Dear Kara: Weight (Sponsored by Hill's Pet Nutrition)

Dear Kara: Weight (Sponsored by Hill's Pet Nutrition)

Welcome to Dear Kara, a Hill's-sponsored Q&A series designed to answer your questions about important—and sometimes perplexing­—nutrition issues regarding your canine and feline patients. Through your astute questions and Kara's thoughtful answers, Hill's hopes to provide you with useful information to pass along to your clients for their pets' continued well-being.
Nov 01, 2008
By staff

When new pet owners ask how much food to feed their pets, should I recommend following the feeding guidelines on their pet food bag?

Feeding guidelines are simply starting points. Most animals will need more or less than the amount listed in the guide. Healthcare team members should start with the feeding guide recommendations but should monitor the pet's body condition score closely, have the pet come in for weight checks, and adjust the amount to feed accordingly. Remember to educate your clients as to why the recommendation was being made and why alterations are now being recommended. Write down the food recommended and the amount to feed for the owner before they leave the practice.

What is a tactful way to discuss a dog's obesity with a client? What about discussing overweight pets with overweight owners? What if I am overweight as well?

Having this conversation with a client can be very difficult, but it is crucial to the health of the pet. The healthcare team is the advocate for the pet and has a responsibility to address what is best for the pet. Team members can approach owners by pointing out that obesity is a medical condition, just like kidney disease or diabetes, and must be treated as such. They should emphasize the health risks associated with obesity and why maintaining optimal weight is so important. Remember that owners are responsible for 100% of the caloric intake of the pet and, therefore, they need to be convinced of the benefits of achieving and maintaining a healthy weight. Continue to emphasize what is best for the pet.

For moderately overweight dogs, is it better to change their current food to a weight management food or talk to the clients about decreasing the current food amount?

Decreasing the amount of the pet's current may promote weight loss by decreasing the total amount of calories eaten by the pet. However, this will also decrease the amount of protein, vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients being consumed.

Weight management foods are appropriately balanced so that adequate amounts of protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals are being eaten with less fat and less calories.

In dogs, a low fat, high fiber approach results in decreased caloric intake that helps to reduce body fat while maintaining satiety. Added carnitine helps dogs burn fat while increasing muscle mass. Hill's® Prescription Diet® r/d® Canine pet food fits this profile and would be an ideal component of a the nutritional weight loss plan.

We started three pets on a weight loss program last week. Their owners were really on board, and they want to know how quickly their pets can lose weight safely. What should we tell them?

Maintaining a chart with weekly body weights is an important part of a weight loss program. The rule of thumb is that obese cats and dogs can safely loose 0.5% to 2% of their body weight per week. The healthcare team can design and implement a safe weight loss program and chart for each patient.