Presenter – Alex German BVSc PhD DipECVIM-ca CertSAM MRCVS, Diplomate of the European College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, University of Liverpool Small Animal Teaching Hospital, with clinical and research interests including all aspects of internal medicine, gastroenterology and obesity biology.
Following a Christmas break of indulgence and excess, a veterinary webinar covering weight management could not be any more appropriate. Of course this discussion led by Alex German covered weight management in cats and not in humans but there was considerable cross over between the species!
For example in both cats and humans, although exercise can significantly contribute to weight loss it is far more efficient to reduce ones calorific intake. It would take an hour’s worth of walking to burn the 260 calories consumed after ingesting a Mars bar. This seems a considerable amount of effort for just a moment of satisfaction. This is also the case for cats, if an owner decides to give their cat a ‘little treat’ by giving them a tin of tuna, this would be the equivalent of us eating seven tins of tuna. Imagine the amount of exercise we would have to do to burn that lot off.
Alex also stated that weight loss is purely down to the calories we consume rather than the type of food we are eating. This was proven by an overweight professor who decided to put himself on a confectionary only diet but restricted the calories to a level that would cause weight loss. The professor lost weight in exactly the same way as someone putting themselves on a healthier diet. Despite this, Alex still recommends putting cats on specific weight loss diets as consuming the right types of food can reduce appetite and will increase the likelihood of success. Alex also recommends always weighing specific amounts of food for an individual cat on the practice scales and then getting the owner to re weigh the food at home on their own scales so a consistent and appropriate amount is always fed. Alex stressed we should never rely on measuring cups as they are often inaccurate.
Sometimes the hardest part of getting cats to lose weight is convincing their owners that there is actually a problem and getting them to really commit to a weight loss program. Alex stated that many vets cite feeling awkward about discussing a cat’s weight issue if an owner is clearly obese themselves. Many vets are concerned they will offend the owner by discussing the subject. He reassured the audience that in his experience, he has yet to offend an overweight or obese owner by discussing their cat’s weight. It appears that most owners see their cat’s health as very separate from their own and will not link the two together. Alex’s advice is to be bold and discuss the problem. After all most of us wouldn’t think twice about discussing alopecia in a pet if the owner was bald.
Alex also advises that worrying an owner by telling them how sick their pet will get if they remain overweight is unlikely to be successful. This has been shown in smokers who are fully aware of the health risks but as they are not immediately sick, tend to go into denial and continue to smoke. A more effective approach would be to focus on the positive and discuss how much more active and how much happier their cat would be if it lost weight. It may also be really useful to use other owners who have managed to successfully reduce their cats weight to act as advocates.
This veterinary webinar gives some really practical tips on how to manage obesity in cats and also, just as importantly, how to manage the owners. So why not, if you are like me and have consumed way too much over Christmas, try to burn off at least one of those chocolate bars by downloading the audio version, kicking off your slippers and go for a brisk walk whilst listening to yet another great veterinary webinar organised by ‘The Webinar Vet’.