Fit Or Fat: Do You Know Your Dog’s Body Condition Score?


Like humans, you cannot determine your dogs’ fitness level by their weight alone. Other factors, such as body fat and muscle mass have to be taken into consideration, which is why vets often use the body condition score (BCS) to determine if dogs are over or underweight.

How Is BCS Calculated?

There are four factors that are considered:

– Ribs

– Waist/abdominal tuck

– Fat under the skin

– Muscle mass

Fit and healthy dogs will have ribs that are easy to feel, and a defined waist/abdominal tuck (somewhat like an hourglass). With shaggy dogs, you might have to feel for the abdominal tuck because it is not clearly visible on account of the heavy coat of hair.

An overweight dog will have a pronounced belly and no visible waist. A fatty layer over the ribs will make them difficult to feel. In contrast, the ribs, spine and bones of an underweight dog will be sharply defined and clearly visible.

What Does The BCS Results Mean?

There are two systems – a 5-point one and a 9-point one – that are commonly used to calculate BCS. The higher the score on any scale, the more out of condition and overweight a dog is. The ideal score on the 5-point system would be 2.5 to 3, while a 4 or 5 on the 9-point system suggests your dog is in optimal shape.

How You Can Check Your Dog’s BCS At Home

It is best to have a vet do a BCS test for you. But if that is not possible, you can always do it at home. Here are the steps:


Stand in front of dog (who should also be standing) and take a top view of the lines of the body. Dogs in good condition will show a tapering or tuck at the abdomen. On long-haired dogs you may have to feel with your hand to find the abdomen tuck.


Run your thumb along the spine of the dog, right down to the tail, to feel if the bumps on the spinal bone are easily discernable.


Stand in front of your dog and gently run both hands from the shoulder down to the ribs. Notice if you feel the presence of a fatty layer over the ribs. In fit and healthy dogs, you should be able to feel the rib cage quite easily.

Once you have completed the test, you should have a number, which will indicate if your pet is overweight, underweight or just right.


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