We Don’t Say the ‘F’ Word!
Dogs and cats come in all shapes and sizes. It is hard to know if they are a healthy body condition just from the number on the scale. We are all thankful for the internet but sometimes the weight ranges you may find online for a certain breed can be misleading. Dog and cat breeds all have ideal breed standards for size, etc. but not each individual will fit into those standards (no pun intended). Trying to make every Labrador or Maine Coon fit their breed standard for weight could lead to some very underweight and some very overweight individuals. Both extremes of body condition increase the risk for serious illness and a shorter life.
To put it in perspective of a person, according to livestrong.com, “If you are a 5-foot-7-inch woman, your normal weight is 123 to 136 pounds if you have a small frame, 133 to 147 pounds if you have a medium frame and 143 to 163 pounds if you have a large frame.” That is a 40-pound difference, around 25% variation of body weight based off of frame size alone. This is why simply looking at BMI to evaluate for body condition is a flawed system for people. The same concepts can be used when looking at our dogs and cats too.
If we can’t use the number on the scale or the breed standard, what can we use? This is where we get another excuse to love on our pets. It’s hard to gauge body condition without using our sense of touch, especially, with our furrier pets.
Using your sense of Site and Touch:
- TOUCH While standing, you should be able to feel their ribs under just a little bit of flesh, without having to push too hard.
- a. If their rib cage feels like a bunch of speed bumps under your fingers, that’s too thin.
- b. If you feel like you have to apply pressure to feel even a slight bump of a rib, that’s too heavy
- TOUCH While standing, you should be able to feel where their waist dips in between their last rib and hips.
- SITE While standing, from the top you should be able to see a concave waist between their last rib and hips.
- TOUCH While standing, you should not be able to feel each bump of a vertebra along their spine or the points and curves of their hips (that’s too thin).
- SITE When they are running or stretching, you should be able to see their last rib or where their rib cage ends.
- SITE While standing, from the side you should be able to see a tuck up at the belly from their chest to the hips.
If you are concerned your pet is not an ideal body condition, schedule an appointment at Green Cove Pet Hospital for an examination. We can make recommendations to help your pet maintain or obtain a healthier body condition. An exam may also reveal concerns for an underlying condition that could be contributing to your pet’s body changes. Pets are such efficient athletes; diet is typically the first step in getting their body condition on track. There a lot of options and you are not alone. Our goal is for all of our pets to live the longest and happiest lives possible.
Here is a visual chart for dogs: https://wsava.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Body-Condition-Score-Dog.pdf
Here is visual chart for cats: https://wsava.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Cat-Body-Condition-Scoring-2017.pdf