Thursday, November 15, 2012

Is my dog fat? By Dr. Dawnetta Woodruff

"Is my dog fat?" 

 As a veterinarian, this is a question I hear in the exam room almost every single day. Often, people are caught off guard when the scale reads 10lb instead of 8lbs like last year... or 85lbs instead of 75lbs. A few extra pounds over the course of a year may not sound like much... but lets do the math. For an 8lb dog, gaining 2lbs over the course of a year is a 25% increase in weight.

Lets put that in more terms that are easier to grasp... For a person, that would be the same as weighing in at 160lbs this year, and 200lbs next year! If you or I gained 40lbs in a year, we would be very concerned! We would notice that none of our clothes fit, we would be short of breath going up and down stairs, and we would have a lot less energy - and we would be at risk for health problems like heart disease, joint problems, diabetes, and stroke. For our pets, the health risks are just as real, even though the number of pounds gained is much smaller.

So now that we know a few pounds CAN be a big deal for our 4-legged family members, how can we answer the "Is my dog fat?" question? And how can we keep a closer eye on our pets weight at home, in between yearly vet visits? The answer is not in the number itself, but rather in your pets Body Condition Score, or BCS (see chart below). The BCS is a system used to evaluate your pets weight, taking their frame size into account. The scale ranges from 1-9 with 1 being "emaciated" and 9 being "severely obese" - a score of 4-5 is considered "ideal." So what exactly do these numbers mean? Lets take a closer look...
  1. Ribs, lumbar vertebrae, pelvic bones and all bony prominences evident from a distance. No discernible body fat. Obvious loss of muscle mass.
  2. Ribs, lumbar vertebrae and pelvic bones easily visible. No palpable fat. Some evidence of other bony prominence. Minimal loss of muscle mass.
  3. Ribs easily palpated and may be visible with no palpable fat. Tops of lumbar vertebrae visible. Pelvic bones becoming prominent. Obvious waist.
  4. Ribs easily palpable, with minimal fat covering. Waist easily noted, viewed from above. Abdominal tuck evident.
  5. Ribs palpable without excess fat covering. Waist observed behind ribs when viewed from above. Abdomen tucked up when viewed.
  6. Ribs palpable with slight excess fat covering. Waist is discernible viewed from above but is not prominent. Abdominal tuck apparent.
  7. Ribs palpable with difficulty; heavy fat cover. Noticeable fat deposits over lumbar area and base of tail. Waist absent or barely visible. Abdominal tuck may be present.
  8. Ribs not palpable under very heavy fat cover, or palpable only with significant pressure. Heavy fat deposits over lumbar area and base of tail. Waist absent. No abdominal tuck. Obvious abdominal distension may be present.
  9. Massive fat deposits over thorax, spine and base of tail. Waist and abdominal tuck absent. Fat deposits on neck and limbs. Obvious abdominal distention.
Image courtesy of Nestle Purina company
At first, this scoring system may seem a big confusing. If so, its time to have a conversation with your veterinarian at Fido's next checkup! They can explain the system to you, and help you evaluate his or her individual score. Using this knowledge, together you can decide the answer to the question "Is my dog fat?" And if the answer is yes, you can form a plan of action to help your pet get to a healthier weight. Usually, I cannot give someone an exact answer to the question "How many pounds does Coco need to lose?" Rather, I can let them know their Coco's BCS, and give them a goal BCS. Using this information, we can determine approximately how much their pet may need to lose - but often, my answer is something along the lines of "Coco is currently a BCS of 8. I would like her to lose 8-10lbs, and then we will re-evaluate her BCS to determine how much more weight she may need to lose." Obesity is a definite concern for our pets, and just as with people, the solution is not simple and the goal often cannot be reached in a few weeks or even a few months. If your 4-legged family member has been gaining weight for 2-3 years, remember, it may take 1-2 years to lose that same amount of weight! Be diligent, talk with your vet often, and come up with a plan that works for all three of you!

If you would like more information regarding obesity in our pets, you may enjoy a previous Lap of Love blog written by Dr. Dana Lewis.

Blog Written by:
Dr. Dawnetta Woodruff
Click here for Dr. Dawnetta's Bio and Contact information
Dr. Dawnetta assists families with in home hospice and euthanasia in Missouri & Illinois areas including:
  • MISSOURI - Serving St Louis and portions of the St Louis Metro: South County / Fenton / Chesterfield / Kirkwood / Webster Groves / Town & Country / Ellisville 
  • ILLINOIS - Serving Monroe County and portions of Randolph & St Clair counties: Waterloo / Columbia / Smithton / Millstadt / Belleville / Fairview Heights / O'Fallon 
Blog posted by Vet Mary Gardner

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.