A beagle and tabby cat with text "Body Condition Scoring"

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a measure of body fat based on height and weight that applies to adult men and women. BMI can help determine whether a person is at an unhealthy or healthy weight. Luckily, there is a way to measure the body condition of our pets too. The pet version of BMI is called Body Condition Score (BCS). Body condition scoring evaluates the body fat in pets. It is more complicated than the human scale for measuring body fat because pets come in lots of different shapes and sizes. Imagine Great Dane vs. Bull Dog vs. Toy Poodle.

An estimated 60% of cats and 56% of dogs are overweight or obese according to a survey conducted by Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. The BCS is a subjective point system used to standardize the level of an animal’s weight. The scoring system helps with formulating a diet and exercise plan that best suits the pet’s body, activity level, and lifestyle. There are two recognized BCS scales, one ranging from 1-5 and the other 1-9. Some veterinarians prefer the 1-9 scale which is used to identify subtle weight changes.

The key structures to look for include ribs, spine, hip bones, waist, abdomen, muscle mass, and overall fat covering. A healthy weight should score 5 points and is described as being able to see the animal’s waistline. The abdomen should appear tucked up behind the rib cage.

Body condition scoring is a system developed by veterinarians to help evaluate a pet’s overall weight in comparison to its body structure. It is a system that uses a scoring chart from 1 to 9. According to the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) the body condition scores are as follows.

• 1 – 3 underweight with 1 being emaciated

• 4 – 5 ideal weight

• 6 – 7 overweight

• 8 – 9 obese with 9 being severe

Keeping our pets fit will make their lives happier, healthier, and longer. If you have any questions regarding scoring your pet’s body condition, reach out to your veterinarian and schedule an appointment.


2018 Pet Obesity Survey Results. Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 12 Mar. 2019. petobesityprevention.org/2018

Body Condition Score Chart. Wsava.org. (2020). Retrieved 21 October 2020, from https://wsava.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/05/WSAVA-Global-Nutrition-Toolkit-English.pdf.

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