New Year’s Resolutions for Our Pets
As we ring in the New Year many people are prioritizing losing weight to become healthier. However, we know that weight is not the only factor that determines if we are healthy or not. You may recall at your last doctor’s visit that your Body Mass Index (known as BMI) was measured, in addition to weighing you on the scale. Muscle mass and body fat are important contributors for health assessment along with your weight. The same is true for dogs and cats as well! Weighing them regularly is important, but to truly determine if your pet is the appropriate weight you will want to assess his or her Body Condition Score (known as a BCS, the equivalent
of BMI in people) too.
So let us dive into learning more about body condition scoring and how to take this measurement on your pet at home. Body condition scoring requires performing a visual and hands-on assessment of your pet’s level of lean muscle and fat. This way we can ensure your pet is not too thin, or more commonly, not too fat.
The body condition score is based on four criteria- 1.) how easily the ribs are felt 2.) how obvious the waist and belly tuck are 3.) the amount of excess fat beneath the skin 4.) how much muscle mass is present. So, a healthy dog or cat should have ribs that are easy to feel (but not to see, otherwise they are too thin) and a defined waist or “abdominal tuck” when viewed from the side and overtop. In a pet with a thick coat, you may have to feel for a waist and tuck if it’s not
Scoring is based on either a five or nine-point scale. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention offers guidelines with descriptions and images based on a five-point system. Using the nine-point scale, an ideal score is a four or five out of nine for both dogs and cats. Lower numbers indicate your pet is too thin and higher numbers equate to being overweight or obese.
In general, a pet’s age doesn’t normally factor into measuring body condition. However, neutering your pet can greatly influence their metabolism. Also, as our pets age they can develop multiple health problems that may reduce their muscle mass and activity level, as well as change their dietary needs. You may need to discuss dietary modifications with your veterinary team to keep your pet in a healthy range according to their unique needs.
Finding and maintaining your pet’s healthy weight and body condition is a balance of good nutrition and appropriate activity level. If you have any questions regarding scoring your pet’s body condition feel free to reach out to your veterinary team and schedule an appointment.