Q&A: How can I help obese veterinary patients?

Q&A: How can I help obese veterinary patients?

Q: What can I do when a pet's number on the scale just won't budge?
Sep 01, 2011
By dvm360.com staff

Q: What can I do when a pet's number on the scale just won't budge?

If you're not getting the desired weight-loss results in three months, it's time to change the plan, says Dr. Ernie Ward, owner of Seaside Animal Care in Calabash, N.C. "Tell your frustrated clients there's hope. Weight loss is achievable for every pet. It just requires a high level of commitment and hard work," Dr. Ward says. That's where you come in. It's your job to give clients the tools and support they need to manage their pet's weight. Here are ways Dr. Ward says you can can work with the veterinarian to adjust the pet's weight-loss program.

1. Cut the calories. The veterinarian or technician will use this formula to calculate the pet's resting energy requirements (RER): (30 x pet's weight in kilograms) + 70. This equation determines the number of calories the pet needs every day.

Dogs should start at 100 percent of this total, then the number of calories should be reduced by 10 percent if the pooch still isn't losing weight. Clients can cut calories by 10 percent up to three times, but should never give their pets less than 70 percent of the pet's RER without the veterinarian's approval. Help cat owners figure their pet's RER, then tell them to start feeding 80 percent of the calculated calories. Clients shouldn't feed less than 70 percent of the cat's RER without approval.

2. Change the chow. If the pet is currently eating high-protein or high-fiber pet food, ask your clients to try the opposite formulation. Or advise them to switch brands and see if that makes a difference. "There's not one diet for every pet," Dr. Ward says.

3. Up the exercise. "Without the proper amount of exercise, pets won't lose weight," Dr. Ward says. "You can only cut so many calories." Many clients aren't walking their dogs and playing with their cats as much as they think they are. "Clients should be walking their dogs a minimum of 30 minutes a day and playing with cats 5 to 10 minutes a day," he says.

4. Start a journal. The best way to keep your clients accountable? Ask them to keep daily food and activity logs for their pets for a week. "If the pet isn't losing weight, you can check the log and identify the problem," Dr. Ward says. The catch: Your clients must be honest and write down their pet's activity on a daily basis. "Clients that estimate rarely have good results," he says.

One final step: Ensure you're an eager advocate. The more excited you are about your patients' weight loss, the more motivated your clients will be to stick to the plan.