• Open Access

Evaluation of Body Condition and Weight Loss in Dogs Presented to a Veterinary Oncology Service


  • Previously presented in part at the Veterinary Cancer Society Meeting, Woods Hole, MA, 1999.

Department of Clinical Studies-Phila, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, 3900 Delancey Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6010.


Cancer cachexia is a well-recognized syndrome in human patients that is characterized by progressive involuntary weight loss. The prevalence of this syndrome in veterinary cancer patients is unknown. This study's objective was to investigate the occurrence of weight loss and cachexia, as characterized by body condition scoring, in dogs presented to a veterinary oncology service. Information collected on 100 dogs included signalment, diagnosis, weight at time of diagnosis, and, when available, weight from a time approximately 12 months before diagnosis. Body condition was assessed by using a 9-point system based on body silhouette and palpation of adipose tissue (4–5 = optimal, 1 = extreme cachexia, 9 = extreme obesity). Muscle wasting was scored based on palpation of skeletal muscle (3 = no wasting, 2 = mild, 1 = moderate, 0 = severe). Only 4% of the dogs exhibited cachexia as defined by a body condition score ≤ 3, whereas 29% were classified as markedly overweight (≥7). Fifteen percent had evidence of clinically relevant muscle wasting (≤1). Body weight from a time before the diagnosis of cancer was available for 64 dogs. At the time of diagnosis, 31% had maintained or gained weight, 31% had lost up to 5%, 14% had lost between 5 and 10%, and 23% had lost >10% of body weight. Overall, the percentage of dogs with signs indicating a decline in nutritional status was less than what has been reported for human cancer patients. Future studies should investigate the extent to which weight loss occurs in canine patients on an appropriate plane of nutrition as well as to establish whether an association exists between poor nutritional status and outcome in canine cancer patients.