July 11, 2018

Companion Animal Symposium: Clinical Pet Nutrition

ASAS Companion Animal Symposium: Clinical Pet Nutrition

By: Anne Zinn

The Companion Animal Symposium held on July 9 at the ASAS-CSAS Annual Meeting addressed clinical pet nutrition. Adronie Verbrugghe, veterinarian with the Department of Clinical Studies at the Ontario Veterinary College, presented one the different protocols and technologies used to help pets lose weight. Obesity (and the health complications that come with it) is a major health risk for cats and dogs and has a large negative impact on the animal’s quality of life. The prevalence of companion animal obesity in Western countries is over 50% and continually increasing. Verbrugghe explained that weight reduction is typically recommended for overweight dogs and cats, but current weight loss programs tend to have disappointing outcomes due to inconsistency and health risks. 
Verbrugghe began by identifying one of the biggest challenges in the management of pet obesity in veterinary practice - proper assessment and identification of overweight and obese animals. Pet owners tend to underestimate their pet’s body condition and overestimate activity level, and veterinarians have a difficult time communicating the importance of weight management in pets. Verbrugghe explained that, based on survey results, veterinarians do not always utilize available tools to assess pets’ body conditions and that implementation of a weight loss plan is challenging because of the many different protocols for calculating energy requirements and there are many different therapeutic weight loss diets and over-the-counter weight management diets marketed. 
After discussing these challenges and variations in practice, Verbrugghe explained that some research has focused on macronutrient levels in relation to weight gain and loss, but very little research has been done on nutrient requirements and the possible risk for development of nutrient deficiencies during energy restriction. Verbrugghe described a study conducted by a research team at Tufts University that examined energy restriction in dogs, and the results indicated that necessary nutrients are deficient when restricting diet. Verbrugghe then conducted her own research examining weight loss and food intake in cats and found that codine was deficient in the obese cats that had lost weight and that there was a systemic inflammation after weight loss. Verbrugghe concluded that, based on this information, food restriction can put pets at risk for nutrient deficiency, which can lead to more serious problems, but more research and understanding is needed. More importantly, more awareness and better communication of obesity in pets and the serious side-effects is necessary for pet owners.