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Body Condition Scoring

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

78% of Veterinary professionals have seen an increase in obesity in the last two years.
Obesity is a huge problem in our nation's pets and something we need to tackle.

As owners it can be particularly difficult to be objective when assessing our pets so it's important to get hands on with Body Condition Scoring so we can make changes to improve our pets body condition if they are becoming over weight.

Dogs Body Condition Scoring Top Tips

  • Don't focus on your dog's breed and weight. There is a huge amount of variation between breeds. One dog could be double the weight of another and still be an ideal body condition whereas others would be over weight.

  • Regularly attend your veterinary practice for weight checks. If your dog has gained weight (inappropriately) and is in a BCS of 6 or above (when using a 1-9 system) you need to take immediate action to reduce weight in a careful and considered manner

  • During weight loss we want to continue to encourage and maintain good musculature on our pets

  • Seek advice from veterinary professionals regarding weight loss tips. Many practices offer weight clinics with their Registered Veterinary Nurses to help guide and support you.

How to Body Condition Score

  • Ribs

Very gently run your hands over your dogs rib cage. You should be able to feel them very easily under very minimal fat covering. You do not want to be putting a lot of pressure on their chest to be able to find their ribs

  • Abdominal tuck

Look at them from the side. You should be able to see their abdomen tuck upwards after their chest. This will vary a little between breeds with sighthounds and deep chested dogs looking more prominent. But the theory still stands with all dog breeds.

  • Waist

Look from above. Can we see a lovely waist on our dogs that tucks inwards like an hour glass after the chest.



If we use a BCS of 1-9 we are able to estimate ideal body weight by looking at where they score and their percentage overweight...
  • BCS 6 - 10% overweight

  • BCS 7 -20%

  • BCS 8- 30%

  • BCS 9- 40%

  • And so on....

This allows us to get a rough idea of ideal body weight which can help when working out how much to feed our dogs. This 'ideal weight' may change throughout your weight loss journey if we are also gaining muscle as we lose the fat.


WSAVA DOG BODY CONDITION SCORE:


Brachycephalic Dog Body Condition Scoring


Brachycephalic pets are increasing in popularity however they experience some concerning health issues relating to their conformation and are at increased risk of obesity.


Obese brachycephalic dogs have a higher risk of Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS) and an increasing level of excess bodyweight is associated with worsening breathing problems in brachycephalic dogs.


The breed-related normalisation phenomenon describes a cognitive bias where people readily accept certain clinical attributes that are typical for the breeds as falling within the domain of ‘good health’ within these breeds whereas these same clinical attributes would not be accepted as consistent with ‘good health’ in dogs in general.


This is something we sadly see in Brachycephalic dogs a lot, with owners believing that obesity, respiratory problems, snoring and exercise intolerance is just 'normal' for the breed. This is not something we should just accept.


As owners it can be particularly difficult to be objective when assessing our pets so it's important to get hands on with Body Condition Scoring so we can make changes to improve our pets body condition if they are becoming over weight.

Brachycephalic dogs can hide subcutaneous fat under their skin rolls, particularly around the neck. Alternatively they can also appear larger without fat deposits because of excessive skin, therefore getting hands on when Body Condition Scoring is very important.


How to Body Condition Score a brachycephalic


  • Ribs

Very gently run your hands over your dogs rib cage. You should be able to feel them very easily under very minimal fat covering. You do not want to be putting a lot of pressure on their chest to be able to find their ribs. If they have excessive skin, try to feel for fat deposits underneath, we want to avoid this. Brachycephalic dogs commonly deposit fat around their chest so ensure you get hands on.

  • Abdominal tuck

Look at them from the side. You should be able to see their abdomen tuck upwards after their chest.

  • Waist

Look from above. We want to see a lovely waist on our dogs that tucks inwards like an hour glass after the chest.



Cambridge University has a Pug specific Body Condition Scoring system to help guide you with pictures that maybe more representative of your dog than other scores.

Thank you for Cambridge BOAS Research Group for this invaluable work!


Feline Body Condition Scoring

Obesity is currently one of the greatest health and welfare problems facing domestic cats around the world. Multiple, recently published studies suggest that in developed countries, anywhere from 11.5 to 63% of pet cats are overweight or obese.

78% of Veterinary professionals have seen an increase in obesity in the last two years. As owners it can be particularly difficult to be objective when assessing our pets so it's important to get hands on with Body Condition Scoring so we can make changes to improve our pets body condition if they are becoming over weight.

Cats can be rather hard to body condition score just by looking at them, equally getting accurate pictures that demonstrate effectively cats body condition scores can prove challenging!


Top Tips
  • Attend your veterinary practice for weight checks at least once a year when they have their annual veterinary health check.

  • If your cat has gained weight (inappropriately) and is a BCS of 6 or above (when using a 1-9 system) you need to take immediate action to reduce weight in a careful and considered manner.

  • During weight loss we want to continue to encourage and maintain good musculature on our pets. This includes encouraging your more docile or sedentary cats to start some fun play and enrichment exercises.

  • Seek advice from veterinary professionals regarding weight loss tips. Many practices offer weight clinics with their Registered Veterinary Nurses to help guide and support you.

How to Body Condition Score
  • Ribs

Getting hands on with cats it very important! Their fluff can be deceiving! You want to feel ribs with only slight fat covering.


  • Abdominal fat pad

Although some cats have a much more pronounced primordial pouch that can droop low, when getting hands on we want minimal abdominal fat pad, ideally we want to have minimal protrusion here.


  • Waist

Look from above. Can we see a lovely waist on our cats that tucks inwards like an hour glass after the chest?


WSAVA Feline Body Condition Score:
Obesity is a real problem in the feline population and according to vets, 44% of cats are overweight or obese. It’s important to recognise that not only are there several health risks associated with obesity in cats e.g., diabetes, cystitis, and non-allergic skin disease, but that it can cause seriously affect their emotional health too. Obese cats are less likely to be able to perform normal feline behaviours, such as grooming, playing/hunting, accessing places of safety, scratching and access to toileting areas both inside and outside. This can have a detrimental affect on their welfare, causing boredom, anxiety, frustration or even aggression. It’s also worth bearing in mind that to the untrained eye obesity can mask a loss in muscle condition, which can be an indicator of poor health.


Rabbit Body Condition Scoring


Rabbits are a fairly popular pet with an estimated 900,000 pet Rabbits in the UK! However, often their needs and requirements are very misunderstood.


In 2020 (Paws Report) 10% of owners though their pet was overweight. As we know owners are typically not good at assessing their pets weight it's likely this is an understatement. Actually, one in four rabbits seen at the Rabbit Clinic, The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, University of Edinburgh, are obese!


Rabbits require a diet with a majority of long stem fibres/fresh hay/grass. This should make up more than 85% of their diet. Unfortunately people often over feed the energy dense pellet food or muesli food (not recommended) alongside excessive fruit and high sugar vegetables like carrots. This can lead to obesity.


Inappropriate husbandry is also an issue with many rabbits being kept in accomodation far too small for them. The Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund are trying to educate on this with #AHutchIsNotEnough campaign.


Unfortunately as with other animals, obesity can lead to joint issues such as osteoarthritis, pododermatitis, and myiasis (fly strike) as Rabbits can not longer groom. Rabbits also need to preform coprophagia (eating poop!) with a special kind of pellet called a ceacotroph. If they are obese and can't reach this (they usually eat directly from their bottom) then they can also suffer from malnutrition.


Top Tips for rabbits!

Visually rabbits are extremely hard to body condition score so we need to get hands on (if it doesn't cause them too much stress from handling)


The ribs are the best place to start and the The Rabbit Welfare Association and Fund (RWAF) and Pet Food Manufacturing Association (PFMA) provide excellent guidelines for owners.


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