6 Simple Things I Do that Completely Changed How I Help My Overweight Canine Patients

(Reprinted with permission from Dr. Brittany King)

By Brittany King, DVM
The Montrose Veterinary Clinic (Houston, TX)

Our clinic’s motto is “We treat your pet like family.” If I saw a well-meaning family member doing something that was inadvertently hurting their kids, I’d, of course, want to reach out and help. Seeing overweight pets in my clinic is kind of like that. I’m the first to admit though, that even talking about weight loss with clients can be tough and finding effective solutions even harder. It’s been a long frustrating road trying to find the right approach to help but, I’ve found 6 simple ways that changed how I treat my overweight patients that leads to healthier happier dogs!

1. Educate first.

Okay. I admit, talking about a pet being overweight isn’t necessarily ‘simple’. To be honest, it can be downright awkward. I may even be guilty a time or two of describing someone’s severely overweight dog as just “a little pudgy” because I was worried about potentially insulting the owners.

Picture 1. Example of educational poster that hangs in my clinic’s lobby and exam room

But, you must walk before you can run. Nine out of ten pet owners don’t even know their pets are overweight. Even when they do, most don’t realize the serious health implications of carrying that excess weight. If that is the case, you have to educate first. I use a variety of approaches to educate my clients about the signs and the risks of obesity. There’s info on our clinic website, we have posters and informational brochures in our lobby/exam rooms, and, when needed, I take a couple minutes during well visits or other appointments to bring up the health impacts of extra weight and how to tell if their pet is at risk. Education makes all the difference. It’s like ‘planting the seed’, and is the crucial first step in helping pet’s get healthier.

2. Give them options.

What makes ‘planting the seed’ easier and helps make me more confident bringing up weight issues with my clients is being able to offer weight loss solutions that I know work. In the past, even though I wanted to help, I was frustrated because I didn’t really have great solutions to offer and it was easier to just avoid the weight topic altogether. I’m more comfortable talking about weight issues now that I have strong options that have demonstrated success with a broader group of clients. As a vet, having working options gives you more confidence to bring up the issue in the first place because you feel confident knowing there is something you can do to help your patients.

Having a variety of choices helps my clients have an active role in their pet’s treatment plan. Empowering them and giving them solid options, gives them a greater chance of success.

3. Find the right fit.

Not all options work for everyone. Some don’t want to change food, some will never exercise, some won’t remember to give a prescription, some are going to continue to give their dogs treats no matter what, some need regular support along the way. None of this means that you can’t give your clients options, it just means that knowing your clients helps you prioritize the options you give and which to suggest could be the best fit.

Simple math tells us that eating less + exercising more = weight loss. It’s definitely the easiest to explain and a cost-effective option. Unfortunately, experience tells us that only the most motivated and compliant pet owners are likely to be successful with that formula alone. If a client choses this option, I always schedule a follow up appointment in one month to monitor progress and change courses if needed.

I’ve had success with prescription diet foods but if the pet owner is one of my roughly 8 out of 10 pet owners who refuse to change their dog’s food, then it’s not the right fit. It’s best to know that up front.
The only robust solution that I’ve found to be effective for many of my clients is the Trimauxil 3-Part Program. It’s a multi-pronged approach that addresses the weight loss issue on multiple fronts to give the best chance of success for the greatest number of pet owners. The once-a-day prescription Trimauxil is a supplemental food that works hand-in-hand with a prescribed amount of their dog food of choice to specifically support the reduction of white fat cells. At the same time the dogs are taking Trimauxil, their support program is training the pet owner on proper feeding methods, healthy treating strategies, and providing ongoing support through emails, texts, phone calls, and regularly scheduled health check visits so that pet owners are able to maintain the weight loss once the dogs stop taking Trimauxil. The program is designed to be a short-term treatment with long term benefits. It’s an effective option for those pet owners that are not as disciplined as is required for simple diet and exercise, who might benefit from the complementary benefits of Trimauxil reducing fat cells, or who need extra support during the process. It does not require a change of food which is attractive to the large subset of pet owners unwillingly to try an option that makes them change foods.

The Trimauxil program has also worked very well for my overweight patients with upcoming surgery. Those patients are not necessarily looking to reach an ideal weight but benefit from losing some weight before a scheduled surgery. I often prescribe Trimauxil pre- and post-surgery to reduce surgical and post-surgical risk factors such as recurrence, slower recovery, and to minimize severity of other health issues, as well as for a better quality of life in general. Trimauxil is not ideal for patients unwillingly to try a prescription product or those who cannot remember to dose their dog once a day. Having success with the Trimauxil Program has made talking about weight issues with my clients much easier because I go into the conversation knowing I have an excellent option that I know works and that can be an effective backup plan if the other options they chose don’t work. It’s also an easier conversation overall because the potentially awkward topics like feeding and treating habits, BCS, and ideal weight are coming from the Program and not from me.

4. Don’t just treat, TRAIN!

The ancient Chinese proverb “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day but teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime” applies to weight loss too. Whatever weight loss option that you and the pet owner choose, needs to set them up for long term success. That means not just treating the weight problem but also training the pet owner so they can maintain it.

Picture 2. Special measuring cup designed to better train pet owners on appropriate feeding.

You can train them in other ways but the easiest I’ve found is enrolling them in the Trimauxil Program. Their program is the first and only complete solution that I’ve encountered that directly addresses and supports pet owner compliance. Part of the beauty of the Trimauxil Program is that much of the pet owner training is automated by and inherent to the program itself, significantly reducing my and my staff’s time and energy in trying to do this ourselves. When enrolling into the program, pet owners are taught proper feeding, given specialty measuring cups designed for more accurate feeding quantities, and a personalized snacking/treating plan. Ongoing pet owner training is provided by AuxThera (the company making Trimauxil) and via weight/health check visits with the vet clinic.

However you do it, make sure your weight loss solution has a training component and is not just a treatment plan.

5. Follow through.

Maintaining regular contact with the pet owner and doing periodic health checks of patients is essential to helping them achieve healthy weight loss regardless of the method chosen. From a health standpoint, any dog on a weight loss program needs to be monitored so that their veterinarian can make appropriate adjustments as needed. Weight loss programs need close monitoring by a veterinarian which you typically don’t necessarily get when buying a product online or from a “big box” store.
From a relationship standpoint, regular contact not only builds rapport between me/my techs and our patients/clients but helps everyone feel more bonded together. Our clients know how much we sincerely care about their success. Not only can I monitor weight issues but I can do progress checks on any other ongoing health issue. Weight loss can lead to improved management of other diseases or even discontinue the need for other treatments, like diabetes medication, so it’s important to have regular health check visits to be able to adjust as needed.

The Trimauxil Program has regular scheduled health checks built in as part of their comprehensive weight loss program. It also makes it easy to conduct these visits because the online visit forms are part of their web app. The initial enrollment visit form takes about 15 minutes to complete and the subsequent visit forms take maybe 5 minutes each. The time is well spent since my clients and I are each able to easily monitor their pet’s progress online.

6. Believe.

I know firsthand the frustration and temptation to throw up our hands and think that helping pets lose weight is futile. It isn’t. There will always be skeptics about any weight loss program but, let the results speak for themselves. I’ve had some success with just diet modification and increased exercise. I’ve had some success with some of the better metabolic diet foods – for those clients willing to change food. But it wasn’t until I started using the Trimaxuil Program that I’ve truly been enthusiastic about helping my patients lose weight. Trimauxil absolutely makes me more confident to talk about weight with my patients because now I can focus on how losing weight affects overall health and not on finding a solution that works.

I was willing to try the Trimauxil Program because I believed in the approach but, now that I’ve had several dogs go through the program, it’s my patients’ personal success stories that continue to excite me and to convince others. Toby and Kenzie are just two success stories that come to mind. They’ve lost almost 24 pounds between them and have kept it off! I saw Toby’s owner at a well visit recently and he was still so grateful that he did the program and was excited to tell me how much more energy Toby has now. It’s funny how people come around when they see a program working. Just a few months ago, my fellow vets at the clinic, who were originally skeptical about Trimauxil, made a point to tell me “Wow, you’ve had dogs that have lost weight, it really does work!” The techs at our clinic are more comfortable and confident too. Now that they’ve seen successful weight loss, they’ll come to me after seeing a dog that might even just be slightly overweight and say “There’s a patient in Room 3 that should be on Trimauxil. You should talk to them!” It’s exciting to see the change in our clinic and with our patients. There is no other total solution out there. I see my patients with more energy and living healthier lives and that gives me great satisfaction. Trimauxil has had a positive impact on other diseases I’m treating too. I’ve seen dermatitis and antibiotic treated infections resolve sooner. I see my patients spend less money treating those illnesses as well.

Find what makes you believe again. Find what gives you confidence again because, if you believe, your clients will too and that puts them well on the path of success.

 

That’s it. Pretty simple, right? Six simple ways that have completely changed how I treat my overweight patients which any clinic could easily implement. I promise, once you see the results, you’ll thank me and, more importantly, your clinic’s extended ‘family’ will too!

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