Body Conditioning


Why is the dog body condition score important?

Owning a dog means keeping a close eye on your dog’s body score and working to maintain an 'ideal' score of four or five throughout all stages of your dog's life. This can also decrease the risk of health problems associated with owning an overweight dog. These include arthritis, heart disease and even diabetes, which not only mean large vet bills but an unhappy, uncomfortable dog.

Like people, each one processes their food in a slightly different way, particularly depending on their age and activity level. If your dog gets more calories than they need, those excess calories may be stored as fat, which in the worst case can lead to obesity in dogs.

Some specific problems that puppies can develop from excess weight include:

  • Arthritis, joint damage and joint pain

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • Heart disease

  • Reduced exercise endurance and stamina

  • Increased anaesthetic and surgical risks

  • Reduced liver function due to a fatty liver



How is dog’s body condition score measured?

Body condition scoring uses a scale of one to nine, with one meaning ‘very underweight’ and nine meaning ‘very overweight/obese’.

A dog body condition score between four and five is considered ideal – not too big and not too small, which is where you should aim to get your dog. To work out your dog's current body condition score, there are three areas you should check.

Rib Check

Get your dog comfortable and run both of your palms across their ribcage, one hand on either side.  Simply note how it feels and compare it to the chart


Profile Check

View your standing dog from a side-on angle. It is best if you are level with your pet so you get the most accurate view.

Overhead Check

Look down at your standing dog from an overhead angle.

How to find out your dog’s body condition score?

Your dog is underweight if:

They have ribs, lumbar vertebrae, pelvic bones and other prominent bones (ones that you can see the shape of) that are visible from a distance. They will have no discernible body fat and an obvious loss of muscle mass.

Your dog's ribs, lumbar vertebrae and pelvic bones are easily visible. They’ll have no palpable fat, with some prominent bones but only minimal loss of muscle mass.

You have an underweight dog if their ribs are easily palpated (felt) and may be visible, with no palpable fat covering them. The tops of their lumbar vertebrae are visible, their pelvic bones becoming prominent, and they have a prominent waist.






















Your dog’s body score is ideal if:

You’re be able to feel their ribs without too much of a fat covering. Their waist should be easily visible from above (look for an hour-glass shape) and their abdomen (the part of their underside just in front of their hind legs) should be tucked up towards their pelvis when viewed from one side.





Your dog is overweight if:

Their ribs are palpable but with slight excess fat covering. Their waist is discernible viewed from above, but is not prominent and an abdominal tuck is apparent.

You have an overweight dog if you find it difficult to feel their ribs because of a heavy fat cover is in the way. There are noticeable fat deposits over their lumbar area and the base of their tail. Their waist absent or barely visible and their abdominal tuck may or may not be present.

Your dog's ribs are not palpable under a very heavy fat cover, or palpable only if you apply significant pressure. There are heavy fat deposits over lumbar area and base of their tail. Their waist is absent, with no abdominal tuck. Obvious abdominal distension may be present (their belly is large and hangs a little).

They have massive fat deposits over their thorax, spine and the base of their tail. Their waist and abdominal tuck is absent, and they have fat deposits on their neck and limbs. There is obvious abdominal distention (their belly hangs).

Your dog is obese if:

Dogs are classed as obese if they weigh 20% more than their ideal body weight.  Ribs cannot be felt due to heavy covering of fat.  Significant fat deposits visible over the spine, lower back and base of the tail.  Fat rolls visible around the neck and chest and the tummy may be drooping.  Waistline has been lost so when you look from above there is no abdominal tuck after the ribs. Obvious abdominal distension.

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