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Healthy weight isn't only measured on a scale

Weighing your dog is not the only way to check if they're overweight. You can find out if your dog is a healthy weight by asking your vet how to use the Body Conditioning Score.

What is body condition scoring?

Body Condition Scoring is used by vets to help you check whether your dog is overweight, underweight or at ideal weight and shape. It focuses on the look and feel of your dog because checking their weight alone doesn’t give an indication of a healthy shape.

The body condition score uses a 9-point system ranging from severely underweight at 1 to obese at 9. The indicators used for scoring are your dog’s ribs, waist and abdomen, and a score of 4 or 5 means they are at ideal weight and shape. This means a well-proportioned dog will have ribs that can be easily felt, a waist that can be seen from above and an abdomen that tucks up behind their rib cage when seen from the side.

Your vet can show you how to use the dog body condition score chart. It’s also important to visit them regularly so they can help you continually monitor your dogs shape.

How do I tell if my dog is overweight?

It’s crucial to identify if your dog is carrying too much weight and take action. Overweight dogs are at greater risk of a number of serious and life-changing conditions, including a shortened life expectancy, Diabetes and Osteoarthritis.  

A dog is classed as overweight when it is 15% to 20% over its ideal weight and is classed as obese when it is more than 30% over. It’s easy to underestimate how heavy your dog is though, so the best way to check if they’re gaining too much weight is a 3-step look- feel-weigh approach.

  1. Look at their behaviour and shape. Are they somewhat lethargic or get tired easily? Does their stomach sag or can you see their waist and the tuck of their abdomen behind their ribs?
  2. Feel their ribs – using light pressure, how easily can you feel them? How much pressure do you have to use to feel them?
  3. Weigh your dog - by weighing them regularly you can monitor any weight gain. Your vet can tell you their ideal weight based on their current weight and assessing their body condition score.

How to help your overweight dog lose weight

The great news is that overweight and obese dogs can return to their ideal weight and shape by losing weight. Helping your dog return to their ideal weight will help to improve their quality of life, and dogs at ideal weight have also been shown to live longer than those who are overweight or obese.

Being overweight is caused by eating more calories than are being used. So the important areas to address are your dog’s food and exercise. Ask your vet about diets formulated to support weight loss in overweight dogs. Simply reducing your dogs daily food ration, reduces the likelihood of them getting all the nutrients they need, and may also encourage begging behaviours. Make sure you stick to the portion size on the pack and avoid giving treats in addition to this – or save some of their dry daily food allowance to use as treats.

Regular physical activity is essential for their overall wellbeing, as well as helping them lose weight and maintain a healthy shape. Ask your vet about the right level and type of exercise for your dog, and only increase it gradually in-line with your vet’s guidance.

Speak to your vet

If you have any concerns or questions about your dog’s weight or shape, it’s always best to speak to your vet. They’ll be happy to help and can identify how overweight your dog is, if at all, and what actions you should take to help them lose weight or to advise you on how to prevent weight gain.

Likewise, it’s important to speak to your vet before making any changes to your dog’s diet, exercise patterns or lifestyle.

As no two dogs are the same, your vet can give you advice tailored to your dog as an individual. This will be based not just on their breed, age and sex, but on factors such as any existing health conditions and whether or not they’ve been spayed or neutered.

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