a dog at their ideal weight with the proper diet and exercise based on their activity level, sex, breed, and age is essential for their physical health and overall well-being. Given the variety of body types and sizes among dogs, assessing a dog's body condition score is a more precise method of determining weight status than relying on a weight calculator or numerical chart.

What is an ideal weight?

A dog’s ideal weight range is based on breed standards, age, sex, and overall size and build. Your dog’s ideal weight may vary throughout their life as they age and their metabolic needs change. There are weight charts available that have average weight ranges for healthy dogs within a specific breed, but these charts are too general to be accurate for individual dogs. Mixed breeds can be even harder to assess. Because ideal weight varies from dog to dog, veterinarians use a body condition score to determine if a dog is a healthy weight instead of using a specific chart number or range. This allows them to determine what is best for each dog and provide individualized recommendations. .

What is my dog’s ideal weight?

A dog’s ideal body weight varies based on their age, breed, sex, and other factors. While there are healthy weight ranges available based on breed and sex, your dog’s healthy weight may fall outside of this average range. Just like people, every individual dog has a different body type and size that factors into their ideal weight. A vet can help you use a body condition score chart to calculate your dog’s current weight status, and you can adjust your dog’s dietary intake based on their results.

Healthy weight gain for puppies

Puppies gain weight rapidly as they grow. Due to their quick growth, intense periods of play, and high metabolism, healthy puppies are often voracious eaters. If you remove their food as soon as they lose interest in their meal, most puppies naturally regulate their weight. Overweight puppies are usually a result of owners encouraging their pet to eat more food than they naturally want or offering too many high-calorie treats. Speak with a veterinarian to learn how often you should offer food to your puppy.

“It can be tempting to encourage extra food and treats for growing puppies,” states Dr. Jo Myers, a Vetster veterinarian. “However, overfeeding can lead to obesity and joint problems later in life.” To determine whether your puppy is at a healthy weight, observe their appearance and feel their bodies instead of looking at a numerical chart. A healthy puppy’s rib cage and backbone are easily felt, and they have an obvious waist when viewed from above. Talk to a vet if you notice a change in your puppy’s body condition, appetite, or energy level.

Ideal body weight for adult dogs

As dogs reach adulthood and are no longer growing, they require less food to maintain a healthy weight. It’s easy for a young adult dog to become overweight if they:

  • Are eating the same amount of food that they consumed as puppies
  • Have not switched to an adult dog food formula
  • Have recently been spayed or neutered

To help puppies grow, puppy food is higher in fat and calories than food for adult or senior dogs. Adult dog food has a better balance of calories and nutrients for dogs who have stopped growing. In addition, a dog’s metabolism abruptly slows after they are spayed or neutered, which results in even lower caloric needs and necessitates smaller meals. To avoid excessive weight gain in your young adult dog, it’s important for you to be proactive about using your dog’s body condition score to appropriately adjust their feeding amounts.

Ideal weight ranges for senior dogs

Senior dogs are likely to become overweight as they begin to slow down, and they may require a diet change to accommodate their lower activity level. Senior dogs are also likely to develop health conditions that contribute to changes in weight. It’s important to routinely check your senior canine companion’s body condition score to catch weight gain early. Senior dogs are also more likely to lose muscle mass as they age. As a result, even if their weight remains constant, they may still be considered overweight due to an increase in percentage of body fat.

It is recommended that senior dogs visit a veterinarian for wellness checks and testing more often than younger dogs. Instead of an annual checkup, your vet may recommend visiting every six months. Your veterinarian can track your dog’s body weight during these senior wellness visits and help catch unwanted weight loss or gain. Frequent wellness testing also helps catch other health concerns early.

How do I know if my dog is overweight?

Assessing a dog’s body condition determines if a dog is at their ideal weight. For all ages, the ribs should be easily felt with only a thin layer of fat covering them. When viewed from the side, the rib cage may be visible, and the abdomen should be tucked up. When observed from above, a healthy dog has an obvious waist, and the spine and hip bones may be felt but not obviously seen. Obesity is extremely common in dogs and affects nearly 60% of dogs in the United States. Because obesity is so common, many dog owners assume their dogs are at a healthy weight when they are not.

An overweight dog has excess fat padding over their ribs, back, and stomach, resulting in a change in body composition. The belly does not have a tuck and may even hang under the body. Instead of having an obvious waist, an overweight dog has straight sides with no waistline or even a bulging, oval-shaped waist. An underweight dog may have obvious hip bones and ribs that stick out. The backbone of an underweight dog may also be easily visible. It is not uncommon for pet parents to think a dog appears too skinny when they are actually at a healthy weight because obesity is so common.

What dogs are most likely to become overweight?

Any dog can become overweight. However, certain breeds, underlying medical conditions, and other factors can increase the risk of obesity. These factors include but are not limited to:

  • Poor diet or excessive treats
  • Lack of exercise or a sedentary lifestyle
  • Free-feeding or giving free-choice access to food
  • Genetic predisposition
  • Spaying or neutering
  • Female dogs
  • Endocrine disorders such as hypothyroidism, diabetes, and Cushing’s disease
  • Certain breeds, such as cairn terriers, basset hounds, Labrador retrievers, and dachshunds
  • Medication side effects

It’s important to regularly evaluate your canine friend’s body condition score and talk to a veterinarian if you notice any changes or weight fluctuations. When a puppy stops growing or a dog gets spayed or neutered, be proactive and reduce their food intake as their needs change to prevent obesity.

Why is obesity in dogs so dangerous?

Obesity in dogs is associated with other severe health conditions. Even a slightly overweight dog is more susceptible to a number of health problems. An overweight dog is more likely to develop:

Obesity leads to an overall decrease in a dog’s life span and a lower quality of life. If a dog becomes overweight at a young age, excess weight can become a recurring problem throughout their life. By regularly checking a dog’s body condition score and adjusting food intake, pet parents can prevent obesity and improve their dog’s well-being.

Can I prevent my dog from becoming overweight?

Diet and exercise are important in maintaining a dog’s ideal weight and preventing obesity. Work with a veterinarian to determine how many calories your dog needs every day based on their current weight. A calorie calculator can help you keep track of your dog’s daily caloric intake from food and treats, and you can exercise with your dog to maintain their weight.

Excess calories are what cause a dog to become overweight. Stick to your dog’s nutrition plan and avoid excess treats and table scraps. Many human foods are much higher in fat and calories than dog food and contribute to weight gain. Encourage your dog to work for their food and eat more slowly by using snuffle mats, food puzzles, and sensory mats for wet food. This can help a dog feel fuller and more satisfied after their meal.

How can I help my dog lose excess weight?

Before changing your dog’s food, talk to a veterinarian. While most cases of canine obesity are caused by too many daily calories, some medical conditions can cause unexplained weight gain. Work with a veterinarian to create a nutrition plan and help your dog reach their ideal weight. Keep in mind that dog treats account for less than 10% of calories in a balanced diet, and avoid excess treats and table scraps to accurately measure your dog’s daily caloric intake. Increase your dog’s exercise if it is safe to do so, and talk to a vet about what activities are appropriate for your dog. If you need help calculating your furry friend’s current body condition score or creating a weight-loss plan, virtual vet appointments can help with long-term weight management.

How is canine obesity treated?

At any age, obesity in dogs is treated by addressing underlying health issues, reducing calories, and safely increasing physical activity. A veterinarian may recommend a strict diet that includes reducing treats, using low-calorie food rewards, and eliminating table scraps. If the weight gain is related to an underlying health condition, a consultation with a veterinary nutritionist may be recommended while treating the underlying issue. Most weight-loss plans, when followed appropriately, take between four and five months to help your dog reach their ideal body weight.

FAQ - What is a healthy weight for your dog’s age?

How do you calculate a dog’s target weight?

Instead of looking at typical weight ranges for your dog’s breed, use a body condition score chart to determine if your dog has a healthy body weight. If they appear overweight or underweight, talk to a vet about a nutrition and fitness plan.

What is an ideal body condition score?

When observing and feeling your dog’s body, check the ribs, belly, and waist. A dog with a healthy body condition score has an obvious waist, a tucked belly, and ribs that are easily felt without a layer of excess fat over them. Overweight dogs have a thick, fatty layer over their ribs and back, a belly that is not tucked, and a straight or bulging waistline.

How much should I feed my dog?

The amount of food a dog needs varies based on age, breed, sex, and how much physical activity they get every day. Work with a vet to determine your dog’s body condition score and develop a nutrition plan.

How can I get my dog to a healthy weight?

To help a dog lose extra weight, work with a vet to reduce the calories they eat by feeding less, changing the type of food they eat, and avoiding extra treats and table scraps. You can also talk to a vet about safe activities for your dog to increase their exercise and physical activity.

What is a healthy weight for a dog?

A healthy weight varies between individual dogs based on age, breed, and other factors. Dog owners can determine if their dog is at a healthy weight by using a body condition score chart. Healthy dogs have an abdominal tuck, obvious waist, and ribs that can be easily felt. The hip bones and spine may also be felt without much fat covering them, but they should not stick out in an obvious way.