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How to Body Condition Score Your Pet?

A common question we receive at the clinic is, “How do I know if my pet is overweight?”  As obesity can cause a variety of health problems ranging from diabetes to arthritic change, it is important as an owner and as a practitioner to recognize it as quickly as possible.  Below is a demonstration done by Paul and Dr. Lurz to show how a body condition score is given to a pet.  A body condition score is subjective, meaning there is some variability based on personal opinion, but it is a good general marker that can be used at home.

Step 1:  Begin with a weight of your pet.  Using a personal scale at home is fine with smaller pets (cats and small dogs).  Weigh yourself holding and not holding your pet and then subtract the two numbers to get your pet’s weight.  Alternatively, owners are always welcome to bring their pet into the clinic for a weight check.  Paul in this case is 71.2 pounds…

                                                                      

Step 2:  Look at your pet when standing over him or her when they are also standing.  There should be a defined waistline present.  In the more heavy-coated dogs, run your fingers through the hair coat and determine if the silhouette would have a waist or not.

Step 3:  Look at your pet from the side.  Do they continue to have a tuck to their waist here as well?  For longer haired dogs, feel the chest to the belly and note the difference as best as you can.

Step 4:  Finally, feel your pet’s rib cage area.  You should be able to feel the ribs with slight pressure.  They should not feel like a washing board.  This would mean your pet is too thin.   If you have to really apply pressure to feel the ribs, your pet is overweight or hold weight more in the chest area.  The trick with body condition scoring is to assess the entirety of the pet and not just the waist or ribcage or the extra padding on the hip bones.  This is where most people get confused with the process.

Step 4: Compare your findings to the appropriate chart below and grade your pet from 1 to 9.  

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