Have you heard of a body condition score for dogs and cats? It’s a scale that is commonly used by veterinarians and other professionals to rate the overall condition of a pet as it pertains to weight and nutrition. Though this might sound dull, it actually is a great way for pet owners to easily see where their pet stands and make adjustments, if needed, to prevent long-term problems from developing, as well as have an indicator that there may already be a medical problem.
It’s all too easy for people to not fully realize how underweight or overweight their dog or cat actually is simply because we get used to seeing them a certain way every day. They might be a little underweight or incredibly obese, but the health problems that can be associated are substantial and sometimes deadly.
If a dog or cat is underweight, it can just be an indicator that they need to be fed more – and possibly better – food, but it can also be a symptom of a wide range of conditions ranging from thyroid problems to cancer. Taking those two possibilities as examples, we can see the importance of keeping a close eye on body score: thyroid conditions are usually easy to treat with an affordable daily medication, and we all know that any type of cancer has the best prognosis the earlier it is caught.
If a dog or cat is overweight, it’s probable that the excess weight is caused by a diet that is too high in calories for the level of exercise of the pet. While less common, it could also be caused by a thyroid condition or even Cushing’s disease, as examples. The critical thing to note about the dietary cause, though, is that obesity wreaks havoc in the long term, just as with humans, yet it is easily remedied. Just like with people, obesity is linked to diabetes, aches and pains from extra stress on joints, weakened cardiovascular function, etc. Preventing years of pain – from joints or from daily insulin injections are worth taking a look at the amount of food a pet is given. For dogs in particular, a good deal of difference can be made just by feeding healthy dog treats that you probably have in your kitchen already!
Body Condition Score Chart
There are two commonly used body condition score charts. One ranks a scale of 1-9, and the other ranks 1-5. We will look at the most frequently seen, the 1-9 scale.
Note that on this chart, 1 is the poorest condition – this pet would be emaciated. Nine is very obese and all too common. This pet is easily out of breath, the heart is working harder, and development of diabetes would be no surprise. Any potential orthopedic issues would be exacerbated by the extra weight, as well.
The ideal body score for dogs and cats is five. You should be able to feel the ribs without obvious fat over them. You should be able to see the waist behind the rib cage, and the abdomen should tuck up when viewed from the side.
Can you feel your dog’s or cat’s ribs with your hands? Are you concerned about their body score or unsure? Call us, if so! Prevention and early detection are key to maintaining your pet’s good health, which is why it’s important to share this easy, visual tool. Download the chart from the AAHA here.