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Body Condition Score—a critical guide to health weight

Updated: Feb 29

Common sense disclaimer: As with everything else on this blog, it’s critical to seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian, preferably one that is board certified in theriogenology (reproductive science) for reproductive matters. This website, its blog, and its courses are NOT designed nor intended to replace the need for a qualified veterinarian, but instead to help educate people to to work optimally with their veterinarians. All recommendations should be reviewed with qualified professionals, such as a board certified reproductive veterinarian, prior to implementation in a breeding program. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian. Readers assume all risks associated with use of material on this site. More here.

Body weight alone can't tell you if your dog is in good condition. Muscle and fat also matter.

Human doctors use the Body Mass Index (BMI) or body fat percentage to tell if we are healthy.

You can use a similar system with your dog, known as the Body Condition Score (BCS).

Learn how what the Body Condition Score is and how to easily use it in seconds to evaluate the fitness of your dog.


BCS and hip dysplasia

Just as important is the impact of BCS on risk for hip dysplasia. Please see this post for more details.


Teach this to your puppy families!

Because of the demonstrated risk between weight and hip dysplasia, it's critical to teach your puppy families how to evaluate BCS. Our sister blog (for pet families, not breeders) has a post you can use share with your puppy families that has a short, simple explanation and instructions. Sharing the link is important, but it's also important to have a quick discussion with the families. We usually do this the day they pick up their puppy. It takes 2-3 minutes to explain it to them and to show them how to do either a visual or hands-on evaluation.


How to evaluate BCS

  • For dogs with a short coat, simply use the visual table on the last page of this guide to determine if your dog is in ideal body condition or is carrying too much or too little weight.

  • For dogs with athick coat, the visual evaluation isn’t useful, so you will have to place hands on your dog if they have a lot of coat. Even a skinny fluffy dog can look plump because of their coat.



To find your dog’s body condition score, you’ll want to run your hands down her ribs. You want to feel the puppy’s ribs with a thin layer of fat over them. Any more than a thin layer and your dog is starting to get too fat. If you can’t feel your dog’s ribs, then your dog is obese.


1-4: Too thin (less than ideal). You will feel your dog's ribs with no covering. As an analogy, it feels like you are running your fingers over the knuckles of your hand when making a fist.


5: Just right (ideal).A very thin layer of fat covering your dog's ribs. It feels similar to running your fingers over the back of your hand. You feel the bones, but there's a thin layer of skin and fat over them (but not too much!)


7-9: Too fat (over ideal). It feels like there's a sweater or thick fleece between your dog's ribs and your hands. If you can't feel her ribs at all, then she's not just fat, she's obese.


Need more help?

You are not alone! Please reach out to us and we will be HAPPY to work with you. Book with Ji or Hariamrit

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