Understanding pet body condition scores

A 1-9 scale that helps to assess your pet's weight and whether any amendments are needed to diet or exercise.

What is a pet Body Condition Score?

You can think of a Body Condition Score in a similar way to a BMI score in humans. It is a way to make an easy and simple assessment of a healthy pet weight and what a healthy pet looks like. 

Using a physical and visual assessment of your pet, it then generates a score out of 9. A score of 4 or 5 is deemed the perfect score, whilst a score towards the lower end of the scale means your pet is underweight and higher scores represents overweight and obese pets. 

A recent study showed that 50% of cats in the UK are classed as obese, and this has a knock on effect on veterinary care, the cost of insurance and other related conditions. 

Preventable diseases such as joint pain, diabetes and skin conditions as well as some heart diseases and even cancers can be put down to issues with obesity in pets, so using a body conditioning score can uncover or help to prevent more serious chronic conditions. 

Body Condition Scores and the effect on pet insurance

Pet insurance pricing in the UK is fairly static. It is based on 3 main factors – pet age, pet breed and postcode. These 3 factors will mean that there’s some differentiation between breeds – pedigrees will be more expensive than crossbreeds – and older pets more expensive than younger pets. 

However, at Gather, we think things should be more advanced. We want to see a more bespoke approach that allows differentiation between 2 otherwise identical pets. 

Currently, a 2 year old Labrador that is overweight will be treated (and priced) exactly the same as a perfectly healthy 2 year old Labrador. This means that healthier dog will be impacted by the unhealthier dog in terms of price. 

We believe that we can use the Body Condition Score to advance things further by adding pet health in to the mix. Therefore rewarding pet owners for maintaining and improving their pet’s health. 

We can do this through BCS assessments and the use of pet health tracking devices such as Pawfit.

Find out more about our new approach to pet insurance

How to assess your pet’s health

Body Condition Scores helps to take pet weight and build upon that by helping pet owners to understand what a good body weight for your pet is.

A straightforward visual assessment of your pet from both above and the side, coupled with a physical inspection by feeling the ribs, spine, and hip bones is all that’s needed to then compare your findings against the table below to find out the condition of your pet.

Score Description
Score of 1 Pet is very thin and severely underweight. Ribs, spine, and hip bones all sticking out and easily seen from a distance, little muscle mass, waist very tucked up and in, looks very underweight.
Score of 2 Pet is thin and underweight. Ribs, spine, and hip bones can be seen, no obvious body fat, some muscle mass but still looking thin and waist tucked up and in.
Score of 3 Pet is a little on the thin side. Ribs, spine, and hip bones may be slightly visible but not as obvious but very easily felt, waist still tucked up and in.
Score of 4 Perfect weight, nice and slim. Ribs, spine, and hip bones can be felt but are nicely covered, good muscle mass and a nice defined waist.
Score of 5 Good weight, nice and trim. Ribs, spine, and hip bones can be felt without too much of a fat covering, good muscle mass and still a nice defined waist.
Score of 6 Getting a little on the heavy side, would benefit from watching those calories. Ribs, spine, and hip bones can be felt with a more obvious fat covering, good muscle mass and waistline starting to lose some definition.
Score of 7 Getting a bit overweight, may be time to consider a diet. Ribs, spine, and hip bones can be felt with difficulty, too much of a fat covering, waistline is lost and starting to see fat deposits in other areas such as back and tail base.
Score of 8 Significantly overweight, oh dear things are getting a bit out of hand, time to get some help with the diet. Ribs, spine, and hip bones can no longer be felt, very heavy fat covering, no waistline and starting to look ‘potbellied’ fat deposits in other areas such as back and tail base.
Score of 9 Pet is clinically obese and there is an increased risk to pets’ health. Unable to feel ribs etc, rounded abdomen and further fat deposits to neck, chest, and limbs.

After completing your assessment, if you believe that your pet is at the extremes of the scale (1,2,8 or 9) then you should contact your vet to discuss dietary plans or exercise changes to bring your pet into a healthier body condition score range.