In a study published in Frontiers in Veterinary Science, Alexandra Phillips assessed how veterinarians dealt with pet obesity when interacting with their client (the cat’s owner) and the patient (the cat).
She found that 12 out of 17 vets discussed pet obesity but in only 25 out of 123 appointments. Also the conversations, which were video taped, lacked “in-depth and clear recommendations and assessment of obesity”. North American vets are not tacking pet obesity sufficiently rigorously it seems.
To me it would appear that vets are reluctant to deal with pet obesity head on perhaps because they are concerned about embarrassing their client or losing their client. Pet obesity is nearly always caused by the cat or dog’s owner failing to manage their pets’ food intake.
It is quite a complicated and tricky problem as it is linked to human obesity and lifestyle. It is a culture issue and obesity has been normalised to a certain extent. Also it can be difficult to manage food intake of an individual cat in a multi-cat home. Giving too many treats is also a problem. My assessment is that the biggest factor leading cats and dogs to obesity is the owner who does not recognise obesity for what it is. They accept their cat’s obese condition.
But veterinarians have a great opportunity to provide advice and products which reduces pet obesity thereby taking proactive steps to improve health. To not do so is arguably negligent.
In addition to the sensitivity of the subject there is perhaps the problem of vet’s attachment to the pet food manufacturers. They seem to be in the pocket of big business selling lots of dry cat food which we know is high in carbohydrates and addictive.
Do vets really want to take proactive steps to maximise the health of their patients? Don’t they want sick cats and dogs or am I being far too cynical Without wishing to be overly critical it could be argued that vets are part of the problem.
The videos were made in clinics in Southern Ontaria, Canada but it is said that up to two-thirds of cats are obese in North America. And obesity brings health issues such as diabetes, osteoarthritis and cardiovascular disease; we all know that.
More research is needed to work out how vets can tackle this pressing but tricky and sticky problem.
I’d make it obligatory for vets to give seminars to cat and dog owners on how to maintain a healthy weight in their pets. I’d make the veterinarian’s license to practice veterinary medicine dependent on these seminars. And I’d break the bond between pet food manufacturers and vets to make the vets more independent. Finally, vets have lots of overheads and training loans to pay off. They might say that they are pushed financially. There needs to be some way to ease their financial burden. This would reduce the pressure on them to make money in an unethical manner.