Obesity: How do we manage it?
Obesity is the most important malnutrition of companion animals. Obesity can be defined as body weight in excess of 15-20% of ideal, due to accumulation of eating an improper diet, decreased activity, decreased energy requirements, and genetics. Interestingly, the following breeds have a tendency toward developing obesity: Labrador retrievers, cocker spaniels, Shetland sheepdogs, beagles, cairn terriers, dachshunds, bloodhounds and all breeds of cats.
Diagnosis is obesity is often obvious on clinical evaluation and palpation of the patient. Quantification of obesity is measured by body weight relative to the size and breed along with a body condition score. Treatment of obesity requires a team effort as well as convincing the client to be part of the solution and not part of the problem. Goals need to be established and the owners need to stick to them.
There are two main dietary options available for the management of obesity:
1. Feed lesser amounts of the same diets. However, with this option the pet will develop habits of begging or scavenging.
2. Feed a high fiber, low fat diet. This option will create a hypocaloric diet. Hyperphagia and begging are less common with this option.
One a diet plan is established, it is the veterinarian’s job to calculate the ideal or target weight for the pet. Overall, treatment for obesity varies from frustrating to rewarding. Evaluating and prescribing for successful, long term weight loss and maintenance usually requires management of multiple, interrelated, patient and client factors. Prevention is the best approach. Proper exercise and diet can lead to a more productive and healthy lifestyle for pets.
Finally, it is imperative that owners refrain from giving their pets table scraps. This does nothing but reinforce begging behavior and adds unwanted pounds. Ask us about weight management for your pet today!