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Assessing your dog's body condition

Like people, individual dogs use the nutrients and energy in their food differently. This usage also changes with age and activity level, so if you feed more than the actual amount your dog's body needs, the excess calories may be stored as fat and can lead to obesity. "Learning how to perform a body condition score for your pet and regularly assessing this in combination with appropriate nutrition and exercise, will ensure you're doing your best for your pet's health and wellbeing", says Zara Boland, Purina's vet.

Although weighing your dog regularly is a good idea, this can be difficult for large breeds and given the variation between breeds you may not know what is right for your dog. Body condition scoring allows you to assess the amount of fat your dog is carrying, is easy to do at home without scales and can identify problems before the scales show a big change.

Body Condition Scoring

Body Condition Scoring is really very simple. It uses a scale of 1-9, with 1 being very underweight and 9 being very overweight. A body condition score of 4-5 is considered ideal. To work out your dog's individual body condition score, you need to do three checks:

  1. Rib Check: Run both your hands, palms facedown across your dog's ribcage on either side
  2. Profile Check: View your standing dog from a side-on angle, this is best done if you are level with your pet
  3. Overhead Check: Look down at your standing dog from an overhead angle

In an ideal body condition, your dog's ribs can be felt without excess fat covering; the waist should be easily visible when viewed from above (giving an hour-glass shape) and the abdomen should be tucked up towards the pelvis, when viewed from one side.

Keeping a close eye on body condition and working to maintain an 'ideal' score of 4-5 throughout all stages of your dog's life, can also decrease the risk of weight associated health problems such as arthritis, heart disease and even diabetes.

Too Thin

1 Ribs, lumbar vertebrae, pelvic bones and all bony prominences evident from a distance. No discernible body fat. Obvious loss of muscle mass.

2 Ribs, lumbar vertebrae and pelvic bones easily visible. No palpable fat. Some evidence of other bony prominence. 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.



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.


Too Heavy

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 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 lumbar area and base of tail. Waist absent. No abdominal tuck. Obvious abdominal distension may be present.

9 Massive fat deposits over thorax, spine and base of tail. Waist and abdominal tuck absent. Fat deposits on neck and limbs. Obvious abdominal distention.


How to assess your dog’s current body condition

Purina’s resident vet, Zara Boland, demonstrates how to measure your dog’s current body condition in 3 easy steps. It only takes a minute to tell whether they’re underweight, overweight – or just right. Watch now and help your dog stay in shape

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