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Condition score system identifies likely outcomes for dogs 

Screening test for nutritional health at time of diagnosis with protein-losing enteropathy can predict outcome for dogs. 

Vets have developed a scoring method to assess undernutrition in dogs with gastrointestinal conditions, as a tool to predict their likely prognosis. 

The system is designed to screens dogs with protein-losing enteropathy – an umbrella term including a range of gastrointestinal conditions, characterised by protein loss. 

Dogs can be scored at the time of diagnosis based on their body, muscle and coat condition, together with appetite and weight loss, as a way of predicting outcome and informing the ongoing management of cases. 

Muscle loss and coat condition were found to be the most reliable indicators of a poor outcome – the failure to reach clinical remission within six months of diagnosis. 

Case assessments 

A team led by the Royal Veterinary College, involving the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, sought to create a simple, fast, reproducible scoring system to inform treatment from the time of diagnosis.  

They also wanted to understand whether dogs’ score at the outset of their treatment could be related to their outcome, and to determine which of the scoring criteria was most useful. 

The team developed their scoring method based on 57 cases of dogs from referral veterinary hospitals around the UK, and drew upon similar systems for human nutrition. 

Dogs were scored out in five categories – unintentional weight loss, appetite in recent days, body condition, muscle loss, and coat condition.  

Researchers followed up on each of the dogs’ progress after six months, and carried out a statistical analysis to compare the dogs’ initial scores with their outcomes. 

Dogs with higher scores on assessment – indicating greater under-nutrition – were more likely to have longer hospital stays, fail to respond to initial treatment, and to fail to recover within six months. 

Muscle loss and coat condition were strongest indicators of long-term poor outcomes. 

Scoring dogs on initial diagnosis and regularly during treatment could give an accurate indication of their progress and prognosis, managing the expectations of owners and vets, the research team suggests. 

The study was published in the Journal of Veterinary Medicine. 

Our study highlights the need for vets to be aware of a high likelihood of undernutrition in dogs with protein-losing enteropathy. Our proposed scoring system, which should include coat condition as a key parameter, could aid earlier recognition, diagnosis and intervention where needed.

Professor Silke SalavatiRoyal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies

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About the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies

The Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies is a one-of-a-kind centre of excellence in clinical activity, teaching and research. Our purpose-built campus, set against the backdrop of the beautiful Pentland Hills Regional Park, is home to more than 800 staff and almost 1400 students, all of whom contribute to our exceptional community ethos.

The School comprises:

The Roslin Institute

The Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Systems

The Roslin Innovation Centre

The Hospital for Small Animals

Equine Veterinary Services

Farm Animal Services

Easter Bush Pathology

The Jeanne Marchig International Centre for Animal Welfare Education

We represent the largest concentration of animal science-related expertise in Europe, impacting local, regional, national and international communities in terms of economic growth, the provision of clinical services and the advancement of scientific knowledge.