Keeping your dog in tip top shape is more than just about their weight.
Weight alone is not a good measure to see if your dog is a healthy size and shape.
Body Condition Scoring focuses on the look and feel of your dog to see whether they are overweight, underweight or an ideal weight and shape. It is something you can learn to do at home.
Body condition scores range from 1 to 9 with 1 being severely underweight, 9 being obese and a score of 4 or 5 meaning they are at an ideal weight and shape.
Why use Body Condition Scoring?
It can sometimes be difficult to work out if your dog is at an ideal size and weight. Dogs come in many different shapes and sizes and their body shape is very different to our own.
Body condition scoring is a veterinary developed ‘hands on’ scoring system to help assess if your dog is at the right weight. A 9 point scale is normally used with an ideal score being a 4 or 5.
Learning this easy technique at home can help you keep an eye on this important aspect of your dog’s health and monitor it over time. It allows you to get a better idea of whether your pup is doing well, needs to put weight on, or if they are carrying extra weight.
Step by step guide on how to assess your dog’s Body Condition Score at home
Have your dog standing -
,it may be easier if someone is able to steady their head end.
If your dog has a thick coat you will need to rely more on feel more than looks!
Press the flat of your hands gently over the rib cage. You should be able to feel individual ribs without having to press too hard. The ribs should not be readily seen though (this may indicate your dog is underweight)
Feel around your dog’s waist. When looking from the top there should be an ‘hour glass’ shape and from the side an upward curve of the tummy- we call this ‘abdominal or tummy tuck’.
Feel along the spine that runs down the middle of the back and the tops of the hips and shoulders. In a dog at an ideal weight they will be able to be felt but with a layer of fat/muscle over them.
Description of different Body Condition Scores (see wsava.org for charts)
Underweight Scores 1-3
1-Ribs, lower spine and pelvis (and other bony prominences) are easy to see from a distance. No obvious body fat and obvious loss of muscle.
2-Ribs,lower spine and pelvis all easy to see. Unable to feel any fat and poor muscle mass.
3-Ribs easily felt and may be visible and no fat can be felt. The very top of the spine and pelvis can be seen and there is an obvious waist and abdominal tuck.
Ideal Scores 4-5
4- Ribs are easily felt and have only a little fat covering. Waist and tummy tuck are easily seen.
5-The ribs can be felt and there is no excessive fat. The waist can be seen behind the ribs when looked at from above and the tummy tuck can be seen from the side.
Too heavy Scores 6-9
6-The ribs can be felt but there is a notable layer of fat. The waist is just visible from above and the tummy still rises behind the ribs.
7-Hard to feel the ribs due to heavy fat cover. Fat noticeable over the base of the tail and lower spine. No visible or barely visible waist.
8-Not possible to feel the waist due to heavy fat cover. Lots of fat around the spine and base of tail. No waist or tummy tuck. Tummy may appear rounded.
9-Huge amounts of fat around chest, spine and base of the tail. Fat also present around the neck and legs. Tummy obviously large and rounded.
The vets at MyDogDoc can go through how to body condition score your pup on a video call and answer any questions you have about your dog’s weight or shape. If necessary we can give tailored advice about any diet, exercise or lifestyle modifications.