Amanda Nicholls extols the importance of monitoring and treating cat obesity, and offers a case of what her practice and its team does

Amanda Nicholls extols the importance of monitoring and treating cat obesity, and offers a case of what her practice and its team does.

Earlier this year, Alex German told an audience of veterinary professionals at the UK’s first weight management congress in Nottingham obesity wasn’t something that interested vets, with a majority preferring to focus on more “complex and exciting” areas, such as surgery and internal medicine (“Vets urged to do more to tackle obesity crisis”, VT48.11). However,… Read more »

Earlier this year, Alex German told an audience of veterinary professionals at the UK’s first weight management congress in Nottingham obesity wasn’t something that interested vets, with a majority preferring to focus on more “complex and exciting” areas, such as surgery and internal medicine (“Vets urged to do more to tackle obesity crisis”, VT48.11).

However, as a cat only vet, I strongly disagree with this view. Although weight management may not be on of the most interesting areas of veterinary medicine, for the majority of vets pet weight is taken incredibly seriously, as part of a general interest in overall animal health and welfare. As he addressed delegates at the Royal Canid Weight Management Congress, Prof German stated the issue around obesity was “prejudice” surrounding it as an area of veterinary medicine, and added: “Quite frankly, vets still don’t find (obesity) an interesting enough topic.”

Some vets may not think of obesity and weight management as interesting topics, but many others across the country do find it a fascinating field to focus on. At my Veterinary Practice in Worthing, Cat’s Whiskers Veterinary Clinic, myself and my team take a keen interest in this area of veterinary medicine.

Since the start of 2018, the team has been shining a light on obesity in cats, the associated risk that comes with excessive weight gain and ways owners can ensure their cats remain at a healthy weight. In our practice, we noticed an increase in the number of overweight cats we were seeing and estimated approximately half of them had a body condition score above the ideal 4 to 5/9.

Preventive Health Care

This has led us to focus on managing obesity as part of our preventive health care, with vets and nurses working as a team to better advise owners and help them to get their cat’s diet right.

Our patients have their weight, body condition score and muscle condition score assessed at each health check, and the owners are given advice tailored to their cat. After developing an interest in feline medicine and health, I decided to launch a cat-only practice. As part of the many services offered, we are proud to be able to offer a range of weight management services for cats. When I realised obesity in cats was a growing problem and long-term studies have shown it can lead to serious health problems such as diabetes and a shortened lifespan, I knew awareness was the key to healthier cats.

Studies have shown the most common form of malnutrition in pets in the UK is overconsumption of calories, leading to a higher risk of obesity. In the UK it is estimated 39 per cent to 52 per cent of cats were overweight or obese. A cat is “overweight” if it is 10 per cent to 19 per cent heavier than its optimal weight, while an “obese” cat is 20 per cent heavier than the optimal weight for its breed.

Using VN Team

As part of the my quest to raise awareness for obesity in cats and the associated health problems, I have been offering clients at Cat’s Whiskers a free initial weight consultation assessment with one of our RVNs.

I would urge other vets to use their nursing team when developing a weight management programme, as they will have the time needed to discuss the diets with owners and ensure they are on board with the recommendations. Like many practices, ours offers a range of premium veterinary diets offering cats all the nutrients they need, without unhealthy extra calories.

Of course, it is important when putting a cat on a weight reduction programme you do not just reduce the amount of food the cat is eating if it is on a commercial food diet, as this may lead to deficiencies. In our view, prescription weight loss diets are a much safer and much more successful way to get the weight off and ensure it stays off.

Cat’s Whiskers Veterinary Clinic is dedicated to providing a range of weight management services for our clients and we are among a number of small animal practices who take pet obesity seriously.

Owners bring their pets to us to ensure they live healthier and longer lives. One of the best ways we can help owners have their pets with them for longer is by ensuring they eat a good quality diet and maintain a healthy weight, and body and muscle condition score.