As you palpate a patient to assign a body condition score (BCS), also note any muscle wasting, as this can indicate acute or chronic disease. (Keep in mind that a pet may be overweight but still have marked muscle wasting.) Muscle wasting is most readily felt over bony prominences, such as the scapulae and vertebrae. Weight loss and muscle wasting as a result of disease (i.e. cachexia) can be more significant than weight loss in an otherwise healthy animal that has been deprived of food (i.e. simple starvation). Loss of muscle mass adversely affects strength, immune function, and wound healing. Early identification of mild muscle wasting is the key to successful intervention.
Working to assign a BCS also gives you a chance to evaluate an animal's skin and coat. For example, dry, flaky skin or a poor coat can indicate a nutrition-related abnormality. Note your findings and pass them along to the veterinarian. Also be sure to record an accurate body weight. When weighing a patient, use the same scale each time, as scales can vary even within the same hospital.