Body Condition Score Defined, Illustrated and Explained BCS4, BCS4+ Etc.

“BCS Body Condition Score”

BCS means “Body Condition Score”. It’s on a scale from 1 through 7

Why This Matters to You: A dog with a BCS of 3plus will live the longest among ALL dogs. This is true EVEN if you have a Great Dane.

A BCS3plus Great Dane will outlive a BCS6minus Terrier. SO what’s all the fuss about BCS3plus?

Most upper middle-class dogs are BCS5minus. Or BCS4plus. And if they weighed less, they’d live a LOT longer!


Emaciated and if someone saw him they’d want to put him to sleep or put you in jail. All ribs showing, tail segments visible, and head muscles sunken-in. The starving dogs you see on TikTok. No healthy dog chooses this weight.

This is a BCS 1: So many bones even the tailbones show.


Too lean, with all ribs showing and no fat on the dog at all. Head and legs aren’t really “sunken in” but his veins show everywhere and his spine is boney and evident. This isn’t “terrible” but there is NO need for any dog to be THIS skinny. It’s not nice if you’re actually keeping them this way. Interestingly, SOME dogs just eat so sparingly they actually spend their lives like this and they like it. Examples are some Italian Greyhounds, Greyhounds, and other slender sight-hounds. Saluki are often really skinny by choice. Average life span up to 19 years old.

This is a BCS 2: Not necessarily unhealthy. Most or all ribs showing.


LEAN. My estimation of “longevity-perfection” with only four ribs showing, there’s some fat on the dog, and the muscles are defined and bulgey. He’s got plenty to eat, but it’s high quality, low carb and carefully measured. He’s LEAN. This is how my dog “Ajax” is. I call him BCS3plus. All I do is feed him 1 level kitchen cup of food twice a day. He weighs 60 pounds. So easy. Average life span up to 17 years old.

This is a BCS 3: Up to three ribs showing, belly is hollow, muscle can be good. This can be quite healthy. These are athletes.


In nature this is “perfect” with no ribs showing but ALMOST. When they sit down, there’s practically no “roll” of skin hanging over the knees. Their body tapers when viewed from the top AND from the sides. You can pick up the skin on their backs. These guys are NOT lean but they are just what Mother Nature would grant a dog getting just the right amount of food.

A BCS4+ (BCS4plus) is a BCS 4 except it’s at the TOP END before it hits a BCS 5. The BCS 5 is “practically fat” but a BCS4+ is *almost* fat. In particular, it REALLY means this: From the side they’re a BCS4, but from the TOP they’re a BCS5. So I call them a BCS 4+

The BCS4plus is on the way to overweight. It’s not good for their backs. Legs. Hearts. Average life span up to 15 years old.

This is a BCS4
They taper from the sideview and taper on the topview. They don’t show ribs. If they are large breed dogs, this weight does not pump the brakes on arthritis. You’d need need a BCS3plus for that.

BCS 5:

This is the super-common residential “kinda tubular” thick bodied guys that get too much food, too many treats and not enough exercise. They’re “just-okay” at this weight, but it’s rushing their “arthritis-days” a little. In small dogs, a “five” score is increasing blood pressure and stressing the heart. You can put the brakes on arthritis and downregulate aging by feeding the right amount of food. (Proper Feeding Rates at Certain Weights) Average life span up to 11 years old.

This is a BCS 5 – They are tapered from the side, and barely (if at all) tapered from the top. They have a fold of skin over their knee when they site on their bums.


These dogs are beyond residential and are equally ‘tubular’ when viewed from the side and the top. When they sit down, there’s a roll over the knees. They’re “slowing down” and barely eating at this size, and they’re close to rupturing knee ligaments. Your fingers can go through fat to find a rib. Most of this size dog won’t take dry food served dry-and-plain. So to cause weight loss, that’s all you do. Average life span up to 10 years old.

This is a BCS6 They are barely tapered in any dimension but there is, still, slightly, a taper. these dogs are finicky about dry dog food because their Leptin levels are sky high. They will eat bacon and candy like they are starving.
So that’s what the owners feed them to “get them to eat.”


These dogs are losing mobility and they are nearly twice their ideal weight. Close to, or over 100% overweight. The head is the narrowest part of the body besides the tail. The neck and waist are both wider than the head and the legs cannot be observed when the dog is viewed from the top. The torso defines a ‘head-to-tail’ horizon BELOW the knees and BELOW the elbows. When seated the knees disappear under a roll of adipose. The undertail is sticky and unclean because the dogs can’t bend around to self-maintain and there’s a “ledge” of fat at the base of the tail that shrouds the whole undertail. These “BCS Sevens” are the most satisfying bariatrically because weight loss is super-quick and easy. These dogs won’t eat any dry food. So, all you do is measure, and feed ONLY dry food. BAM. They’ll turn their nose up at dry food fed dry and start losing weight. When their leptin declines, they’ll eat dry food fed dry.

Average life span up to…. who cares this is a CRUEL weight and I don’t want to see any dogs this fat. Keep your neglect at home or somewhere else.

This is a BCS7: This is animal abuse and should result in the dog being removed from the home. But I’m not President.

DO THIS:  Download THIS Feeding Page.

#bcs #bcsscore

Author: Dr. Erik Johnson
Dr. Erik Johnson is the author of several texts on companion animal and fish health. Johnson Veterinary Services has been operating in Marietta, GA since 1996. Dr Johnson graduated from the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine in 1991. Dr Johnson has lived in Marietta Georgia since 1976.