Many of the pet food companies have created posters and handouts that illustrate the appearance of patients at the different
body condition scores. Most of these systems are based on either a 5 or 9-point system. Each subsequent point on the 5-point
scale represents an increase or decrease depending on direction of 20-30 percent in body fat above or below ideal (i.e. 1
very thin and 5 obese). Each subsequent point on the 9-point scale represents an increase or decrease depending on direction
of 10-15 percent in body fat above or below ideal (i.e. 1 emaciated and 9 grossly obese). Clients should be given a handout
and shown where their pet falls on the chart.
The goal of any plan should be the improved health of the patient.
For some patients this may not be the return to an ideal body weight, but instead the reduction in clinical signs associated
with some disease process or a reduction in risk for the development of disease.
It must be remembered that a weight loss plan that achieves any weight reduction has inherently been successful. Weight loss
can be quite difficult to achieve in some patients and/or be very slow, thus, even slight weight reductions should be celebrated.
Once a client recognizes that his or her pet is overweight and may benefit from weight loss, there is a potential for the
development of guilt and concern that the veterinarian will blame him or her for their pet's weight.
The main effect of this guilt is a lack of accurate accounting of a patient's complete daily/weekly diet.
Unfortunately, patients vary greatly with regard to energy requirement for weight stability (presented in Lewis et al. 1987);
thus, if you receive an inaccurate or incomplete diet history from the client, there is an increased risk that recommendations
for amounts to feed will result in weight gain, weight stability or weight loss at too rapid a rate. This is due to the inherent
variability in energy requirement for the individual patient. The best method is to use the patient's current caloric intake
to make recommendations.
Caloric Intake for Weight Loss
Eighty percent of current caloric intake (Table 1). Note, if the calculation results in a value below 50 percent of RER (RER = 70 x BWkg3/4), a careful review of
the patient's health status (blood work, physical) and the accuracy of the diet history should be undertaken. Severe caloric
restriction can result in both metabolic rate and activity changes that may prevent weight loss without concurrently making
a patient extremely lethargic.
Table 1 Recommendations for Caloric Restriction by Company (Assumed 10 lb. cat and 20 lb. dog with a BCS of 8/9)
Most patients undergoing weight reduction should be at least as active as they were prior to the initiation of the plan or
more often they will be more active.
In addition, special care must be made in cats to ensure that weight loss is not so rapid as to increase the risk of developing
hepatic lipidosis. An obese cat should never be allowed to become anorexic under the pretext that it will be beneficial for
weight loss. Anorexia in an obese cat should be closely monitored. The risk of developing hepatic lipidosis should be discussed
with the client at the start of any weight loss plan.
Weight Loss Rate
The rate of loss (usually 1-2 percent of body weight per week) is based on traditional clinical recommendations that were
designed to maintain lean body mass and preferentially burn fat mass.
In addition, it appears that the slower the rate of weight loss, the less the body responds by slowing the metabolic rate
and the less hungry the patient seems. Thus, a slower rate of weight loss potentially decreases the likelihood of weight rebound
and increases the likelihood of client compliance.