Body Condition Scoring in Dogs

by Healthy Barks Social August 31, 2022 5 min read

Body Condition Scoring in Dogs

In the emerging market of all kinds of pet food trends, pet parents are left with several areas of confusion. It really becomes crucial for parents to consistently monitor the body condition of their pets. 

Just like we humans have a Body Mass Index(BMI) that determines whether we are too thin or too heavy taking into account the muscle mass and body fat, pets also have a score known as Body Condition Score. 

Body Condition Scoring orBCS is very beneficial for the long-term health of your dog. It is a score that is calculated to monitor if the dog is underweight or overweight so that pet parents can keep a check on their dog’s overall well-being and fitness levels. 

Body Condition Scoring in Dogs

In simple terms, BCS  is defined for all pets in order to analyze their body condition and structure. These (canine) BCS systems have been followed for over 20 years and are an effective technique for vets and pet owners. 

Practicing BCS during dog body weight check-up is worthy to:

  1. Measure whether your dog’s weightiness is reasonable.
  2. Sense primary disease (before external clinical symptoms appear) and variations in nutritional values
  3. Spot small rises in body weight that can eventually lead to obesity.

According to APOP’s survey in the year 2016, pet obesity in the US continued to increase steadily where 54% of dogs and 59% of cats were found to be either overweight or obese. 

Note:(BCS 6-7) = Overweight; (BCS 8-9) = Obese

As a matter of fact,Obesity is the greatest health threat to dogs

Types of Scores 

Judging BCS is a particular and semi quantitative technique for valuing body fat. It requires visual analysis (from the top and side) to identify fat presence over waist, ribs and abdominal tuck, and tail base. 

Body Condition Score Chart


Here are some figures to understand the score calculation:

  1. Under Ideal

 Image Courtesy: WSAVA Global Nutrition Committee

Score 1 – 

  • Abrupt loss of muscle.
  • All bony prominences like pelvic bones, vertebrae lumbar and ribs are evident from a distance. 
  • NIL fat presence.

Treatment – 

The best option is NOT to rapidly feed them a lot. You are already nourishing your dog excess, it’s in underweight condition. The chances of underlying medical conditions are also high. Contact with a holistic vet or nutritionist is must to know what can be done to save the dog. But, Pet parents should also understand that stressful atmosphere might be the cause. Parasites over its gut, high bowel inflammation are other sources. 

Score 3 – 

  • Clear visibility of abdominal tuck and waist.
  • Pelvic bones look evident.
  • Shape of ribs are certainly notable without solid fat.

Treatment – 

Bravo! Whatever your dog’s present age is, you should maintain its body shape all-time.

Caution –  

Avoid over exercising, it causes inflammation, and starts gaining weight. The training stress affects the joints producing Arthritis.

  1. Ideal

 Image Courtesy: WSAVA Global Nutrition Committee

Score 5 – 

  • Based on the upward view, the dog's waist can be observed behind the ribs.
  • The abdomen is tucked up sideward.
  • Due to scarce fat covering, ribs are highly noticeable.
  1. Over Ideal

 Image Courtesy: WSAVA Global Nutrition Committee

Score 7 – 

  • Ribs are shown more complex with heavy fat covering.
  • Waist is barely absent, but abdominal tuck is present.
  • Higher fat deposits are obvious in tails and lumbar.

Score 9 – 

  • Great fat covering around the spine, tail base and thorax.
  • Evident abdominal distention.
  • Absence of abdominal tuck and waist.

Treatment – 

“Score 5” is a point of failure i.e. pet parents fail to observe the fat at all! FOOD (NOURISHMENT) is the main solution behind keeping your dog healthy and strong. On the other hand, never initiate your dog on an exercise basis that will severely hurt their troubled joints.

Score 7 & 9 indicates that the dog is 20-25% above ideal weight. Meaning that the dog is Obese! In these conditions, your dog probably faces trouble walking and experiences toughness in joints. Feeding a fresh diet plan that holistically reduces its weight is best priority (treatment) now.

Pet Parents can Calculate BCS at Home

Although nothing can replace a veterinary visit, pet parents can calculate their pets’ Body Condition Score from the comfort of their homes. First and foremost, find your dog in a comfortable mood. 

You need to have access to a detailedScoring Chart to refer to for the assessment.    

Note: The dog needs to be standing during the assessment.

Few things need to be taken into consideration:

  • To begin with, take a top view and look at your dog’s back, look at the ribs, waist and back line. Gently press your hands over the rib cage. Be careful not to press hard. 
  • Individual ribs should be evident but should not be seen readily and there should be no overlying fat.
  • Now observe the abdominal tuck from a side view. 
  • For an ideal body condition, there should be proportionate ‘abdominal tuck’ or ‘hourglass’ when palpating the dog’s waist from the side or along the back. 
  • Dogs who are extremely thin will have ‘bony prominences’, especially over the hip bones, ribs, and shoulder blades. 
  • Dogs who are obese will have ‘excessive soft’ or ‘fatty areas’ and it would be nearly impossible to feel the ribs or the hip bones. 

 Image Courtesy: VetStem

Compare your observations with the Body Condition Score Chart. Consult your vet if you think the BCS is fluctuating a lot. 

The Bottom Line

It would be a better idea for pet parents to know about the BCS role. Make your dog in a cool and relaxed mood.  You can rest with them (instead of leaning over them) and try to sense slightly for the ribs. Beware of force pressing. 

It’s better to make your dog stand, try to observe the side and top view to ensure abdominal tuck, waist and ribs structure. Relate those notices with the Body condition scoring scheme chart as mentioned above. Keeping your dog's reasonable weight is a factor of scientific references and practicality.

A balanced diet with the right ingredients can make all the difference :) 

At healthy barks, we provide fresh whole food that is tailor-made for our furry friends. Check out Healthy Bark’s wholesomeChicken and Fish meal for your doggo.

Most pet-parents often struggle with managing their pet’s nutritional requirements. We help pet parents with fresh, complete and tailored nutrition for their pets by providing personalized meal plans (made fresh with real ingredients) specially designed to meet their pet’s health needs, and formulated by a veterinary nutritionist so that they stay worry-free & can get on with spending real-time with their doggos. We are currently serving in Bangalore. So, if you reside in Bangalore, book a free, in-person consultation with the Healthy Barks family at or feel free to call or drop us a ‘Hi’ on WhatsApp at +91 - 76767 20200. Come and enjoy a food tasting session with us!

PS: If you have any additional queries, or would want us to cover any specific topic, feel free to tell us in the comment section below.

Happy Wagging & Healthy Barks! :D

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