Is my dog too fat or too skinny? A guide to body condition scoring in dogs
Have you ever wondered if your pet needs feeding up, or if you need to cut out the treats? When vets assess your dog’s weight they are not just looking at the number on the scales but also assessing something called their Body Condition Score (BCS). Just like humans there is no ‘one size fits all’ ideal weight for our pets and even within breeds there is a lot of normal variation (which is why breed averages are not very helpful). Learning to body condition score your dog will help keep them healthy at all life stages. Here we share our tips and advice.
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What is body condition scoring?
A body condition score chart gives you a silhouette and a list of characteristics to look for. If you have a very fluffy pet, think of how they look in the bath when their hair is all wet.
The four main things we assess when deciding on overall body condition are:
Ability to feel ribs, lower spine and bony prominences
Ability to see a ‘waist’ - tucking in of the abdomen after the ribcage when looking at your dog from above
Ability to see an ‘abdominal tuck’ - tucking up (upward slant) of the abdomen after the ribcage when looking at your dog from the side.
Presence of fat deposits
A body condition score is the score given to your dog (out of 9) depending on which of the above features you can see and feel.
Make sure to run your hands over your dog to assess the amount of fat you can feel over the ribs and spine as well as look at your dog’s silhouette from above and from the side.
Weight guide for your dog
1-3: Under ideal
- 1 - Ribs, lumbar vertebra (lower back), pelvic bones and all bony prominences can be seen from a distance. No discernible body fat. Obvious loss of muscle mass
- 2 - Ribs, lumbar vertebra, pelvic bones and all bony prominences easily visible. No palpable fat. Some evidence of other bony prominences. Minimal loss of muscle mass
- 3 - Ribs easily palpated and may be visible with no palpable fat. Tops of lumbar vertebrae visible. Pelvic bones becoming prominent. Obvious waist (viewed from above, narrowing in front of the pelvis). Abdominal tuck (viewed from the side, the belly runs upwards from the front legs towards the back legs)
- 4 - Ribs easily palpable, with minimal fat covering. Waist easily noted, viewed from above. Abdominal tuck evident
- 5 - Ribs palpable without excess fat covering. Waist observed behind ribs when viewed from above. Abdomen tucked up when viewed from above
6-9: Over ideal
- 6 - Ribs palpable with slight excess fat covering. Waist is discernible viewed from above but is not prominent. Abdominal tuck apparent
- 7 - Ribs palpable with difficulty; heavy fat cover. Noticeable fat deposits over the lumbar area and base of tail. Waist absent or barely visible. Abdominal tuck may be present
- 8 - Ribs not palpable under very heavy fat cover, or palpable only with significant pressure. Heavy fat deposits over the lumbar area and base of tail. Waist absent. No abdominal tuck. Obvious abdominal distention may be present
- 9 - Massive fat deposits over the thorax, spine and base of tail. Waist and abdominal tuck absent. Fat deposits on neck and limbs. Obvious abdominal distention
Get advice from an experienced vet
- If you notice that your dog is overweight or underweight
- If your dog is losing or gaining weight
Book a video appointment to have a chat with one of our FirstVet vets. Every dog is different, so they will be able to discuss specifically how best to manage your dog’s weight, exercise and nutrition.