September 2017
Peer Reviewed

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IBW = ideal body weight
MCS = muscle condition score
RER = resting energy requirement

*The AAHA Weight Management Guidelines define obesity as having a BCS 8/9 or above,1 although the guidelines, as well as this algorithm, may be helpful for any pet that is above ideal body weight.

References and author information Show
  1. Brooks D, Churchill J, Fein K, et al. 2014 AAHA weight management guidelines for dogs and cats. J Am Anim Hosp Assoc. 2014;50(1):1-11.
  2. Baldwin K, Bartges J, Buffington T, et al. AAHA nutritional assessment guidelines for dogs and cats. J Am Anim Hosp Assoc. 2010;46(4):285-296.
  3. Freeman L, Becvarova I, Cave N, et al. WSAVA nutritional assessment guidelines. Compend Contin Educ Vet. 2011;33(8):E1-E9.
  4. Ellis SL, Rodan I, Carney HC, et al. AAFP and ISFM feline environmental needs guidelines. J Feline Med Surg. 2013;15(3):219-230.
  5. Linder D, Mueller M. Pet obesity management: beyond nutrition. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract. 2014;44(4):789-806.
  6. Churchill J. Increase the success of weight loss programs by creating an environment for change. Compend Contin Educ Vet. 2010;32(12):E1.
  7. Laflamme DP. Development and validation of a body condition score system for cats: a clinical tool. Feline Pract. 1997;25(5):13-17.
  8. Michel KE, Anderson W, Cupp C, Laflamme DP. Correlation of a feline muscle mass score with body composition determined by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. Br J Nutr. 2011;106(Suppl 1):S57-S59.
  9. German AJ, Holden SL, Wiseman-Orr ML, et al. Quality of life is reduced in obese dogs but improves after successful weight loss. Vet J. 2012;192(3):428-434.
  10. Linder DE, Parker VJ. Dietary aspects of weight management in cats and dogs. Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract. 2016;46(5):869-882. 
  11. Association of American Feed Control Officials. Model regulations for pet food and specialty pet food under the model bill. In: Association of American Feed Control Officials, ed. AAFCO 2017 Official Publication. 2017:136-149. Accessed March 1, 2017.
  12. Linder DE, Freeman LM, Morris P, et al. Theoretical evaluation of risk for nutritional deficiency with caloric restriction in dogs. Vet Q. 2012;32(3-4):123-129.
  13. Linder DE, Freeman LM, Holden SL, Biourge V, German AJ. Status of selected nutrients in obese dogs undergoing caloric restriction. BMC Vet Res. 2013;9:219.

Deborah E. Linder

DVM, DACVN Tufts University

Deborah E. Linder, DVM, DACVN, graduated from Tufts Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in 2009 and then completed a 1-year internship before returning to Tufts for a clinical nutrition residency. Her interests include obesity management and effective client education and her research focuses on safe and effective weight loss strategies for pets and the effect of obesity on pet well-being.

FUN FACT: In her leisure time, Deborah volunteers with the Tufts Paws for People Animal Visitation Group. She enjoys hiking and running with her rescue dog, MD, and attending local sporting events.

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