Learn the canine body condition score for your dog
Could your dog be overweight or even obese? If so, the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention says your pup has a lot of company, because 56% of all the dogs in the USA have a problem with weight management. But how do you determine the optimum weight for your dog? Assessing your dog’s weight is an important topic to tackle. Let’s learn how to assess your dog’s body condition using canine body condition score and discover how you can walk your dog to good health.
Canine body condition score: What is the ideal standard?
Rather than judging weight in how many pounds a dog weighs, integrative veterinarian Dr. Julie Buzby prefers to consider a dog’s body condition score. It’s a hands-on assessment of weight, based on a dog’s frame, as opposed to straight body mass. Here’s an outline of the ideal canine body condition standard:
- When viewed from above, your dog’s shape does not look like a rectangle or oval.
- When you rub your palms over your dog’s ribs, they are easy to feel.
- When viewed from above, your dog’s waist is tapered behind the ribs.
- When viewed from the side, your dog’s abdomen tucks up.
Your dog’s body condition is scored on a 1-9 system:
- 1-3 is underweight
- 4-5 is ideal
- 6-9 is overweight
The Purina Body Condition Score infographic below gives you a visual and written description of each score:
Please watch this video of Dr. Julie Buzby as she demonstrates how to body condition score your dog:
If you found that your dog scored above the ideal weight, don’t give up hope! There are plenty of tools available to you including these important tips on weight management.
Weight management tips:
- Find a way to connect emotionally with your dog that doesn’t involve food. A long walk is a great way to bond.
- Weight loss requires reducing caloric intake below caloric expenditure so increase exercise.
- Measure the amount of food you serve with a genuine measuring cup, not a coffee can, ceramic mug, or random scoop. Being accurate will keep extra calories from sneaking into a diet.
- The calories from treats add up quickly. Instead of traditional treats, try green beans, cauliflower, or raw baby carrots.
- Substitute low-sodium canned green beans or cooked fresh green beans for a portion of your dog’s meals. This substitution creates a sensation of fullness while reducing caloric intake.
- Get the entire family on board from the start. If you follow the feeding plan strictly, but your spouse feeds treats all day long, the plan will fail, and you will both become frustrated.
As with all of your dog’s health needs, consult your veterinarian about your dog’s ideal weight and diet. Feeding guidelines need not be mysterious or arbitrary. A mathematical equation (which factors in your dog’s age, gender and activity level) exists to determine a daily caloric requirement for your dog. This number isn’t guaranteed to be perfect, but it can be used as a starting point.
Pets who are “dieting” should have frequent weight checks at the vet’s office. (Before heading to the vet, check out my article: 6 Secrets for Utopian Vet Visits.) Losing about 1% of body weight per week is the goal. Most veterinary facilities allow owners to stop in and weigh a pet during office hours without an appointment. Also, ask the hospital receptionist to provide you with a computerized graph showing your pet’s weight history. I recommend hanging this on the refrigerator for accountability.
By maintaining your dog’s ideal weight, you can help him or her live a happier, longer life
In one landmark study, research results showed that dogs maintaining an ideal weight can live over two years longer than their overweight counterparts. Many chronic illnesses are associated with excess weight including:
- Arthritis – Being pudgy puts unnecessary stress on joints and discs in the spine. This additional stress can lead to joint degeneration.
- Respiratory problems – When pets have extra fat around their airway and chest their body has to work harder to breathe.
- Diabetes – Carrying extra fat and pounds can lead to insulin resistance.
You are the key to keeping your dog healthy. Team ToeGrips hopes we have given you some new tools to help you perform this very important job.