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Body scoring: how to check your pet’s weight

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Body condition scoring is a useful method to determine whether your dog, cat or rabbit is at a healthy weight. This can be especially useful at this time of year; the indulgences of the festive season can affect our pets just like us. But being underweight is unhealthy too. Here, vet Brian Faulkner takes us through the 3 simple steps of body scoring your four-legged friend.

There isn’t a single ideal weight for pets. Greyhounds are slimmer than St Bernards, while Siamese cats tend to be thinner than large breeds like the Bengal. To get around this normal variation, vets use the body scoring scale, which works equally well for dogs, cats and rabbits. It runs from 1 to 5, where 1 is emaciated, 5 is obese and 3 is the ideal. If your pet scores below 2 or above 4, take them to the vet for a professional check-up.

1. The ribs
Feel over the flanks and the ribcage gently but firmly. The ribs should be easy to detect, but without excessive fat covering – like pencils in a soft pencil case. With rabbits, you should feel along the spine too – it should be softly rounded to the touch, rather than sharp. Score 1 means that the ribs, shoulder blades and pelvis are visibly obvious, with no fat covering; score 5 means they cannot be easily felt.

2. The waist
Look at the waist from above and the abdominal tuck from the side. The abdominal tuck or belly should follow an upward curve, and not droop downwards. With emaciated pets (score 1) the waist looks skinny and the tummy is held high. With score 5, there is no apparent waist and the abdominal line hangs downwards. A pet with the right weight (score 3) will have a visible waist and a flat abdominal line.

3. The hind-quarters
Finally, check how much excess fat can be felt, and how much muscle mass is present, around the hindquarters. Emaciated pets have no fat beneath the skin, and a distinct lack of muscle. In obese pets, the muscle cannot be felt at all due to a thick layer of body fat. A pet in an ideal condition (score 3) will have little fat, and there will be adequate muscle mass along the back and legs.

Checking your pet’s weight forms part of the regular health check-ups suggested in our blog of New Year’s resolutions. By looking after you cat, dog or rabbit’s weight, you are helping to ensure that they are fighting fit year-round. For more information on body scoring your pet, watch our video.

Taken from the Autumn 2013 issue of PetPeople.

Have you ever body scored your pet before? How do you look after you pet’s weight? Tell us in the box below.

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3 Responses to Body scoring: how to check your pet’s weight

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  2. f m coleman says:

    Why not show photos to demonstrate this…..it would make it clearer as to the measurements and their affects and results…..show line diagram of what you mean and then the photo. Felicity Coleman

  3. felicity m Coleman says:

    This is too generalised.
    Why not a) show a diagram of what is being explained b) a photo of the grades one two three four and five.

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