Your dog’s weight has a huge impact on their overall health and behaviour, and it’s so important to keep them lean, without too much extra padding. We often rely on our vets to tell us if our dogs are getting a bit on the chubby side. However, a lot of us only take our dogs for their yearly check-ups, and their weight can change A LOT in that time. For this reason, it’s really useful to be able to assess your own dog’s weight at home, so you can keep on top of their waistline.
What Is Body Condition Scoring (BCS)?
When your vet talks about body condition, they’re talking about more than just the number on the scales. A body condition score (or BCS) reflects how much fat is on your dog, rather than just how heavy they are. This is more relevant to your dog’s health than just their weight, as how chubby they are gives us a better idea of how fit they may be and what sort of strain is on their joints.
So, how do you do it?
Start with the ribs
A lot of dogs tend to carry any extra fat over their ribs, so it’s a good place to start! Make sure your dog is in a standing position, and run your fingers over the ribs from their shoulders to their waist.
If your dog is a healthy weight, you should be able to easily feel the ribs. It should feel like your knuckles, if you run your fingers over them when your hand is flat.
If your dog is too thin, the ribs will stick out quite a lot (like running your fingers over the knuckles of a clenched fist).
If your dog is too fat, you may have to probe a little bit to feel the ribs, or you may not be able to feel them at all. This will feel like if you run your hand over the fleshy side of your knuckles.
Look for a perfect hourglass
Once you’ve had a feel of the ribs, take a look at your dog standing from above them. You should be able to see a nice tuck in around their waist. If your dog is carrying extra weight, they’re more likely to be straight up and down, without much of a waist. If they’re too skinny, you’ll be able to see their backbone pretty easily.
Tummy Tucks Are A Good Sign
Finally, take a look at your dog (still standing up) from the side. If your dog is a healthy weight, you should see that their tummy (just behind where their ribs end) tucks up a little bit before the back legs. A chubby dog will have a straight line going across (this may be diagonal in deep-chested breeds). A dog that’s on the thin side would have a very big tuck – again, you’ll be able to see their backbone really easily.
Have a feel of your dog: would you say they’re a healthy weight?
If in doubt, or if you want to know more, ask your vets! They’ll be thrilled that you want to know, and will be able to guide you on doing it the best way for your individual dog.
You can also take a look at the resources provided by the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) here.