Canine Health and Nutrition Information from Dr Ken Tudor.

How to Judge a Dog’s Fitness

Ken Tudor - Thursday, June 13, 2013

How to Judge a Dog's FitnessThe best way to judge the fitness or ideal weight of a dog is not by weighing it! The best judge is a dog’s BCS or Body Condition Score. This is an observational technique to evaluate body conformation.

Studies have verified that visual appearance compared to a BCS chart guidelines directly match the percentage of body fat determined by expensive x-ray technology called DEXA. BCS evaluation only requires that a dog be observed from the side and looking down from the back to the front.

The Purina Chart is one of the best. It is a 9-point system that is easy to use. Other sources us a 5-point system but it requires too much subjective interpretation for animals falling between distinct categories.


Body Condition Score


Owners should set a score of 4/9 as the goal for their dog’s BCS. The dog’s weight at a 4 is its individual, ideal body weight. A famous 12 year study of litters of Labrador puppies by the Purina company showed that puppies that maintained a lean body weight (a perfect 4) lived almost 2 years longer than their overweight littermates. 

“Score a 4, live some more!”

The beauty of this system is that by assigning a BCS, a dog’s ideal weight can be determined. 

The following table shows how:

  9 Point scale     5 Point scale     % Overweight  



  5   3   Ideal
  6     3.5   10%
  7   4   20%
  8   4.5   30%
  9   5   40%
>9 >5 >40%


Data: Courtesy of Dr. Angela Witzel, Univ. of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine




1) A dog has a 9/9 BCS and weighs 100 lbs. According to the chart it is 40% overweight. That means its’ weight should be 60% less (100%-40% = 60%). Its’ ideal weight then is 60% of 100 lbs. or .6 X 100 lbs. = 60 lbs.

2) A dog has a 4.5/5 BCS and weighs 40 lbs. The chart says it is 30% overweight and should weigh 70% less (100%-30% = 70%). Its’ ideal weight is .7 X 40 lbs. or 28 lbs. Dogs with a BCS greater than 9 or 5 make it difficult to establish an ideal weight.

Go ahead! Grade your dog’s BCS (use the 9-point scale) and calculate its’ ideal weight.


Dr. Ken Tudor,


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