Spark a conversation with veterinary clients about obesity

Nearly 40 percent of owners of overweight pets don't realize their animal has a problem.
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Apr 01, 2013

When clients come in with overweight pets, as a veterinarian it's your responsibility to talk about it and let clients know that extra weight can have serious effects on a pet's health.

That's the message Tufts University's pet obesity clinic and its director, Dr. Deborah Linder, are trying to get across.

The clinic focuses on providing weight loss programs for pets deemed to be overweight and obese; educating veterinarians and pet owners on how to prevent, identify, and combat obesity in pets; and conducting clinical research on optimal methods for the treatment and prevention of obesity.

Dr. Linder recommends that during every visit, veterinarians take a thorough diet history, because nearly 40 percent of owners of overweight pets don't know their pet has a problem.

"Ask about treats as well as supplements, chews, and rawhides," Dr. Linder says. "Many times things come up that wouldn't have been mentioned if I hadn't taken a diet history."

Dr. Linder says that she once asked a client if she was giving her dog its medication. The client said the dog was getting his pills in butter.

"We would never have known about that just by asking, 'What food are you feeding your pet?'" she says. "Owners don't always know how those extras may affect the overall diet."

Veterinarians have heard it before, she says, but having an in-depth conversation about the pet's diet is the only way to get those gems of information and it doesn't end there. "Clients should be told about their pet’s body condition and instructed that if it’s not ideal, it could have harmful consequences for their pets,” says Dr. Linder, such as diabetes, orthopedic problems, and respiratory complications as well as reduced quality of life and life expectancy.

Focusing in on those sometimes uncomfortable conversations can help educate your clients on problems they didn't even know their pets had.

Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Bob Levoy is the author of 101 Secrets of a High Performance Veterinary Practice and 222 Secrets of Hiring, Managing and Retaining Great Employees in Healthcare Practices.