The client shouldn't leave without the exact number of daily calories the doctor recommends for the pet. Include this number
on the client's discharge summary and provide a handout that explains the importance of calorie counting and safe weight loss.
(Download the handouts at
http://dvm360.com/—search for "pet weight loss.") Decreasing a pet's food intake to the ideal or target weight RER should be sufficient for
2. Body condition score. A pet's body condition score (BCS) is a quick indicator of whether it's overweight. On a scale of 1 to 5, 1 equals emaciated
and 5 equals obese. To determine BCS, first feel the pet's ribs. A healthy pet's ribs should be easy to feel with a small
amount of fat over them (BCS-3). If you can't feel the ribs at all, the pet is considered overweight (BCS-4 or -5). If you
can see the ribs, the pet is too thin (BCS-1).
Next, feel along the shoulders, spine, and hips. These areas should also have a thin layer of fat (BCS-3). Again, if you see
the bones, the pet is too thin (BCS-1). Likewise, if you can't feel the bones, the pet is overweight (BCS-4 or -5). Next,
check the rump area or near the base of the tail following the same criteria. Then take a look at the pet from above. It should
have a defined waist, an area behind the ribs that's more narrow than the chest (BCS-3). If there is no waist, the pet is
considered overweight (BCS-4 or -5). For more information about BCS and many other weight-related topics, visit
As you work to determine the pet's BCS, teach the client about what you're doing. Explain what you're looking for at every
stage. Then discuss your findings, whether good or bad, with the client. This helps clients learn how to check their pets'
BCS at home so they can monitor weight gain and loss.
3. Obesity-related health risks. Obese pets commonly suffer from other conditions, including osteoarthritis, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension,
and cancer. To teach team members about these diseases and conditions, break each one down into signs, systems, testing, and
treatments. It's crucial for team members to understand the importance of testing patients for these health risks. Before
recommending a change in diet, you must first rule out other possible causes for weight issues. If an underlying disease goes
undiagnosed, the pet's weight-loss program will not be successful.
4. Exercise. Before you and the veterinarian suggest an exercise program, consider the pet's age and general fitness level. You must recommend
a safe amount of activity. And clients must take care that their pets don't overdo it—unfortunately, pets can't say when they've
had enough. Also warn clients that the environment can affect their pets' safety. For instance, pets may suffer from heat
stroke or frostbite when they're exercising outside. Then encourage clients to exercise along with their pets. Some of the
activities you could suggest include walking, jogging, playing catch, and using interactive cat toys like laser pointers.
5. Nutrition. For clients, choosing a diet for their pets can be just as confusing as picking out a healthy breakfast cereal for themselves.
This is where you and your team come in. Every team member must be comfortable discussing the veterinarian's food recommendations.
This includes talking about how to gradually change a pet's diet, as well as explaining how to read pet food labels, especially
the caloric content.