How do you know if your pet is a healthy body weight? Body condition scoring is commonly used in veterinary medicine to determine if a pet is at a healthy body weight. Body condition can be scored on a 1-9 scale with 1-3 being underweight, 4-5 ideal and 6-9 overweight; or a 1-5 scale with 1-2 being underweight, 3 ideal and 4-5 overweight.

The basic principle of body condition scoring is evaluating the pet by touch and not just by a number on a scale. A pet with an ideal body condition should have ribs that are easily felt but not seen, an hourglass shape when looking down on them (wider at the chest and hips, thinner at the waist), and their belly tucked up into their hips. If a pet’s ribs or hip bones are showing, this means they are under weight. If a pet has a linear or sausage shape with loss of a waist, or if the ribs are not easily felt, this means they are overweight.

The charts below are a guide to help determine where your pet lies in the body condition score. If your pet falls below ideal, they should be examined by a veterinarian to determine if there is an underlying disease process causing weight loss or if they just need higher energy requirements. If your pet falls above ideal, they should be examined by a veterinarian to put together a feeding plan which may require a special diet to help your pet achieve their weight loss goals, or if an underlying disease process is causing weight gain.

Diet and exercise play a key role in maintaining your pet’s healthy body weight. Pet’s that are obese are at a higher risk of developing diabetes, heart disease, joint disease, and cancer than pets that are at an ideal body weight.

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