Modern Medicine, Old-Fashioned Care

Jan 7, 2013 | Fast Facts

FAST FACTS: Stages of Nutrition & Body Condition Score Chart

Talk to your veterinarian if you notice any changes in your pet’s eating habits or overall wellness. Nutritional needs can change during your pet’s life due to aging and various medical conditions.
Nutritional counseling can help with weight management, food allergies and various medical conditions.

Puppy/Kitten – Birth to Year 1:

  • Start with high-quality food. We recommend the full line of Hill’s Science Diet and Prescription Diet products and other excellent foods; ask your veterinarian which food is best for your new pet.
  • Kittens require a high-protein, high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet. Canned food is best for cats so it’s recommended to introduce your kitten to wet foods.
  • Puppies need specially formulated food, including essential omega-3 fatty acids which foster proper growth and development, based on breed and size.

Adult – Year 1 – 7:

  • Cats still need a high-protein, high-fat and low-carbohydrate diet but far fewer calories than kittens. A diet of mostly wet canned food is recommended to prevent chronic dehydration.
  • Adult nutrition for dogs should be based on lifestyle and eating habits. Chose a food that provides a balanced diet of protein and nutrients to maintain proper development and wellness.
  • Dry food contains more nutrients per bite and wet, canned food contains more moisture. The dental or medical wellness of your dog may determine the balance of dry or wet food in a diet.
  • Talk to your veterinarian about body condition score ranges and nutritional counseling to ensure the proper diet and activity levels for your pet

Senior – Year 7+: Small breeds as late as year 10; Large breeds as early as year 6.

  • For senior cats, there needs to be particular attention to diet during this life stage to prevent or address health issues such as kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, diabetes and especially obesity.
  • For senior dogs, diet should also focus on disease prevention and addressing specific health and medical needs. Older dogs can suffer from heart or liver disease, kidney failure, diabetes, obesity as well as arthritis and joint pain.
  • Older pets should be examined by a veterinarian at least twice a year and possibly more often if your pet has health and related dietary issues that need to be monitored.
  • Always seek medical attention if you notice a change in your pet’s eating habits.
  • Talk to your veterinarian about nutritional counseling and following a diet and wellness plan specifically designed for your senior cat or dog.
  • Many senior diets for dogs include high-quality sources of protein to maintain muscle mass.
  • There are foods that include glucosamine and chondroitin to help with joint wellness. Never give your dog supplements without the direction of your veterinarian.
  • Managing weight and wellness through nutritional counseling may help control heart disease, diabetes, arthritis and joint pain.

Body Condition Score Chart and Descriptions

What’s your pet’s score? Consult with your veterinarian to better understand your pet’s body condition and how professional nutritional counseling and exercise for your pet can help reach an ideal condition.


RIBS: Easily felt
TAIL BASE: Bones are raised
SIDE VIEW: Severe abdominal tuck
OVERHEAD VIEW: Accentuated hourglass shape
RIBS: Easily felt
TAIL BASE: Bones are raised with slight fat cover
SIDE VIEW: Abdominal tuck
OVERHEAD VIEW: Marked hourglass shape
RIBS: Easily felt with slight fat cover
TAIL BASE: Smooth contour with slight fat cover
SIDE VIEW: Abdominal tuck 

OVERHEAD VIEW: Well-proportioned waist
RIBS: Difficult to feel under moderate fat cover
TAIL BASE: Some thickening, bones palpable under moderate fat cover
SIDE VIEW: No abdominal tuck
OVERHEAD VIEW: Back is slightly broadened at waist
RIBS: Difficult to feel under thick fat cover
TAIL BASE: Thickened and difficult to feel under thick fat cover
SIDE VIEW: No waist, fat hangs from abdomen
OVERHEAD VIEW: Back is markedly broadened