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Weight management should be a life-long strategy for keeping your dog healthy and happy. It can dramatically improve your dog's comfort and mobility, decrease its need for anti-inflammatory medications, and even slow the progression of its osteoarthritis. It will also make your dog more able and willing to exercise, which creates a positive cycle of exercise, weight control, and joint health.

Body Condition Score (BCS) chart for dogs

Determining your dog's BCS involves evaluating the amount of fat stored on the visible parts of your dog's body. You'll be looking at or feeling (palpating) the following areas: ribs (along the sides of the rib cage), tail base (around the base of the tail, where the tail meets the rump), and abdomen (the belly).


Ribs, lumbar vertebrae, pelvic bones and all bony prominences evident from a distance. No discernible body fat. Obvious loss of muscle mass.VERY THIN
Ribs, lumbar vertebrae, pelvic bones and all bony prominences easily visible. No palpable fat. Minimal loss of muscle mass.THIN
Ribs easily palpitated and may be visible with no palpable fat. Tops of lumbar vertebrae visible. Pelvis bones becoming prominent. Obvious waist and abdominal tuck.

Ribs easily palpable, with minimal fat covering. Waist easily noted, viewed from above. Abdomen tucked up when viewed from the side.IDEAL
Ribs palpable without excess fat covering. Waist observed behind ribs when viewed from above. Abdominal tuck evident.OVERWEIGHT
Ribs palpable with slight excess fat covering. Waist is discernible viewed from above but is not prominent. Abdominal tuck apparent.

Ribs palpable with difficulty, heavy fat cover. Noticeable fat deposits over lumbar area and base of tail. Waist absent or barely visible. Abdominal tuck may be absent.OBESE
Ribs not palpable under very heavy fat cover, or palpable only with significant pressure. Heavy fat deposits over lumbar area and base of tail. Waist absent. No abdominal tuck. Obvious abdominal distension may be present.GROSSLY OBESE
Massive fat deposits over thorax, spine and base of tail. Waist and abdominal tuck absent. Fat deposits on neck and limbs. Obvious abdominal distension.

* subcutaneous tissue is the loose connective tissue immediately beneath the skin; in well-fed dogs it contains fat

Body Condition Score System provided by Nestle Purina
Petcare Company, St. Louis, MO.

Extra pounds place an excess burden on bones and joints and can make arthritis problems worse. Overweight dogs are less able to exercise and play comfortably and their breathing may be labored. Their bodies may be less able to resist infections, and they may be at greater risk for problems during surgery and anesthesia.

Potential health problems include:

Joint or Locomotion Difficulties. Extra pounds add stress to joints, bones, ligaments and muscles. Conditions such as arthritis, hip dysplasia, spinal disc disease and ruptures of joint ligaments may be caused or aggravated by obesity.
Heart and Respiratory Disease. Excess fat tissue in the chest cavity and around the muscles of the heart can decrease the efficiency of the heart and lungs. Your dog’s heart and lungs have to work harder to provide adequate oxygen and circulation.
Diabetes. Just as in humans, diabetes is much more common in obese dogs.
Liver Disease. Obese dogs are prone to liver disease.
Heat Intolerance. The insulating properties of excessive fat make it harder for obese dogs to tolerate heat and they feel uncomfortable.
Skin Problems. Obese dogs may have trouble grooming because the rolls of skin built up by fat deposits can often harbor dirt, bacteria and other harmful organisms.
Gastrointestinal Disorders. Inflammation of the pancreas is frequently found in obese dogs. It is painful and can be life threatening.
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