Fit not Fat

Written by Carla Murphy MRCVS
January 10, 2023

“Love Handles” or “Muffin Tops”, call them what you will but we can all overdo it sometimes and find difficulty getting into our favourite pair of jeans. 

Can our pets get muffin tops? Yes they can, and it’s bad for their health so we need to monitor their weight to ensure they remain healthy and in peak condition. 


The first part of monitoring is by routinely checking your pet’s weight, and it’s this weight that gives you a starting point for how much food you should be giving them. But weight doesn’t tell you everything.  

Body Condition Score 

A Body Condition Score (BCS) gives a more accurate evaluation of body fat coverage, and this is helpful to assess whether your pet is underweight, overweight, or just right. 

A BCS can range from 1-9 with a score of 1 being severely under ideal weight and a score of 9 being obese. Ideally, we are trying to have our pets in the 4-5 out of 9 area to try to ensure their best health. It is said that for every score above 5, your pet is an extra 10% over ideal weight which puts it into perspective any diet or exercise regime required to help your pet get back to their best physique. 

To calculate your pet’s Body Condition Score you need to assess three areas of their body – ribs, waist and hips. 


For an ideal body condition score of 5, you can just feel ribs with the flat of your finger. If you have to lightly use your fingertips, then likely you’re a 6. If you have to press hard to find the ribs, you’re looking at a 7 or 8, and if you can’t find any at all ribs, you’re looking at a 9. 

Looking in the other direction, if you can find the ribs easily and just see them then that’s a 4. If you can feel them easily and see them easily then likely you’re a 3 or a 2, and if you can see obvious ribs from across the room you are looking at a 1. 


This is much easier. If you look down at your pet from above you should be able to see that your pet’s body goes inwards a little between the end of the ribs and the back legs, giving them a “waist”. 

When you are looking from the side, your pet’s abdomen should tuck up at the end of the rib cage towards the back legs. If your pet has developed a bit of a “beer belly”, then they are likely an 8 or 9 score. 


If your pet has “love handles” then you’re looking at a score of 8 or 9. Ideally you want to be able to feel the hip bones relatively easily within the surrounding muscle to get you a score of 5. If you can feel the hip bones easily or they seem to stick out so you see them from across the room, then likely you are looking at a 3 or below. 

Although this type of monitoring comes into its own for both weight-loss and weight-gain regimes, I think it’s a good idea for all of us pet parents to do a Body condition Score for our pets every so often – just to check that they are in the best condition to live their best life. 

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