What is Your Pet’s Body Condition Score?


Photo Credit: © Susannah Kay

Of the many things that influence your pet’s health, body weight and condition are at the top of the list. Just as is true for us, obesity predisposes our dogs and cats to a variety of health disorders such as arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. The more fit your Fido or Fluffy, the greater the likelihood of a long and healthy life.

During your pet’s annual physical examination, your veterinarian will ideally evaluate his or her Body Condition Score or (BCS). This is a visual and hands-on way of determining if your dog or cat is carrying the right amount of body fat and muscle. Assessment of BCS, in conjunction with body weight measurement, helps determine if your pet is too heavy, to lean, or just right. Measuring body weight alone doesn’t do this. For example, without a visual and hands-on determination of BCS, it would be impossible to know if a 70-pound Collie was under or overweight.

Body Condition Score Scales

Veterinarians have a few different BCS scales to choose from. They all produce the same results, namely a more accurate assessment of an animal’s body condition. The scoring systems of the two most commonly used scales range from one to five and from one to nine.

Here’s how BCS scoring works. On the scale that runs from one to nine, a body condition score of one applies to an extremely emaciated dog. A morbidly obese dog would receive a score of nine. Ideal body condition scores land between four and five. On a scale that runs from one to five, a score of three is the number to shoot for.

If your pet’s BCS doesn’t fall within these ideal zones, your veterinarian will collaborate with you to formulate a plan that modifies your pet’s diet and exercise program with the goal of achieving a healthier body condition score.

Take a look at a body condition score chart. What number would you assign to your pet? Remember, figuring this out is a visual and touch assessment. If your dog or cat falls outside of the BCS “comfort zone” I encourage you to schedule a visit with your veterinarian.

Have you heard about body condition scoring before? Is it used by your veterinarian?

Best wishes,

Nancy Kay, DVM

Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at http://www.speakingforspot.com


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2 Comments on “What is Your Pet’s Body Condition Score?

  1. Thanks doc, we’ll be sharing this with the Tripawds community. It’s SO important to know whether or not our dogs are fat, especially those of the three-legged persuasion!

  2. I have not heard of body conditioning chart before this post. Both of my dogs have long hair and hard to use visual determinations, however, using hands on determinations I have some idea of their body condition per this chart. I use “hands on” to check for any abnormalities (ticks, growths, bumps, etc.).