Body Condition Scoring

Is your cat or dog a healthy shape?

As we move into 2018 we all become very conscious about our New Year resolutions and many of us take the opportunity to book in at the gym or start a diet to help us improve our weight and health. What about our pets though? How do we know if their body weight or shape is ideal for them?

Did you know that nearly 60% of dogs and 40% of cats in the UK are currently overweight or obese? Whether your pet has been gaining weight for a long time or has just eaten a little bit too much over the festive period we are here to help.

Being just 6% overweight can lower the pet’s quality of life and can affect the animal’s ability to perform natural behaviours such as grooming or playing. Like humans, they can also suffer from many other associated diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, certain cancers and respiratory disease amongst others.

How to recognise a healthy shape for your pet

You may wonder how we identify if an animal is overweight. This can be done by weighing the animal, carrying out a body condition score and asking lifestyle questions.

What is a body condition score?

A body condition score can help assess whether a cat or dog is underweight, overweight or in ideal condition using visual assessment and touch to asses their body fat.  The score is given out of 9, where 1 is an emaciated animal, 4-5 is an animal in ideal condition, and 9 is morbidly obese. Most charts include images of what each score looks like.

To determine their body condition score your pet will have several criteria checked, such as:

  • How easily felt are the ribs?
  • How obvious is the waist?
  • How obvious is the abdominal tuck?

During a weight consultation with the nurse you can be shown how to use the charts so you can use them at home.

How is body condition scoring useful?

It helps your veterinary team to measure how far from their ideal size your pet is, rather than just using breed guidelines for weight. Every cat and dog is unique and their ideal weight and shape can be different dependent on size and age of the individual.

How to body condition score

Using your hands, with the animal in a standing position, you begin to feel for certain characteristics.

  • Run your hands gently down either side of the chest from the front of the chest towards the waist. You should be able to feel an outline of the ribs without pressing hard or feeling any excess fat cover.
  • You should be able to feel a waist behind the chest. It should be clearly visible from above if the animal has short fur.
  • Looking from the side of the animal you should be able to see and feel a tuck under the belly.

Using a 9 point chart (as shown above) you then use the pictures and the descriptive to decide what number is appropriate for your pet.

We all want to live longer and healthier lives so let’s take the first step in helping our pets to do the same. Call your veterinary practice today to make an appointment to have your cat or dog’s body condition and weight checked with the clinic nurse.  They can offer you the best advice to help get your pet back into their ideal shape.