Identify at-risk patients when battling obesity in companion animals

Identify at-risk patients when battling obesity in companion animals

Nutritional management takes awareness, assessment, accurate accounting of pet's caloric intake

Small animals in North America are supplied with an abundance of highly nutritious and palatable food.

Concurrently, small animals live increasingly more sedentary lives, and clients provide treats and food as a basis for enhancing the human-animal bond. The result is frequently the consumption of excessive calories and the accumulation of adipose tissue.

The development of obesity can have numerous adverse effects on a patient's health, thus weight reduction in obese patients or weight stability in patients with an ideal body condition should be a focus of every veterinarian.

  • The three "A's"

Patients that are at risk of becoming obese or that are obese should be entered into a weight loss program.

Successful weight loss programs should focus on three main areas that often are neglected.

Area number one is increased awareness both by the veterinarian and the client.

Area number two is accurate accounting of the patient's food intake.

Area three is assessment of the plan's ability to meet the patient's and the client's needs.

The following article will detail the application of these three A's in clinical practice.

  • Awareness

Clients are frequently unaware of the presence and/or magnitude of their pet's obesity. Thus, the first step of any weight loss plan must be identifying the patient that is at risk of weight gain or in need of weight reduction.

Identifying Patients at Risk Veterinarians regularly perform procedures that will increase the risk of a patient becoming obese.

Ovariohysterectomy and castrating have been shown to lead to increased food intake (Kanchuk et al. 2003). Orthopedic procedures frequently require exercise restriction initially and common drug therapies are known to cause polyphagia. Thus, potential iatrogenic energy imbalances should be identified and preventive adjustments in feeding strategies should be recommended.

In addition, certain breeds appear to be more commonly obese and certain clients appear to be prone to having a series of obese pets. Thus, identification of "at-risk" breeds for clients may be a valuable strategy to preventing obesity in patients.

Identifying Overweight Patients A patient is overweight, using a human definition, when they are up to 20 percent more than its ideal body weight, and a patient is obese when it is 20-25 percent more than its ideal body weight due to adiposity.

There are numerous methods of quantifying a patient's body condition. The least accurate and potentially most subjective method is using a patient's body weight. Tables listing the "normal" weight range for dogs based on breed and sex do not account for the potential individual variation that can exist in breeds nor are similar tables fine enough to be useful in cats. Thus, the usefulness of body weight alone is quite low.

More sensitive methods such as bioelectrical impedance, stable isotope dilution, bromide dilution, DEXA and MR imaging are available, but their widespread use is inherently limited by cost and/or availability.

A more readily available technique is the use of a body condition scoring system (Laflamme et al. 1994).

Body condition scoring (BCS) uses both visual and tactile cues to assign a numeric value to a patient's degree of adiposity. The BCS has been validated to correlate with more complex measures of body condition such as DEXA. Since body condition scoring can be readily explained to clients, it is an effective tool to increase a client's awareness of a patient's degree of adiposity.