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Talking Points

Discussing weight
  1. Open the conversation.
    • Can we talk about Bella’s weight?
    • What are your thoughts about Bella’s weight?
  2. Build awareness of health issues without overloading the listener with details about disease.
    • May I show you a diagram that illustrates the ideal weight for Bella?
    • Your pet falls into this BCS (show them on the chart).
    • There are several health issues that can arise in pets because of excess weight. For example, arthritis can be aggravated or diabetes can develop.
  3. Assess client’s readiness to change.
    • Would you be willing to discuss a weight management program for Bella?
    • What are your thoughts about making changes to improve Bella’s weight?
    • We can help you devise a weight management plan that is practical for you and your family when you are interested and ready.
  4. Provide support and encouragement
    • We know you love Bella very much.
    • Weight loss programs can present some challenges, and we are here to help you through those.

Assessing readiness to change

Is your client ready to take on a weight loss program for his or her pet? Enhance the chances for success with these tips:

  • Establish trust by using active listening skills and showing concern for the client and his or her pet.
  • Use a collaborative approach to determine the client’s state of awareness about his or her pet’s weight and its health consequences.
  • Ask questions to determine whether the client needs time to consider the information or is ready to take action to begin a weight loss program.
  • Give clients time to think, but be aware that “thinking about it” may signal inability or unwillingness to follow your recommendation.
  • Ask open-ended questions to elicit clients’ concerns about weight management.
  • Schedule a subsequent visit to discuss weight management, encouraging other family members to attend.

Negotiating a mutual plan of action for changing feeding practices*

  • Obtain the client’s beliefs and understanding about how their pet should be fed.
  • Obtain the client’s viewpoint regarding the need to change feeding practices (e.g., perceived benefits, barriers, motivation to changing practices).
  • Take into consideration the client’s beliefs, cultural background, lifestyle and abilities when formulating your plan for dietary modification.
  • Elicit the client’s reactions and concerns about the proposed dietary modifications.

Managing the process

  • Prepare the client for the process.
  • Explain what to expect for weight loss over time.
  • Discuss hurdles that may arise and your partnership in tackling those hurdles.
  • Provide client resources, such as an exercise or calorie tracking diary.
  • Provide empathy and positive reinforcement.
  • Explore client’s feelings/beliefs about the program.
  • Give permission to fumble/fail with no judgments attached.
  • Explain your willingness to change benchmarks if needed, and that weight management programs will be adapted to the client’s and pet’s individual needs (i.e., there is no “onesize- fits-all” approach).

Source: Churchill J. Increase the success of weight loss programs by creating an environment for change. Compend Cont Educ Vet 2010;32(12): E1–4. Used with permission.

*Adapted from the Calgary-Cambridge Guides; Kurtz S, Silverman J, Draper J. Teaching and learning communication skills in medicine. 2nd ed. Oxford (UK): Radcliffe Publishing ; 2005; and Silverman J, Kurtz S, Draper J. Skills for communicating with clients. 2nd ed. Oxford (UK): Radcliffe Publishing; 2005. Used with permission.

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