This article highlights the importance of weight management and is meant to aid in the implementation of successful weight management programs. The authors’ intent is also to stimulate discussion about, and encourage further investigation into, weight management for pets. The prevalence of overweight dogs and cats is excessively high, and the authors would like these guidelines to serve as a call to action for small animal practitioners everywhere to give these patients the attention they merit.
There is a need for further research to develop more effective strategies for achieving successful weight loss in dogs and cats. Design of effective exercise programs is hampered due to lack of information on calories expended during many forms of exercise. It is the authors’ hope that future research will aid the practitioner in the development of strategic exercise plans for dogs and cats.
Additionally, the authors feel strongly that the pet food industry must provide standardized and consumer-friendly nutrient profile information and clearer feeding guides on pet food labels to enable veterinary teams and consumers to make more informed diet and feeding management choices for pets. The new AAFCO requirement to show caloric content on pet food labels is not scheduled to be fully implemented until 2015.
The recent designation of obesity as a disease by the American Medical Association is compelling as it offers recognition of the serious and complex nature of the condition, but it may have unintended consequences. Although beyond the scope and mission of these guidelines, further discussion of that matter in veterinary medicine is warranted.
A successful weight management program will greatly improve the health of pets, reduce the potential for future health concerns, increase the level of activity of pets, and ultimately will improve the client/patient bond.