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Forskningsartikel2023Vetenskapligt granskadÖppen tillgång

Dog Owners' Perceptions of Canine Body Composition and Effect of Standardized Education for Dog Owners on Body Condition Assessment of Their Own Dogs

Gille, Sanna; Fischer, Hanna; Lindase, Sanna; Palmqvist, Linda; Larka, Julia; Wolf, Sara; Penell, Johanna; Soder, Josefin


Simple Summary Overweight is a growing problem in dogs worldwide and negative health effects associated with excess body weight are common. The body condition score (BCS) scale is a time- and resource-effective method to assess if a dog is overweight, but its precision among dog owners has been found to vary. The aim of this study was to investigate dog owners' perceptions of various body compositions in dogs and evaluate if a short education on how to use the 9-point BCS scale might change these perceptions. This study included one survey and one clinical study of Swedish dog owners. In the indirect assessment based on photos, normal-weight dogs were underestimated by three-quarters of dog owners, and about half of the dog owners underestimated overweight dogs. Before receiving the standardized education, one-third of the owners underestimated the body composition of their own dogs, mainly for dogs with excess adiposity. The dog owners responded well to the practical education given and, thereafter, performed assessments comparable to veterinary health care personnel. These results indicate that perception of what an "ideal weight" dog should look like is sliding and that the ability to identify overweight dogs might be limited when owners evaluate body composition without previous education. Overweight in dogs is an increasing problem, with a prevalence of about 30% in Sweden. To prevent the negative health effects of overweight, it is important to identify and treat canine overweight. Dog owners are essential for such interventions. The aim of this study was to evaluate dog owners' perceptions of various canine body compositions via indirect assessment based on photos and direct assessment of their own dogs. A second aim was to evaluate the effect of a standardized practical education for dog owners on body condition score (BCS) assessment of their own dogs. The 9-point BCS scale was used, and two study samples were recruited: one was a survey sample where 564 dog owners assessed the BCS of dogs using photos, and one sample was a separate clinical sample where 82 dogs were assessed by their owners and by veterinary health care personnel. The initial BCS assessment by the dog owners in the clinical sample (mean & PLUSMN; SD) was significantly lower (4.6 & PLUSMN; 1.0) than the BCS assessed by the veterinary health care personnel (5.2 & PLUSMN; 1.1), but the owners improved significantly after receiving the standardized education (5.1 & PLUSMN; 1.0) (both p < 0.0001) and performed as accurately as the veterinary health care personnel (p = 0.99). The results should be verified in the broader dog owner population based on a randomized selection of participants. "Weight blindness", defined here as an underassessment of normal-weight dogs and an inability to identify overweight dogs, is likely to have a negative impact on canine overweight prevalence. Deeper knowledge about dog owners' perceptions can inform the development of new strategies to help prevent and manage canine overweight, whereof standardized practical education on BCS assessment is shown here to be one example.


body composition; body condition score; BCS; dog; obesity; overweight; perception

Publicerad i

Veterinary Sciences
2023, Volym: 10, nummer: 7, artikelnummer: 447
Utgivare: MDPI