3. Ruling out snacks
Occasionally when reviewing a pet's diet history, you may find an appropriate amount of pet food is being fed, but the amount
of treats and human food is significant enough to completely unbalance an animal's diet. For many people, sharing food with
their pets is part of building the human-animal bond. So it's a mistake to tell clients to stop this behavior altogether.
And frankly, doing so usually just doesn't work. Instead, give clients realistic guidelines. For example, consider calculating
a pet's maintenance requirements, determining an appropriate amount of pet food, and then holding back a few calories per
day (less than 10 percent of total calories) as a treat allowance.
Talk to pet owners about the types of treats they're offering. Most of the time, there will be a few healthy, low-calorie
foods the pet will enjoy. Carrots and green beans are great choices for dogs, and some cats even enjoy them, too. A few commercial
treats with only 3 calories a piece are also available. Once clients are assured they still can offer treats, they're more
likely to remain compliant. (For two tips on allocating treats to pets, visit
4. Focusing on puppies and kittens
Clients with puppies and kittens often ask many questions about what to feed, how often, and how much. Recommend high-quality
diets that have been feed-trial-tested for growth. Your practice should keep a short list of products to recommend that are
manufactured by companies you and your team trust and have used successfully. Types and amounts of foods recommended will
be based on the age and breed of the puppy or kitten.
Growth, especially during the first six months of life, is one of the most critical stages in a pet's life and one in which
nutrient requirements are the most stringent. Without guidelines from you and your practice team, it's easy for inexperienced
owners to overfeed young, growing animals. This is an ideal time to show clients how to assign a BCS to their puppies and
kittens to ensure the pets maintain a healthy weight as they grow to adulthood.
Remember to weigh and assign a BCS to the puppy or kitten each time it's presented for a wellness examination. Young, growing
pets should be maintained at an ideal body condition (3/5 or 4-5/9). In short-coated dogs, the ribs should be easily palpated
and only slightly visible. Since it is difficult to visually examine the flesh of long-haired dogs and cats, they will require
further palpation to feel the ribs and trunk musculature.
Large- and giant-breed dogs are genetically predisposed to various orthopedic diseases and conditions. Studies have shown
that maintaining an optimal lean body condition in puppies of these breeds can greatly reduce the severity and risk of developing
these conditions. This usually involves maintaining protein levels, reducing energy consumption and mineral content in the
diet, avoiding excess calcium in the diet, and feeding to an optimal body weight. Recommending an appropriate diet and teaching
new owners how to feed to maintain the desired BCS are the best ways to guard against certain types of orthopedic problems
in these dogs.