Canine body condition scoring is a system developed to assess body fat in dogs and is used in a similar way that we might use BMI as a guide to assess our own health.

Traditionally the focus has been on maintaining correct bodyweight, but dogs come in all shapes and sizes and even within the same breed there can be a massive range in bodyweights.  Using a body condition scoring system alongside actual bodyweight gives us a much better way of assessing and monitoring canine health.

Using an organised scoring system may sound complicated but it really isn’t! It does not require any specialist equipment just a little bit of practice and objective observation.

There are two recognised BCS scales; the 1-5 scale and the 1-9 scale Here is an example of each:

The 1-5 scale is a basic guide, whilst the 1-9 scale is the one usually used in practice by vets and Vet Nurses as it gives the ability to assess and monitor more subtle changes.  Whichever scale is used to record BCS the scale should be referenced i.e., an ideal BCS could be recorded as 3/5 or 5/9.

How to body condition score your dog:

  • Ribs – Start by running your hands along either side of the chest, can you feel the ribs easily without applying pressure?  In an ideal dog it feels like the knuckles on the back of your hand whilst your hand is flat, if it feels like your knuckles when holding a fist then that’s too thin. If it feels like your knuckles on the palm side of your hand then there’s too much fat covering over the ribs.
  • Spine and pelvis – Gently feel the spine from neck to tail.  Can you feel the spine without pressing hard? Feel the lumbar and pelvic area, are there fat deposits either side of the lumbar area?  Can you feel the pelvic bones?
  • Top profile – Look from above, can you see a distinct waist behind the ribs?
  • Side profile – Look from the side, can you see a tummy tuck?  The abdomen should slant upwards from the rib cage to the hind legs with no saggy belly.

We all know that obesity is linked to so many diseases and a fit and healthy dog will be a happier dog and will live longer.  Sadly, obesity is the number one nutritional disorder in dogs but one that can be managed easily.

If you need help to manage your dog’s body condition score, then contact us here at 

Gwen is a Registered Veterinary Nurse with over 25yrs of experience in veterinary practice and will help you to make a real difference to your dog’s health.  


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