A dog running on the beach, Your dog or cat body condition score is an important indicator of health

What is a Pet Body Condition Score and Why is it Important?


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Ever heard of a dog or cat body condition score? It’s a way of evaluating your pet’s overall weight and body composition to find out whether they’re underweight, overweight, or at an ideal weight. Understanding the pet body condition score can help you ensure yours is healthy, happy, and able to enjoy their best life.

In Australia, 41% of dogs and 32% of cats are overweight or obese. This has a toll on their health and happiness, so keeping an eye on their waistline is part of responsible pet parenting. If you’re concerned about your fur kid’s weight, find out their score today.

Fat Cat Sitting in the Kitchen. A dog running on the beach, Your dog or cat body condition score is an important indicator of health

What is a dog and cat body condition score?

A pet’s body condition score is a numerical rating system that allows you to assess whether your dog or cat is not as heavy, heavier or just as they should be when it comes to their weight.

It typically ranges from 1 to 9, with 1 being severely underweight and 9 being severely overweight. An ideal body condition score for most pets is between 4 and 5, which means that they’re at an appropriate weight with a healthy amount of body fat.

Evaluating your pet’s body condition score involves examining their overall appearance, including their weight, body shape, and muscle tone. Below we’ll teach you what physical characteristics to look for, as well as how to feel for their ribcage and belly.

An English Bulldog lying down. A good body condition score for your cat or dog is important.

Why is it important?

Maintaining a healthy body condition score for your dog or cat is a part of them living their best life. Here are some reasons why.


As mentioned, more than half of the world’s pets are overweight. Being overweight or obese can increase the risk of many health problems in pets, including diabetes, heart disease, respiratory and joint problems. National Pet Obesity Day in October every year is to remind pet parents that less is more.

Here are some of the knock-on problems caused by excess weight:

We spoke to companion animal vet Dr Cath Watson for some advice on avoiding those added kilos and on shedding them, too:

Quality of life

Maintaining an ideal body weight can help improve your pet’s quality of life. Why? Overweight pets may have trouble moving around, playing, and engaging in normal activities, which can impact their happiness. Their energy levels may be depleted with the effort, something that can be said for underweight pets.


Studies have shown that maintaining an ideal body weight can help increase a pet’s lifespan. Check out our write-up and video on Creme Puff, for example —> the oldest cat that has lived so far. At the time of writing, a new title holder for oldest dog in the world had just been named; you can read about Bobi here.

Disease management

If your pet has an existing health problem, maintaining an ideal body weight can help manage their condition. For example, diabetic pets may require a specific diet and exercise routine to maintain their blood sugar levels and overweight pets with joint problems may benefit from weight loss to reduce the strain on their joints.

How do I tell my pet’s body condition score?

So, without further ado… Generally speaking, here’s how to find out their score:

1. Observe their overall appearance

Look at your pet from above and from the side. You should be able to see a waistline behind the ribs, but it shouldn’t be too prominent or too obscure.

2. Evaluate their ribs

Run your hands along their rib cage. You should be able to feel their ribs without pressing too hard, but they shouldn’t be visible.

3. Check your pet’s belly

Look at their belly and feel it with your hands. It should be tucked up behind the rib cage, but not too tightly.

4. Look at your pet’s muscle tone

Your pet should have a good muscle tone, with no visible or excessive fat.

5. Compare their proportions

Now, from your visual inspection, compare their proportions to a body condition chart. Use this Body Condition Score sheet for dogs, and this one for cats. As mentioned, an ideal body condition score for most pets is between 4 and 5.

6. Calculate their ideal weight

You can now calculate what a healthy weight for your pet would be using the steps in this article.

This video will also help you determine your dog’s body condition score:

And this is how to do your cat’s:

How do I improve their body condition score?

Found out that Fido or Felix are a little on the plump or skinny side? Don’t worry, their weight can be managed! Here’s how to help them maintain a healthier waistline.


Ensure they’re eating a healthy, well-balanced diet that’s appropriate for their age, breed, and activity level. If your pet is overweight, you may need to reduce the amount of food they’re eating or switch to a low-calorie diet. For an underweight pet, you may need to increase their food intake or switch to a more nutrient-dense food. Your vet will be able to guide you through.

These pet food insights from experts in NZ is a super interesting and up to date look at nutrition in our fur kid’s food. Also, if you’re wondering whether to feed them dry food vs wet, here’s a helpful rundown:


Regular exercise is essential for maintaining a healthy weight and improving your pet’s body condition score. Make sure your pet gets enough physical activity each day, such as walks, runs, or playtime. The amount of exercise your pet needs will depend on their age, breed, and activity level.

Check out our Dog Exercise Requirements By Breed article to see what your pet needs.

Portion control

If your pet is overweight, it’s important to control their portion sizes and avoid overfeeding. Use measuring cups or a kitchen scale to make sure you’re dishing them the right amount of food for their age and weight.

Two fat cats sit on the window and look around together


Limit the number of treats you give them and choose healthy, low-calorie options. Treats should make up no more than 10% of their daily calorie intake.

Regular veterinary check-ups

Regular check-ups with your vet can help ensure they’re maintaining a healthy body condition score. Your vet can give you advice on diet, exercise, and other lifestyle factors that can impact your fur kid’s weight and health. Here’s a helpful rundown of what happens in a vet checkup:

Read more:

Insurance for the unexpected

Hopefully we’ve helped you understand what a body condition score for a cat and dog is. We’d also like you to know that while carefully maintaining your pet’s health is important, illnesses and accidents can still happen. Bills for vet visits, prescription medicine and overnight stays easily rack up in the thousands.

It’s not impossible for an unforeseen obesity or other cause-related illness to clear your bank balance. However, if you have a cat insurance or dog insurance pawlicy in place before they emerge, we’ll help cover these costs.

Why wait, when with PD Insurance you’ll receive one or more months of cover for free if you sign up online – it’s easy, reliable and fast. Just like our pet insurance.

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