Assessing body condition scores assigned to images of dogs by veterinary nurses working in urban, rural and suburban settings in New Zealand
Canine obesity is a growing problem, both in New Zealand and overseas. Veterinary nurses play a vital role as part of the veterinary healthcare team in ensuring clients are provided with timely, accurate, and consistent advice, and this includes advice relating to a pet's nutritional status and body condition.
To investigate if there were any differences in body condition scores assigned to images of canines by veterinary nurses working in urban, suburban, and rural settings.
Veterinary nurses (restricted to those with a minimum of 2 years formal training) in New Zealand were recruited online and asked to complete a short, online survey providing a body condition score for 10 dogs of varying morphology, via a photograph.
There were 77 useable responses and results showed no significant difference to the score assigned by veterinary nurses in different geographical settings.
These results provide assurances to the consistency of body condition score being assigned by veterinary nurses in New Zealand, showing that geographical setting is not a confounding factor in a veterinary nurse's interpretation of body condition. While this result is optimistic, further research is needed to determine if this consistency is present across other members of the healthcare team.
There is a global obesity epidemic in companion animals (Kipperman and German, 2018). Canine obesity (commonly defined as a body weight of 15% greater than optimal (Courcier et al, 2010)) is a significant health issue for companion pets. It is considered the most common form of malnutrition and is a common medical disorder in companion animals (German, 2010).
Large numbers of companion dogs are now classed as overweight or obese (German, 2006; Courcier et al., 2010). A recent retrospective study of a large sample size (n=24 247) by Gates et al (2019) has shown that canine obesity affects 28.4% of companion dogs in New Zealand, with similar rates found internationally (Courcier et al, 2010).