What condition is your dog in?

Dogs can be categorized into five different body condition score groups, which is a standard way to determine if your dog is under- or overweight.

Body condition scoring is one way to assess whether your dog is over- or underweight. Body condition scoring is important for dog owners to know so they can determine if a dog’s growth rate and feeding amounts are correct. Body condition scoring also helps ensure a dog is gaining the proper amount of weight for their age, breed and activity level.

Body condition scoring can help you and your veterinarian have a common understanding of your dog’s weight. There are several diseases overweight or obese dogs are more at risk to develop. Using body condition scoring is a good way to stay on top of your dog’s weight management.

The World Small Animal Veterinary Association has developed a downloadable chart describing canine body condition scoring. The following are quick descriptions of each of the five categories.

Body condition score 1—Emaciated: Ribs, lumbar vertebrae, pelvic bones and all body prominences are evident from a distance. The dog has no discernible body fat. There is an obvious absence of muscle mass.

Body condition score 2—Thin: The ribs are easily felt and may be visible with no palpable fat. The tops of the lumbar vertebrae are visible. The pelvic bones are less prominent. There is an obvious waist and abdominal tuck.

Body condition score 3—Moderate: The ribs are palpable without excess fat covering. The abdomen is tucked up when viewed from the side.

Body condition score 4—Stout: The dog has a general fleshy appearance. The ribs are palpable with difficulty. There are noticeable fat deposits over the lumbar spine and base of the tail. An abdominal tuck may be absent.

Body condition score 5—Obese: The dog has large fat deposits over his chest, spine and tail base. The waist and abdominal tuck are absent. There are fat deposits on the neck and limbs. The abdomen is distended.

If you are concerned your dog is at risk of having a body condition score 5, you can ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are the signs of an overweight dog?
  • Is it difficult to feel your dog’s ribs and spine?
  • Does your dog pant constantly?
  • Does your dog need help getting in the car?
  • Does your dog resist playing games?
  • Does your dog bark without getting up?

These questions in isolation may not necessarily indicate your dog is obese, however if you suspect your dog may be overweight, consult with your veterinarian to determine a proper diet and exercise regimen for your dog.

To learn more about Michigan 4-H Animal Science Programs, please visit Michigan State University Extension’s Animal Science webpage.

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