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Body condition score in dogs – What does it mean?

BCS Scoring Blog 

If you were to ask any vet or nurse if your dog was the correct weight you will probably have heard them explain the body condition scoring (BCS) system. In this blog, we are going to be looking at what exactly this means and how you can BCS your dogs at home! 

What even is a BCS? 

BCS is an evaluation that is done on your pet, focusing on a few key areas of their body. This is then assigned a number which is typically out of 9, for instance 

1/9 means your dog is severely underweight whilst 9/9 means morbidly obese. 

An ideal weight for a dog would be either a 4 or 5/9. 

But what does this ACTUALLY mean? 

For every number that is scored over 5, this means that your dog is an extra 10% overweight. So if a dog scored 8/9, that means that they are 30% overweight. 

These guidelines were set out by the World Small Animal Welfare Association (WSAVA). Whilst it is not known when this framework was outlined – it is a method that has been used by vets for many years now and has even had research carried out (which we will talk about later) 

The diagram demonstrates examples of what each body condition score can look like. You might often see this poster in the consulting room at your vets in different variations, but this is the guide we will be referring to for the purpose of this blog post. 

When you are trying to determine the BCS of your dog, it is important to get hands on when assessing them. Especially with long-haired breeds otherwise, you will not be able to score them accurately. 

There are three areas of assessment that you need to complete:

  1. Assessing your dog by touch (which we will go into more detail) 
  2. From a birds-eye view (looking down) 
  3. The undercarriage of the dog 

If you would prefer to see video about BCS you can follow the link here or find out in a short video on this website here

Following the scale above you want to start from behind your dogs front legs and feel down the sides of your dog with either your fingers or knuckles. Paying attention to the rib cage – are you able to feel the ribs without them being visible? Do you have to put a lot of pressure on to find them? 

Looking at your dog from above – can you see a clear definition between your dogs rib cage and their hips? Is there a visible waist or are they all the same width? 

Looking at the side of your dog, in particular the underside – is ther belly tucked in or is it equal to the depth of the chest? 

All of these points are key when assessing your dogs BCS as well as weighing them! 

If you want to learn more about BCS and the knuckle test – head on over to our website, where you can sign up for our signature 12-week weight loss program! In week 3 you will find in-depth videos talking all about BCS, and in the importance, it has when assessing your dogs weight loss journey. 

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