Here in the UK, a significant number of our dogs are overweight – more than 50% of adult dogs by some estimates, and the canine obesity epidemic in the UK has become so pronounced that a great many dog owners can’t even recognise a healthy-weight dog when they do see one, instead thinking that overly-rounded dogs are the norm and that lean, healthy dogs are underweight!
Given that research published in The Veterinary Record in 2015 indicated that around 26% of even Crufts-winning dogs are overweight – and of course, Crufts winners are supposed to reflect the perfect or as near to perfect as possible examples of their respective breeds – it is no surprise that the average dog owner often has real problems being objective about whether or not their own pooch is carrying a few extra pounds.
Your vet can of course tell you what sort of weight your dog should be and let you know if they’re too fat or thin and what to do about it, but as many dogs only make it to the clinic once a year for their annual health checks, it is important for dog owners to be able to assess their dog’s own weight and how optimal it is at home.
In order to do this and to provide an objective, uniform method to assess the weight of a dog and how good of a match it is for them, regardless of their type or breed, vets and other professionals (like dog insurance companies) use what is known as a body condition score chart, which works along a sliding scale.
In this article we will share the basics of the various stages of the dog body condition scoring chart to provide a simple and objective outline that you can use to determine your dog’s own body condition score – and whether they need to slim down a little, or could even benefit from some slightly larger meals! Read on to learn more.
Level one on the body condition score chart indicates a dog that is very seriously underweight, or emaciated. This level of emaciation is impossible to miss, and is rarely seen in dogs in the UK other than those that have been neglected or abused over a long period of time – and occasionally, in those suffering from certain types of health conditions that are often fatal when the condition is approaching its inevitable conclusion.
Their ribs, backbone and pelvic bones will all be very obvious, and they will have hardly any muscle mass. Their face and head will be lean and bony, and their eyes may appear sunken.
A body condition score of level two indicates a dog that is seriously underweight but not emaciated. They will be obviously too thin to most people with very minimal amounts of muscle, and no obvious fat. The ribs, backbone and pelvic bones will be easy to see with the naked eye.
A body condition score of level three indicates a dog that is underweight. The ribs will be visible but not glaringly obvious, and there will be little to no visible fat. The pelvic bones will be visible, and the highest points of the dog’s spine (towards the base of the tail on either side) will be visible, but the rest of the spine usually won’t be visible to the naked eye.
The dog will have a noticeable inwards curve at their waist, and acute angle to the abdomen.
A body condition score of four is indicates a dog that is at a lean but healthy weight, and a dog with a body condition score of four will have ribs that are palpable by brushing your hand lightly along their flank, but not clearly visible to the naked eye. There may be a very light fat covering over the ribs, and when you look down at the dog from above, you will be able to see a noticeable waist and abdominal tuck.
If you can objectively say that your dog has a body condition score of five, congratulations! Your dog is at an ideal weight, and in the minority!
A dog with a body condition score of five will have palpable ribs that are not clearly visible and have a little fat but not too much, and the dog’s waist can be seen from the side, along with a gentle abdominal tuck.
A body condition score of six indicates a dog that is overweight, with a little too much fat covering the ribs, but not so much that you cannot feel the ribs at all with a light to moderate pressure from your hand. Viewed from the side, your dog will have a visible waist but this will be slight, as will their abdominal tuck.
A body condition score of seven indicates a dog that is slightly obese, with ribs that are hard to feel but just about present, although invisible to the eye. There will also be a padding of fat over the spine and base of the tail, and the waist, if visible at all, will be hard to spot – and the same goes for the abdominal tuck.
A body condition score of eight indicates a dog that is most certainly obese. You will not be able to feel their ribs however hard you try, and there will be lots of fat covering the spine and tail. The dog won’t have a waist at all, or it may appear to curve out not in. There won’t be an abdominal tuck either, and the abdomen may even be distended by excess fat.
A body condition score of nine is equivalent to morbid obesity in people, and this will be self-evident to virtually everyone who sees the dog.
The ribs will be covered with a huge swathe of fat, as will the spine and base of the tail. There will be no waist or a noticeable bulge at the waist, and the abdomen is highly likely to be distended.