How to do a Dog Weight Check
Dog weight gain tends to be a slow process which is often undetected by pet parents until considerable doggy weight is gained.
A survey by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention found that 46% of pet owners with overweight and obese dogs did not recognize their dog as being above a healthy weight. *
So if your pooch appears a little cuddlier than normal and you are uncertain whether your off-sider is a healthy weight dog or an overweight dog, this article is for you!
Here are three simple steps to determine whether your dog is a healthy weight.
Step 1: Body Condition Score (BCS) your dog.
This is the first and the most important step in assessing whether your dog is a healthy weight.
A BCS is a visual and manual (look and feel) assessment of your dog’s body condition. It involves:
- an objective visual assessment of your dog’s body condition
- palpating your dog to feel the amount of fat cover
- comparing these two assessments with a BCS chart.
Give your dog a Body Condition Score by taking our 2 minute FREE Wellness Check.
When Body Condition Scoring, scores range from 1 (underweight) to 9 (obese). The ideal condition that we are aiming for is a 4 or 5 (healthy weight dog).
Visual assessment: The healthy weight dog (BCS 4 or 5) when viewed from above:
- has an hourglass figure -out at the chest, in at the waist and out at the hips.
- has spine and ribs that are not visible
When viewed from the side the healthy weight dog with a BCS of 4 or 5 has:
- a tucked tummy that does not sag.
- a taut, non-bulbous anterior chest.
- ribs and spine that are not visible.
Make observations of your dog and compare your dog’s body outline with the BCS chart in your WAGSTA Wellness check.
Manual assessment: In a healthy weight dog (BCS 4 or 5):
- the ribs are lightly felt as you run your hand across the coat. The ribs can be felt without pushing or prodding into the dog’s body.
- the spinous processes of the spine are lightly felt without the need to push or prod.
- the tissues below the neck and towards the front legs of the dog are taut and not padded by a cushion of fat.
- the ventral chest wall should be firm and not padded by a cushion of fat.
- the area above the tail base should be firm with the spinous processes of the spine just palpable and not covered by a pad of fat.
Palpate your dog and compare your assessments with the WAGSTA Wellness Check Body Condition Scoring chart to give your dog an overall score.
NB. Palpation is important when conducting a body condition score because many dogs have thick or long coats that can mask underlying body condition. A BCS should always include palpation.
With practice body condition scoring your dog will become second nature. This quick and easy tool can be conducted anywhere and at any time.
Step 2 – Weigh Your Dog
Regular weigh-ins are an excellent way to keep progress of your dog’s weight. So whenever you get the opportunity to weigh your dog, get into the habit of recording it. Any deviations in weight over time can then be used to highlight the need for a health check or to tweak your dog’s diet and lifestyle.
Keep track of your dog’s weight with your free WAGSTA walkies, weight and wellness tracking app!
The best method of weighing your dog is to use purpose built walk-on dog scales. These are generally located in the waiting rooms of veterinary clinics. The majority of clinics are happy for dog owners to drop in and quickly weigh their dogs free of charge. If your pet is registered at the clinic reception staff can also update your pets file with their recent weight.
However if you have a smaller dog, then a pair of bathroom scales is suffice. Simply:
- Step onto the scales whilst holding your dog – record the weight (a).
- Step onto the scales without your dog- record your own weight (b).
- (a) minus (b) = your dog’s weight
When using scales ensure they are sited on a hard, flat surface. Have a second person assist with reading the scales and recording weights. Avoid lifting dogs weighing greater than 16 kilograms without assistance.
Now that you have your dog’s current weight, compare it with:
- Earlier recorded weights for your dog -is your dog maintaining, losing or gaining weight?
- Breed weight charts
See the WAGSTA Breed Weight Chart for the weights of popular dog breeds.
Please note, breed weight charts for dogs should be used as a guide only. When it comes to dogs there is wide variation in size and body type both within and across breeds of dogs. Add cross bred and multi breed dogs into the mix and identification of specific target weights is almost impossible.
Target weights should have some flexibility built in. As your dog loses weight and heads towards their healthy goal weight regular body condition scoring will help identify a specific weight to reach.
STEP 3 – Seek a professional opinion.
If your dog’s body condition score and weight recordings indicate a weight issue now would be an excellent time for a veterinary check- up. This is especially recommended, if your dog has not been to the vets in the past 6 months.
At this check:
- Your vet can confirm your pet’s weight status and help identify a target weight to aim for.
- Your veterinarian will be able to give your pet a health check and make sure everything is in order.
Approximately 5% of overweight dogs have a high body condition score and weight reading due to health issues such as hypothyroidism, overactive adrenal glands (hyperadrenocortism), diabetes, tumours or heart disease. This is where veterinary expertise is essential- to address and rule out these diseases, giving you confidence to embark your dog on a weight loss plan.
The remaining 95 % of overweight pets are simply carrying too much body fat due to a calorific imbalance i.e. too many calories consumed and not enough burnt. Portion control along with regular exercise are needed to correct weight gain. For expert advice and support in helping your dog lose weight, please visit the WAGSTA Wellness Diet Plan home page.