As we begin a new year, many of us have included weight loss and improved health on our lists of resolutions. Perhaps those should be resolutions for our pets, too. Up to 59 percent of dogs and cats are overweight, making it the most common nutritional disorder identified in veterinary practice. Now, practitioners are receiving support in managing their patients’ weight thanks to AAHA’s 2014 Weight Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats.

Released in the January/February issue of the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association (JAAHA), the guidelines offer guidance and tools for veterinary professionals tackling weight issues in dogs and cats, including suggestions for communicating with clients about the importance of weight management for their pets.

The guidelines note that weight management, including obesity prevention and treatment, remains a challenge for veterinarians and clients alike.

“Weight management can be very challenging for both veterinarians and clients because it is such a complex condition requiring individualized and lifelong treatment,” said Deborah Linder, DVM, DACVN, chair of the Weight Management Guidelines Task Force. “There is no one simple cause or one simple treatment, so it is a case where veterinarians and clients have to work together to manage.”

Weight monitoring and prevention of weight gain is particularly important for dogs prone to obesity, such as Newfoundlands, dachshunds, cocker spaniels, and indoor cats with minimal activity. A successful weight management program will improve the health of a pet while reducing potential for future health concerns. Ultimately, weight management will improve the client/patient bond.

"Maintaining an optimal weight contributes to a healthier life. This may mean our pets have more energy, live longer, and participate more fully in the activities they enjoy with their owners," Linder said. "The guidelines are an actionable resource for veterinarians to raise awareness, educate pet owners, and make addressing weight loss with patients at their practice much easier."

The guidelines include a call to action for the pet food industry to provide standardized and consumer-friendly nutrient profile information with clearer feeding guides on pet food labels to enable veterinary teams and consumers to make informed diet and feeding management choices for pets.

Additionally, the guidelines note a need for further research to help practitioners develop strategic exercise and weight loss plans for dogs and cats.

AAHA guidelines are designed to be a guide established by experts in a particular area of veterinary medicine. From medical director to veterinary assistant, guidelines keep hospital staff on the cutting edge of veterinary medicine.

Read the guidelines online or in the latest issue of JAAHA.



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