Quick Tips for Figuring Out Your Dog or Cat’s Body Condition Score

Exploring Body Condition Scoring with Amanda Evans

Healthy Dogs |  April 24, 2019

Body condition scoring may be a foreign concept for many dog and cat owners, but Greenwood Store Manager Amanda Evans uses it in her day-to-day life to evaluate her own dog’s health. Regulars at the Greenwood store have probably already spotted Maggie—a five-year-old corgi-terrier mix—helping out on the floor, but Maggie’s also one of the reasons why Amanda knows so much about healthy weight and body condition.

“With my dog being a Corgi mix, I pay very close attention to her body condition score,” explains Greenwood store manager Amanda Evans. “I know that she has a slightly longer back and if she is even just, you know, a little bit overweight that’s going to put extra weight on her back.”

We talked to Amanda to find out her thoughts about body condition scoring, as well as her tips for evaluating your own dog or cat’s weight.

MB: As humans, we often use the scale to evaluate whether we need to lose or gain weight. Why do we use the body condition score at Mud Bay?

AE: So, what I like about the body condition score, is it’s about the shape of your dog or cat. Because healthy weight is about having a proportionate body. A Basset Hound that is only a foot tall at the shoulder, but weighs 60 pounds, is going to look very different from a Labrador that is average height and weighs 60 pounds. The body condition score provides a universal language to talk about weight in a more effective and healthy manner.

The other thing I think about with the body condition score is the fact that humans don’t just use a scale. Right? We don’t just go by weight; we also consider our heights. We use BMI (body mass index), and that’s not always accurate depending on your muscle mass. So, we look at where we’re carrying weight and if that weight is muscle or fat. Then we decide if we want to change our weight.

The body condition score provides us with a universal language. It’s something you can use, your vet uses, and we use at Mud Bay to talk about whether we see a healthy weight distribution on an individual dog or cat.

MB: Let’s say I have a dog or cat, and I want to evaluate her body condition score. How do I figure out if she’s at a healthy 3?

AE: Again, it all comes down to the appearance and the feel of the dog or cat. So, you want to look at the top of the animal and you want to look for a clear waist definition. An animal should not have just a straight line from chest to hips. You should have some kind of curve or waist definition when looking at the back.

You also want to see an abdominal tuck from the side as well. That means their stomach is going to be higher and closer to their back when you look at them from the sides. So, you’ll want to see the stomach form a diagonal line from chest to the back legs and hips. 

From there, the other thing that you’re going to probably want to do is feel for their ribs. I say this because animals–dogs and cats–they have varying amounts of fur on them, so what I do is I get down on the ground with the animal, and I feel for their rib cage.

You basically should be able to feel their ribs as clearly as you can feel the bones in the back of your hand. You don’t want to feel the ribs jutting out, but you want to be able to at least feel that their ribs are there. If they’re so underweight that their ribs are really obvious, they’re under a three. And if their ribs are so covered with fat that you can barely feel them or can’t feel them at all, that’s how you know they’re over a three at that point.

MB: What if I don’t feel comfortable assessing body condition on my own?

AE: Bring your animal into a store or talk to your vet about it. Whoever you feel comfortable talking to in the animal health industry would be more than happy to help you.

And the thing is, it’s nothing to be ashamed of if your dog or cat gets a little bit over a three or is a little bit under. That’s okay, it’s easy enough to fix. And we aren’t here to shame you or your animal if they get a little bit above a three or a little bit below. The reason we care so much about the weight, is having an animal at a healthy weight can drastically increase their lifespan and their quality of life as well.


Cat gazing at a panting black and white dog

Greenwood Store Manager Amanda Evans has been a Muddy for over 8 years. Drop by to see her (and sometimes Maggie!) and talk about body condition scoring, healthy weight or anything else you’d like to discuss about your dog or cat.

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