As an orthopedic surgeon, I am well aware of data showing how obesity shortens my patients' life spans, contributes to serious musculoskeletal conditions, and exacerbates the chronic, debilitating clinical signs of osteoarthritis. Unfortunately, I see far too many cases in which weight management is the most difficult component of osteoarthritis therapy for owners to implement. Studies confirm that weight-reduction programs are often unsuccessful mainly because of owner noncompliance with feeding and exercise recommendations.1 Hence, continued efforts to combat obesity have also included the introduction of new pharmacologic agents aimed at weight reduction such as the microsomal triglyceride transfer protein inhibitors.
Given the poor overall results with owners facilitating weight loss in their pets, I strongly believe that advocating for obesity prevention in growing puppies and kittens is how veterinarians can have the greatest positive effect on weight management and reducing the potential for developing musculoskeletal diseases, including osteoarthritis. We have tools such as body-scoring systems and specific diet information to educate our clients on what is the proper weight for a dog or cat reaching skeletal maturity and how to maintain that weight. And we have plenty of opportunities to reiterate this important information during early-life visits for vaccinations, deworming, and even spay or neuter procedures.
Thus, with motive and opportunity, it is paramount that we veterinarians attack obesity prevention with the same vigor that we put forth successfully for other preventable diseases, such as heartworm infection, distemper, and dental conditions.
Steven C. Budsberg, DVM, MS, DACVS
Department of Small Animal Medicine and Surgery
College of Veterinary Medicine
The University of Georgia
Athens, GA 30602
1. Gossellin J, Wren JA, Sunderland JA. Canine obesity: an overview. J Vet Pharmacol Ther 2007;30(suppl 1):1-10.