Weight related health issues are something that can affect any pet, young or old, cat or dog. Maintaining a healthy weight is one of the best things you can do as an owner to extend your pet’s life and lower the chances of developing weight related diseases like arthritis or diabetes.
The hard part is determining what that number should be for your pet. Ideal weights are usually expressed as a range, which can be used as a starting point. You can get an idea of your pet’s weight range by checking this list from the Association For Pet Obesity Prevention.
You will notice that the weight range given for many breeds is large. For example, the range listed for Great Dane is 110-180 pounds, for Old English Sheepdogs 60-100 pounds and Cocker Spaniels 23-28. Pets come in all shapes and sizes and what might be a healthy weight for one dog is overweight for another dog of the same breed. You will see variations between male and female animals, and mixed breed pets are nearly impossible to pin down to a specific number. In addition, as your pet ages, his caloric needs will change and his ideal weight may as well.
So what is a pet owner supposed to do to learn a pet’s ideal weight?
That’s where a scoring system used by vets comes in handy. The Body Condition Score is a 9 point system used to rate an animal’s weight using visual inspection and hands on evidence. You can use the BCS yourself if you are uncertain where your pet’s weight should be.
A score of 1-3 is considered underweight, 4 and 5 are ideal and 6 through 9 are considered too heavy. You can see in this graphic the description of how your pet should feel when you touch him and how he should look. In short, he should have a defined waist and a tucked abdomen and a healthy layer of body fat that still allows you to feel the ribs. These standards apply to all breeds, including those that tend to be stockier, more muscled and more “square” than tall and lean breeds.
Keep in mind that these standards are for healthy pets and sudden weight loss or weight gain is always cause for a physical exam. Your pet’s weight will fluctuate normally, and his body will change as he ages. For example, older cats with large deposits of abdominal fat can still have loss of muscle tone in the legs and prominent spinal bones. We recommend yearly visits for all younger pets and exams every six months for senior and geriatric patients.
As always, you can come in at any time during business hours to use our scales if you aren’t sure what your pet weighs and where he lies on the BCS.