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Remaining optimistic about weight management

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01 July 2017, at 1:00am

SHELLEY HOLDEN of Royal Canin explains why getting the owner to accept their pet’s obesity is the key to a successful outcome

AS IN HUMAN POPULATIONS, obesity is increasingly prevalent in our pet animals. Even though veterinarians are aware of the health consequences, it has been shown that they may not communicate enough about the pet’s weight status with its owner.1 In order to successfully recommend a weight reduction programme, it is important that a practice protocol is designed for every staff member in the practice to understand and follow. This includes how to recognise and discuss obesity with owners, how to make a referral from the veterinarian to the nurse clinic, how to make the appointment and how the nurse clinic is conducted.

Recognising obesity

It is essential that the veterinarian and owner both recognise the animal is overweight. Body weight and ninepoint body condition scores (BCS) are simple to perform and a useful tool to raise owner awareness about what is a healthy shape for their pet. During the consultation and as part of the animal’s health assessment, a
BCS should be performed. Having the charts on display for owners to view and encouraging them to get “handson” – asking them questions such as “how easily can you feel the pet’s ribs?” and “how obvious can you feel the tuck under the abdomen?” – can help an owner to understand and accept if their pet is ideal, overweight or obese. Once agreed on a BCS and when the
owner accepts their pet is overweight, a referral to the nurse clinic can be made. This can be done by walking an owner to reception and advising an appointment is made or a code on computer that
the receptionist recognises and makes the appointment. Support and understanding from the entire practice team is vital to help an owner understand about the upcoming appointment with the nurse; support materials may be offered at this point. From making such a positive difference comes strong client loyalty and trust, and encourages a bond that leads to more frequent and regular visits to the practice. Weight management strategies usually require the owner to make fundamental changes in their pet’s lifestyle, including controlling feeding practices, requiring support from the
nurse. It is important that nurses are given the time and space to offer this gold standard advice and support and this usually requires an initial appointment time of 30 minutes.

Nutrition changes

In recommending a weight reduction programme, it is important to
understand that calorie-restricted diets are necessary as part of the treatment. Owner compliance can be improved by recommending a weight management diet that is specifically formulated to induce safe weight loss by decreasing calories and which contains all the nutrients a patient needs.2,3,4 Simply reducing the amount of food a pet is currently fed can lead to an imbalance of nutrients and hunger which could result in deficiencies, health issues and non-compliance. Weight loss in obese dogs generally involves feeding a purpose-formulated diet over a long period of time, but the cost of starting a purpose-formulated diet may deter some owners from starting a weight management programme. One study5 looked at the average daily cost of the diet fed prior to weight loss, including the main meal
and extras (treats, table scraps, etc.) compared with feeding Royal Canin’s Satiety. This study demonstrated that, on average, this weight management diet is cost-neutral. This information is of great interest to help veterinarians to reassure owners before starting a weight loss programme. It is essential the practice maintains a consistent approach and everybody works as a team to achieve success.

References

  1. German, A. J., Holden, S. L., Bissot, T., Hackett, M. and Biourge, V. (2007) Dietary energy restriction and successful weight loss in obese client owned dogs. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine 21: 1,174-1,180.
  2. German, A. J., Luxmore, J., Holden, S. L., Morris, P. J. and Biourge, V. (2015) Feeding obese dogs during weight loss is on average cost neutral. Journal of Small Animal Practice doi: 10.1111/jsap.12338.
  3. German, A. J., Holden, S. L., Mason, S. L., Bryner, C., Bouldoires, C., Morris, P. J., Deboise, M. and Biourge, V. (2011) Imprecision when using measuring cups to weigh out extruded dry kibbled food. Journal of Animal Physiology and Animal Nutrition 95: 368-373.
  4. German, A. J., Holden, S. L., Mather, N. J., Morris, P. J. and Biourge, V. (2010). Low-maintenance energy requirements of obese dogs after weight loss. British Journal of Nutrition 106 (1): 93-S96.
  5. Rolph, N. C., Noble, P. J. M. and German, A. J. (2014). How often do primary care veterinarians record the overweight status of dogs? Journal of Nutritional Science 3: e58. doi:10.1017/ jns.2014.42