One Size Doesn’t Fit All: How to Keep Your Dog in Ship-Shape Condition

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One Size Doesn’t Fit All: How to Keep Your Dog in Ship-Shape Condition

Owning a dog can be a lot of fun, he is mans best friend after all. But inviting a canine friend to join your family brings with it a lot of responsibility, particularly when it comes to his body condition.

Just like we humans like to make sure we’re in good shape, it’s important that dogs stay within a healthy weight range too. Being overweight or underweight can increase the likelihood of your dog developing health problems down the track. If you’re not careful, it could even result in a shorter lifespan. Unfortunately your dog can’t check himself into a doggy version of Weight Watchers so the responsibility to measure and maintain his weight comes down to you.

Some owners keep an eye on their dog’s weight by regularly weighing him - and this is great. But simply weighing your dog won’t tell you everything about his overall health; just because he fits within a couple of numbers, doesn’t mean he’s healthy. That’s where a Body Condition Score (BCS) comes in.

Body Condition Score
A bit like measuring your own Body Mass Index (BMI), a Body Condition Score assesses whether your dog is a healthy weight for his breed and size. By focusing on three key areas of your dog’s body - ribs, belly and waist - you can work out if he is underweight, overweight or in an ideal condition. After you’ve assessed all three areas, you will give your dog one of the following scores:

BCS 1: severely underweight
BCS 2: underweight
BCS 3: ideal condition
BCS 4: overweight
BCS 5: obese
Assessing Your Dog’s Ribs
What to do
Run your fingers over your dog’s rib cage, on either side of his chest in a head-to-tail direction.

What you should feel
You should be able to feel a slight covering of muscle over your dog’s ribs. You shouldn’t be able to see them or feel them poking out from beneath the skin. Don’t just use your eyes; really poke around in there. Thick, hairy or fluffy coats will hide their ribs from view so it’s really important to assess his body properly.

How to score
If your dog is underweight, his ribs will stick out and feel sharp as you run your hands along them. If this is the case, give him a lower score. If he’s overweight, you’ll find it hard to feel his ribs because they’ll be hidden under fat and muscle. This will result in a higher score.

Assessing Your Dog’s Belly
What to do
Run your hand under your dog’s abdomen, from head to tail. Look at his belly from the side too.

What you should feel
Your dog’s belly should start low to the ground where it meets the breastbone at the bottom of his rib cage. As you run your hands towards his tail, his belly should slope higher the further back you go.

How to score
If your dog’s belly suddenly tucks up towards his hips and groin, he’s likely to be underweight with a low BCS. If his belly droops or hangs near the floor all the way along his torso, he might be overweight and have a higher BCS.

Assessing Your Dog’s Waist
What to do
Look down at your dog’s waist from above. It should be much narrower than the width of his chest and ribs.

What you should see
If your dog’s abdomen is wider at his chest and narrower at his waist, he probably has an ideal body condition.

How to score
An underweight dog will have a much narrower waist and his hip bones or spine might be visible or protrude from under his skin. The more pronounced these bony projections, the more underweight he is. If his waist doesn’t get smaller towards his hips, he could be overweight or obese and will have a higher BCS.

What to Do Now
After you’ve assessed your dog’s hips, belly and waist, it’s time to assign him a score on a scale of 1-5. 3 is an ideal BCS. If your dog is higher or lower than this, changing his diet or implementing scricter portion control is the first step to getting him back on track.

When you sign up to CPK, we’ll ask you a number of questions about your dog, including his weight, how much exercise he gets every day and what his BCS is. Your answers will help us figure out how many calories your dog should consume everyday and what diet would best suit his needs. If his BCS is lower than it should be, it might be that your unique CPK food plan is higher in calories than another dog’s. Similarly, if your dog needs to lose weight, we might recommend fewer calories or smaller portions.

Remember, though: the only constant in life is change. If your dog’s BCS changes, it’s important that his diet changes too. Simply update his CPK profile so we can change his calories and portion size accordingly, and help him get - and stay - in tip-top condition.