Practical weight loss tips: Help put portly veterinary patients on a path to success

August 25, 2019
Katie James, dvm360 Associate Content Specialist
Katie James, dvm360 Associate Content Specialist

Katie James is an Associate Content Specialist for UBM Animal Care. She produces and edits content for and its associated print publications, dvm360 magazine, Vetted and Firstline. She has a passion for creating highly-engaging content through the use of new technology and storytelling platforms. In 2018, she was named a Folio: Rising Star Award Honoree, an award given to individuals who are making their mark and disrupting the status quo of magazine media, even in the early stages of their careers. She was also named an American Society of Business Publication Editors Young Leader Scholar in 2015. Katie grew up in the Kansas City area and graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in journalism. Outside of the office her sidekick is an energetic Australian cattle dog mix named Blitz.

Try this tip to engage veterinary clients and help them stick to their pets weight loss plan.

Nicky Rhodes/

It's no secret that many veterinary patients are overweight and getting their owners to comply with a weight loss plan is tough. Cailin Heinze, MS, VMD, DACVN, shared with attendees at Fetch dvm360 conference in Kansas City some methods to motivate pet owners and make getting pets to a healthy weight a little easier.

Keep weight at the forefront

The pet's weight and body condition score (BCS) should be discussed at every veterinary appointment, Dr. Heinze says. If a pet's weight starts to trend toward overweight (BCS of 5 to 5.9), it can be addressed while it is still potentially correctable through adjusting the pet's food portions. A yearly visit is also a good time to make sure the pet is eating an appropriate diet for its lifestyle-and not getting too many treats or table scraps (which should make up less than 10% of daily calorie intake). Ensure the patient is eating a balanced diet and an appropriate amount, says Dr. Heinze.

"It's really important that the entire veterinary team, including the doctors, present an honest, united front about the pet's weight," Dr. Heinze says. "If Dr. X writes the correct BCS score on the chart and then tells the client their pet is 'cute at this weight,' it will undermine anyone else who tries to counsel the client about getting their pet's weight under control."

Encourage clients with a contest

Successfully maintaining a weight loss plan can be frustrating for veterinary clients. But the veterinary team can help by encouraging clients. You can start by assigning a technician or team of technicians to be “weight loss czars” to help motivate and support clients, and also handle all weigh-ins for patients, Dr. Heinze says.

Another approach to try? Set up a “Biggest Loser” or “Weight Watchers” type program at your practice to help encourage client compliance. The team can set up reminder calls for weigh-ins, create visual aids like line graphs of weight loss over time (which can be made with a template in Excel), and post before and after photos of participating pets in the reception area to help motivate clients. Make sure you get the pet owner's permission to display their pet's information first, Dr. Heinze notes. Small prizes, like ribbons or discounts, can be offered as incentives for owners who are successful in getting their pets to lose weight.