Is your pet fit or overweight?

Obesity has become the biggest nutritional disease afflicting pets in North America. Accordingly a 2016 survey by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention: 54% of dogs and 59% of cats are overweight or obese. Furthermore overweight animals have become the new norm. Owners often ask veterinarians and staff if their pet is underweight, when actually they are a perfect weight.  Most of us know that extra weight on our pets leads to other medical issues just like it does in people. However most people simply don’t realize that an extra pound on their pet is not equivalent to an extra pound on us. Our pets are generally much smaller than adult people and therefore a small weight gain is proportionally a much larger percentage weight gain on pets than people.

A 15lb cat (DSH/DMH/DLH) is equivalent to a 218lb 5’4” female

A 12lb Pomeranian is equivalent to a 249lb 5’4” female

A 105lb male Golden Retreiver is equivalent to a 203lb 5’4” female


Medical Issues Associated With Being Overweight

  • constipation
  • orthopaedic problems
  • decreased immune function
  • respiratory difficulties
  • cardiac disease
  • diabetes
  • reduced lifespan (up to 2.5 years)
  • earlier onset of disease
  • cancer


There are ideal weight averages for different breeds, but these are just averages and not an accurate way to access whether your pet is an ideal weight. Ultimately that is where the body condition score (BCS) comes into play. Assessing BCS is simple to do and should be done regularly on every pet at home, so weight gain or loss can be noted early on.


3 Steps To The Body Condition Score (BCS)


Step 1 Abdomen

Look at your pet from the side and see if you can visualize a slight tuck behind the rib cage. This may be difficult to see on long-haired dogs. Then place your hands over the lower abdomen and pull your hands back and forth towards the legs to see if a tuck can be felt.

Ideal BCS: for dogs an abdominal tuck can be viewed from the side and felt; for cats an abdominal tuck will not be as apparent but only a minimal fat pad should be felt and seen.



Step 2 Ribs

To start look at your pet from the side and see if their ribs are visible. Then place your thumbs in between the scapulas (shoulder blades); fan out your fingers and gently pull your hands back over their ribs. The amount of pressure needed to feel for ribs should be like gently patting your pet. If you dig deep enough you will feel ribs even if they are overweight.

A good tip is lay your hand flat palm down and feel your knuckles; this is what ribs on an animal with an ideal BCS should feel like. Then flip your hand palm up and feel the meaty area; this is what ribs on an overweight animal will feel like. Then make a fist and feel your knuckles; this is what ribs on an underweight animal will feel like.

Ideal BCS: ribs will not be easily visible but will be easily palpable with only a slight fat covering.



Step 3 Waist

Look at your pet from a top-down view: Are you seeing an hourglass shape or do they look more like a rectangular table top? Next run your hands gently over the waist area: Are you feeling an indentation or are your hands getting further apart?

Ideal BCS: a waist should be palpable and and seen behind the ribs.



To view the full 1-9 BCS chart for cats, small dogs and large dogs click here

Stay tuned for some tips on weight loss strategies and be sure to do a BCS on your pet today.


Laura McNally RVT