Veterinary scene Down Under: Well-being consultant, plus Veterinary Business Group award winners
A veterinarian who has developed a dedicated canine weight management solution, and the winners of the Veterinary Business Group awards
Veterinary wellbeing consultant
During her career as a clinical veterinarian, Charlotte Williamson, BVSc, had increasingly witnessed the all-too-common situation of obese pets and had become frustrated by her limited ability to effect real change for these patients. She decided to do something about it, and the result was WAGSTA Walk, Weight and Wellness, a dedicated and easily accessible dog weight management solution.
“There’s nothing more disheartening than euthanizing pets years ahead of their time due to preventable weight related conditions. I’d witnessed the same pet weight issues across multiple clinics in Australia and the UK, and often felt hamstrung to do something about it,” explained Williamson to dvm360®.
“Consultation time is simply not sufficient to collect full diet and exercise history, nor delve into the feeding and lifestyle factors affecting pet’s weight gain. Let alone provide individualized calorie and exercise plans for dogs.”
Veterinarians can easily recommend low calorie dog foods, however if the feeding habits and lifestyle factors impacting a dog’s weight are not properly addressed, the foods alone often do not achieve the desired result of pet weight loss.
“Ultimately, I felt many pets and their owners were under-supported when it came to weight management. So, I started formulating weight algorithms for dog calorie plans. These were accompanied by a 12-week diet coaching plan covering all the factors impacting dog weight gain,” said Williamson.
“We’ve now moved from a 12-week plan to an open-ended support option to ensure dogs reach their healthy weight and most importantly, maintain it. Getting the technology behind our diet plan right has been the biggest challenge in our innovation journey, with several years spent optimizing our diet plan user interface. The goal being to create an easy-to-use platform that actively engages pet parents in their dog’s weight loss journey.”
WAGSTA provides dogs with a customized diet and exercise plan, so pet owners can have a road map to attain and maintain a healthy weight for their dog.This is accompanied by coaching support in the form of video tutorials, online coaching content, and a coaching group.
“An important part of our work at WAGSTA is education and awareness around maintaining dogs at a healthy weight. We have just launched our free WAGSTA app which encourages daily dog walking and regular weight tracking. The app has an inbuilt weight check to alert owners if their dog is overweight,” shared Williamson.
“By focusing on the human-dog bond particularly in relation to the human-dog health and fitness partnership, WAGSTA is able to bring great health benefits to both dog and owner. Our app is unique in providing both dog and human health tracking metrics, with weight tracking and calorie burn analysis for dogs and their humans.”
Looking ahead into 2023, WAGSTA plans to implement a fully integrated weight management platform for veterinarians and industry partners, with the goal of integrating with veterinary practices to help free up veterinary professionals’ time and provide clinicians reassurance that their patients are receiving professional weight management advice and coaching support.
“It’s shaping up to be a big year ahead with the launch of our new diet platform, and we’re keen to hear from vet clinics who are interested in participating in diet plan pilot intakes, which will offer a set number of free memberships for overweight patients,” said Williamson.
“With the current workforce crisis impacting the veterinary profession, integrated services to offset the workload of vets makes more sense than ever. Not only does this relieve pressure on overworked staff, but effective weight management also improves veterinary outcomes, in terms of reduced anesthetic risk and improved medical and surgical results.”
Williamson is also keen to develop partnerships across the pet industry including the pet insurance and pet food space. Earlier in her career, Williamson had also completed a Master’s in Human Public Health and Tropical Medicine, and she can see the potential wider public health benefits of WAGSTA, which recently received funding from Health and Wellbeing Queensland and the Queensland government for an initiative to promote increased physical activity in women through dog walking.
“Currently 44% of adult females are insufficiently active and 40% of dogs are not walked regularly. Through this grant project we are keen to test WAGSTA’s ability to marry the 2 groups up to promote physical and mental health benefits for both dogs and their humans. Watch this space!” said Williamson.
“In creating WAGSTA, my veterinary expertise and human public health studies have truly come full circle enabling me to build a scalable solution with the potential to improve animal welfare, and dog and owner health on a global level.”
Veterinary Business Group award winners
The Australian Veterinary Association (AVA) Veterinary Business Group (VBG) Awards were recently presented at the VBG Summit in Melbourne. The VBG Veterinary Business Thought Leader 2022 was awarded to Jocelyn Birch Baker, BVSc, of Smooth Operating Vets, a consultancy that creates a program for veterinary practices that makes them more “mother friendly” while continuing to operate smoothly from a business perspective.
“I hope that I am a force for change, in response to the challenges facing veterinary business. There is a solution to the vet shortage. We as practice owners and managers need to address this and actually start changing our systems to fit with the needs of our new vets. The recognition of my story and many other vet women stories, tells me that we as vet women and vet mums are finally being listened to,” said Birch Baker.
The VBG Veterinary Business of the Year 2022 was awarded to Catherine Harper, BSc, BVMS, of Barossa Veterinary Service in South Australia.
“I believe the award reflects our passion to create better veterinary workplaces, where long-term employment is sustainable for vets and support staff and where the customer experience with their pet is at the center of everything that we do. We are prepared to change and do things a bit differently, take on new challenges with minimal hesitation and embrace technological changes that improve efficiency, staff satisfaction and customer interaction,” said Harper.