Weight loss through caloric energy restriction has proven successful in studies, but limited information exists on how this translates to the real world. This study examines energy restriction required for weight loss and associated changes in body composition in client-owned dogs with naturally occurring obesity. Dogs were healthy, euthyroid, and had no clinically important abnormalities on CBC count, serum biochemical profile, and urinalysis. They were weighed, body condition was scored, and body composition was quantified by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry before and after weight loss on a tailored high-protein, moderate-fiber diet. Mean percentage of weight lost was 18% and mean rate of weight lost was 0.85% per week as compared to 2.6% per week for colony dogs. Mean energy allocation required to achieve weight loss in client-owned dogs was 60% of maintenance energy requirement at target weight. The mean composition of tissue lost was 84:15:1 (fat:lean:BMC). Results demonstrate that conventional weight management therapy will result in safe weight loss in client-owned animals, but marked energy restriction will be required and the rate of loss will be slower than in experimental studies.

COMMENTARY: The authors describe their experiences with a standardized weight-loss protocol using either a dry or moist commercial diet. This uncontrolled clinical study showed that successful weight loss in client-owned dogs is feasible, but is not a quick or easy process. The study was conducted at a referral teaching hospital with a protocol designed to optimize the chance for success (eg, individual patient evaluation, frequent reassessment and program modification, client counseling, tailored exercise plans). Even under these ideal conditions, problems were reported. Compliance issues included owners feeding extra treats or dogs stealing food in 17 of the 19 cases. Also, although the median values were much lower, it took up to 18 clinic visits and up to 427 days for some dogs to meet their target weights. For practitioners, these findings emphasize that for a weight loss program to be successful, a scientifically sound diet and protocol-along with perseverance and patience on the part of veterinarian, staff, and client-may be required.

Dietary energy restriction and successful weight loss in obese client-owned dogs. German AJ, Holden SL, Bissot T, et al. J Vet Intern Med 21:1174-1180, 2007.