Kenosha Animal Hospital

6223 39th Avenue
Kenosha, WI 53142


Pet Obesity - Part 2


Is your pet fat - or just large-boned?

What shape do you honestly think your dog is in? Unfortunately, for many of us, our impression rarely equates reality. In this article, I hope to teach you how to determine your pets' body condition scores (BCS) in a relatively objective way. Once you master the basics of a simple 5 point system and check all of your pets' scores on a regular basis, you can easily advance to a 9 point scoring system to fine tune their body weight. Which ever system you decide to use, 1/5 or 1/9 correlates with an extremely underweight condition and 5/5 or 9/9 is correlated with obesity. The perfect "ten" would then be a midpoint, either 3/5 or 4 - 5/9. I have a tendency of breaking down the 9 point system into halves so my ideal BCS for pets equals 4.5/9. And just as most of us would offer up an occasional "eleven" or "twelve" for that special girl or guy, I will sometimes find an extremely obese pet that tops the 9/9 score.

The criteria used for the standard 5 point body condition score system was initially developed for dogs and cats, but can be relatively easily adapted to almost any animal species. The easiest way to learn it is by using the following guidelines for Ideal Weight (3/5), Overweight (4/5) and Obese (5/5). Of course, the pet may also be Underweight (2/5) or Emaciated (1/5), but that's a topic for another article. So take a few minutes and study the diagrams and descriptions for each BCS and start scoring your own pets. Their overall health and longevity is dependant on you taking charge and keeping their weight under control.

Underfed Dog
Ribs are highly visible. Increase the amount you are feeding. After 2 or 3 weeks, compare again. Adjust until dog exhibits ideal body condition. Feeding to ideal body condition provides real, long-term health benefits, and the chart below should be used to monitor your dog's body condition. Since every dog is different, modify your feeding amounts as needed to help your dog reach ideal body condition.

The Body Condition System was developed and tested at the Purina Pet Care Center, and has been documented in the following publications: Laflamme, DP. Body Condition Scoring and Weight Maintenance. Proc N Am Vet Conf Jan 16-21, 1993, Orlando FL, pp 290-291. Laflamme DP, Kealy RD, Schmidt DA. Estimation of Body Fat by Body Condition Score. J Vet Int Med  1994; 8:154. Laflamme DP, Kuhlman G, Lawler DF, Kealy RD, Schmidt DA. Obesity Management in Dogs. J Vet Clin Nutr 1994; 1:59-65.

Overfed Dog
Dog has no waist when viewed from above. Belly is rounded when viewed from the side. Decrease amount you are feeding. After 2 or 3 weeks, compare again. Adjust as  necessary.

Ideal Body Condition
Can feel and see outline of ribs. Dog has a waist when viewed from above. Belly is tucked up when viewed from the side. Maintain current feeding regimen.

• Promotes a leaner, longer, healthier life

• Reduces potential for developing weight-related health conditions

• Reduces a dog's percentage of body fat for better health

• Helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels

• Helps maintain healthy blood pressure and heart rate