Blimp dogs and swiffer cats: Managing pet obesity

Blimp dogs and swiffer cats: Managing pet obesity

Clients may think pets' pendulous bellies are cute, but you know the extra weight is hard on them. It's time to talk fat with veterinary clients.
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Aug 01, 2010
By dvm360.com staff
Dr. Ernie Ward, owner of Seaside Animal Care in Calabash, N.C., and founder of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, wants his peers in the veterinary community to think back to a couple decades ago. “Were we seeing as many big-blimp dogs and Swiffer cats with bulging bellies?” he asks. As the U.S. population has fattened up—over two-thirds of us are overweight; over one-third are obese—so has the pet population.
Data source: 2010 Veterinary Economics State of the Industry Study

The complete package:
Do you think obesity is a serious problem for the pet population?
How important is it to discuss obesity with pet owners?
What percentage of dogs is obese?
What percentage of cats is obese?
With what percentage of veterinary clients do you discuss pet obesity?
Take action and raise awareness with your clients

Veterinarians, of course, are not blind to the problem of obesity and the associated increased risks for arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart and respiratory disease, kidney disease, and more. But those client conversations may not be happening.

“We veterinarians get so busy in the exam room, and there are so many things to cover,” Dr. Ward says, “that it’s easy to ignore the few extra pounds and only discuss parasite preventives.” To send a truly effective message to clients, he says, you need to build pet exercise, nutrition, and the benefits of a healthy weight into your “clinic vernacular.”


Data source: 2010 Veterinary Economics State of the Industry Study

The complete package:
Do you think obesity is a serious problem for the pet population?
How important is it to discuss obesity with pet owners?
What percentage of dogs is obese?
What percentage of cats is obese?
With what percentage of veterinary clients do you discuss pet obesity?
Take action and raise awareness with your clients
It doesn’t need to take a lot of time: Remark on a pet’s weight gain during the physical examination and explain why extra fat can cause problems for pets today and down the road.

“You’ll have more opportunity to improve pet health through weight loss than through more expensive treatments,” Dr. Ward says. In fact, it costs clients next to nothing to increase a pet’s exercise and decrease food intake to bring the pet back down to a svelte weight. If they need more help, clients can schedule behavior consultations with you to learn how to get sedate indoor dogs leash-trained for outdoor walks.

You also have a chance to affect the other end of the leash, Dr. Ward says. “Dogs that take owners for a walk reduce owners’ stress and blood pressure, and improve their health.”

Don’t know the best way to talk to a client about an overweight or obese pet? Here’s some advice:

Start right. “I’m concerned about Fluffy’s weight because it may be causing health problems for her. Do you think her weight is causing health problems?” If the client is uninterested, focus on the long-term health risks of excess weight.

Be supportive. Stay upbeat, repeat back what you hear so the client sees you’re really listening, and include the client in the decision-making process. Ask, “Is there anything I left out?” or “Does that sound right to you?”

Match the client to the plan. Your plan for increased exercise, fewer calories, and better nutrition for the pet must fit the client’s preferences, abilities, and readiness for change.

For more tips on weight management for pets as well as advice about talking about overweight pets when a client is overweight or you’re overweight, visit dvm360.com/bigproblem.


The complete package:
Do you think obesity is a serious problem for the pet population?
How important is it to discuss obesity with pet owners?
What percentage of dogs is obese?
What percentage of cats is obese?
With what percentage of veterinary clients do you discuss pet obesity?
Take action and raise awareness with your clients

To raise awareness among your clients and team members about pet obesity, and to help determine current pet obesity rates, be sure to sign up to collect data on National Pet Obesity Awareness Day Oct. 13, 2010. The initiative to gather up-to-date numbers is organized by Dr. Ward’s Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. To help or learn more, visit petobesityprevention.com.

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