The three perspective of weight management - Veterinary Practice
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The three perspective of weight management

looks at the problem
of pet obesity from
the points of view
of the veterinary
professional, the owner and the
pet – and how to gain compliance

ON THE ONE HAND, OBESITY MANAGEMENT IS SIMPLE: if you ensure that the pet consumes less energy than it needs, weight loss is inevitable. On the other hand, weight management is far from simple and is one of the most complex and longterm clinical challenges that vets and nurses will face in practice. Pet obesity is highly prevalent in the UK and the available evidence suggests the problem is getting worse. However, it is encouraging that the awareness of the problem is growing within the veterinary community and the resources we have to tackle this chronic condition are increasing all the time. That said, achieving success with weight loss is still a challenge and maintaining weight loss even more difficult. This may partly be due to the fact that successful weight management requires co-operation between veterinary professional, owner and pet, and each has a different perspective. These three perspectives must be considered at all times if long-term success is to be achieved.

The veterinary surgeon (VS) or registered veterinary nurse (RVN)

Responsible for alerting the owner to the problem and for improving the quality of life for their patient, by using the tools and knowledge at their disposal they can set achievable targets and help owners achieve the required weight loss for their pets. The VS or RVN will also be the main source of guidance and support for the pet owner and will have to manage a huge array of individual issues for each patient and their individual circumstances. Information is key, so time, careful assessment and history taking must form the core of any weight loss programme. Optimal weight must be determined, with the owner, for each patient using a nine-point body condition score1 as recommended by WSAVA and feeding amounts correctly calculated. Achieving compliance with the programme will be the biggest challenge, but through mutual trust and openness this can be done.

The owner

Although perfectly positioned to implement the weight loss strategy, there are many hurdles. For example, owners may have preconceived ideas surrounding obesity and may not realise or accept there is a problem. Even when they accept the problem,
they may also find it difficult to comply with the programme and any advice given. Pet owners feel strong emotional connections with their pets and may find their beliefs being challenged and
the weight loss process hard at times. However, for those that are
successful, great progress can be made. Successful owners often become advocates of the benefits of weight loss and are empowered with their ability to make such a visible difference
to their pet’s quality of life.

The pet

Studies have shown being obese shortens life span2 and can increase the risks of concurrent disease (e.g. arthritis) that can affect quality of life. Although weight loss may not be a
cure for some of these diseases, the available evidence suggests that quality of life can improve significantly.3 Against the expected benefits, there are challenges for the pet, most notably the fact that the weight loss programme might be difficult for them. Not only will they need to adjust to a different food, but the amount and frequency will also be altered. It is likely that their exercise
regime will change as well. However, if the pet’s perspective is considered, these challenges can be overcome. For example, by
transitioning gradually to any new food or activity plan, most pets will adapt well to their new way of life in time. The weight management process is multifactorial and often difficult and frustrating, but considering all three perspectives – at all times – weight loss is achievable for all pets under our care.


  1. 1. German, A. J., Holden, S. L., Moxham, G. L., Holmes, K. L., Hackatt, R. M. and Rawlings, J. (2006). A simple reliable tool for owners to assess the body condition of their dog or cat. Journal of Nutrition 136: 2,031S-2,033S.
  2. Kealy, R. D., Lawler, D. F., Ballam, J. M. et al (2002) Effects of diet restriction on life span and age-related changes in dogs. JAVMA 220 (9): 1,320.
  3. German, A. J., Holden, S. L., Wiseman-Orr, M. L., Reid, J., Nolan, A. M., Biourge, V., Morris, P. J. and Scott, E. M. (2012) Quality of life is reduced in obese dogs but improves after successful weight loss. Veterinary Journal 192: 428-434.

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