October 01, 2019 Cats Dogs Responsible Pet Ownership Wellness

How to Tell if Your Dog or Cat is Overweight

A dog lies on a blanket

How to Tell if Your Dog or Cat is Overweight

According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, obesity is the number one health threat pets face. Data collected in 2018 estimates that 60% of cats and 56% of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese and that pet owners are often confused by conflicting information regarding their pet’s diet. This blog will focus on how pet owners can determine if their pet is overweight or obese. As always, the best source of information on diet, is your pet’s veterinarian.

The Definition of Obesity

Many veterinarians define obesity as a body weight 30% over ideal body weight. This definition is not so helpful to pet owners, since they often have a hard time recognizing an ideal body weight. Pets come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Dogs are especially hard for pet owners to recognize as overweight since their body weight can vary from two to 200 pounds. Veterinarians have had to find different methods other than body weight to assess pets for obesity.

BMI for Pets

In human health, ideal body weight is based on body mass index or BMI. This measurement works well since the range of human shapes and sizes is relatively small. With animals, veterinarians use a validated scoring system called a Body Condition Score (BCS) to assess body weight in pets. There are two different systems: one based on a five-point scoring system and the other based on a nine-point scoring system. Here is the nine-point system for cats and dogs. The BCS system uses the ability to feel or see the ribs and the body shape from the top and side to create a score for each pet. In the nine-point system, 4/5 is considered idea, 6/7 overweight and 8/9 obese.

A picture is worth 1000 pounds

While the BCS system helps veterinarians, I am not sure it is useful to the pet owning public. So I have created my own five point feline BCS using “famous” cats. I hope you and your cat find it useful!!

An overweight cartoon cat
BCS = 9 | This cat is severely obese – it no longer has a neck and its feet look too small for its body.
Tom from the cartoon Tom and Jerry
BCS = 7 | This cat has lost its waistline and is more sausage shaped than cat shaped.
Mufasa from the Lion King
BCS = 5 | A perfect specimen. Note the tucked waist and good body proportion. No bones visible
A French poster with a skinny cartoon cat on it
BCS = 3 | This cat is bony. If she wasn’t so fluffy, you could see her bones.
Alberto Giacometti's statue, The Cat
BCS = 1 | This cat has no meat on it bones and is severely underweight.