Like humans, pet weight management and overall weight is an important determinant of the heath of your pet. An optimum weight is critical to your pet’s good health. How do you tell if your pet’s weight is correct? Dogs and cats have their Body Condition Score (BCS) rated on a scale of 1 – 9. An ideal weight relates to a BCS of 5 and this weight varies a lot within the one breed and with the different sexes. This is one of the reasons that Breed Standards for weight range can be so misleading. The BCS has to be applied to the individual pet and two dogs of the same breed at the same weight may have very different BCS’s.
The way to estimate your pet’s BCS is to assess the covering over the prominent parts of their skeleton. All dogs and all cats should have the following:
- A waist. All pets should be more narrow at the waist than they are at the ribs and the hips. They should be hourglass shaped.
- Ribs – you should be able to easily feel the ribs while appreciating a small covering of meat over the boney ribs.
- Spine – you should be able to feel the points of the spine, again with a slight covering of tissue over them.
- Hips – Again, hips should be easy to feel with a light covering of tissue.
What happens if your pet is overweight and just how serious is it? In simple terms, an overweight pet will have a shorter life and a more painful later life than a lean pet. Excess weight causes excess strain on the joints. This creates degenerative joint disease (osteoarthritis) begins earlier causing pain and lameness in an otherwise young dog. This degeneration cannot be reversed. Your pet is going to lead a painful life in their later years which can be managed with medication, but not cured.
If an overweight dog suffers an injury needing orthopaedic surgery (such as the all too common cranial cruciate ligament injury), the outcome of the surgery will not be as good, the risk of the other leg suffering the same injury is greater and the joint degeneration that occurs after the surgery will be more severe.
As well as all of this, the links between obesity and cardiac disease, diabetes mellitus, cancer and other diseases is well known. Simply by ensuring your pet is a healthy weight, you can dramatically reduce the likelihood that your pet will suffer from many of these chronic diseases and will live a happier, more mobile life well into their senior years. The difference with your pet’s weight is that it is 100% under your control. You decide what and how much to feed your pet. They do not open the fridge or pantry and help themselves….. usually – there are exceptions!
If you would like to have your pet’s weight assessed and receive some helpful advice on feeding your pet, please come in to talk to our lovely vet nurses. They are well qualified to help you with this sometimes difficult area of pet wellbeing. They can rate your pet’s Body Condition Score and then advise you on the best diet to feed your pet and how much you should be feeding. Trust me, your pet will be a happier pet with a lean waist! Greater mobility and more energy are signs of a happier pet.