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The Daily Vet by petMD

The Daily Vet is a blog featuring veterinarians from all walks of life. Every week they will tackle entertaining, interesting, and sometimes difficult topics in the world of animal medicine – all in the hopes that their unique insights and personal experiences will help you to understand your pets.

We all owe a great deal of gratitude to Bill Hewlett, Dave Packard, Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Sergey Brin, Larry Page and Jerry Wang. They were all instrumental in making massive amounts of information accessible to vast numbers of individuals. As a scientist and researcher, I marvel at the information that is available to me that once required access to an academic library. I think, however, that in this digital age the tendency is to believe that all problems can be solved by finding the right Internet source. I am dubious, especially when it comes to weight loss and weight management.

The Traditional Human Programs

We are all familiar with the traditional model of most human weight loss programs. Most incorporate meal plans with weekly meetings to assess results and offer support and educational resources for the dieters. With ever changing consumer lifestyles and readily available access to online resources, many of these programs offer online solutions so that dieters are free of the demands of meeting schedules. In fact, online formats are so popular that one major program is directing most of their future growth to that segment of their business.

Interestingly, and by their own admission, weight loss results from these offerings are significantly less than the traditional meeting format. Despite the overwhelming evidence of lack of results, public demand for online services are so great the company has no plans to ratchet back this business segment.

The Veterinary Programs

The veterinary community has been extremely slow to respond to the weight problems facing our patients. We are just now beginning to see veterinary practices offering supervised weight management programs. Embarrassingly, such programs have been propelled through the efforts of major pet food manufacturers rather than by independent realization of the veterinary community. As many of you have pointed out in responses to my blogs, veterinarians in general are weak in nutritional knowledge and seemingly not very motivated to pursue that information. In fact, a major veterinary continuing education conference I am attending in June is offering only one nutrition class — and it is for the newborn horse.

Despite all of this, more practices are focusing on weight loss with serious programs and follow-up re-checks, just like the human programs. Some are even offering informational group meetings for owners of dieting pets. However, our customers are ahead of us with technology and want online solutions just like those offered on the human side. That is not so easy for veterinarians.

Legal Issues

In many states, recommending a calorie count for pet weight loss constitutes an act of practicing veterinary medicine, which requires a physical client/patient/doctor relationship, with the veterinarian licensed in the client’s state of residence. This makes specific online dieting recommendations virtually impossible. That is why my blogs are about general topics related to weight loss rather than specific recommendations or endorsements of popular online solutions. I do not think this is all that unreasonable. Dieting is a very serious and very INDIVIDUAL. In fact, I am amazed that there is so much diet advice available to humans without medical supervision, including the traditional programs.

My Dilemma

With so few veterinarians — and doctors for that matter — knowledgeable about nutrition and weight loss, I truly understand why the public is searching for online solutions as a substitute. But as research has confirmed — and the human program mentioned above has documented — there is no substitute for an individualized, supervised weight loss program.


Dr. Ken Tudor

Image: Andrii Muzyka / Shutterstock

Comments  4

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  • On The Web
    04/19/2012 06:58am

    As always, just because it's on the internet, doesn't make it true.

    Just because it's on the internet, doesn't make it safe.

    Just because it's on the internet, doesn't make it the right decision for a specific critter.

    The internet is a great resource, but the bet resource is you veterinarian!

  • 04/19/2012 05:36pm

    ... unless your veterinarian said what mine did ... that going through all the calculations and balancing a diet for my dog wouldn't prove "all that useful."

    Maybe I need to approach her about it again, as she has been super-helpful in every other way with my pets.

    Thanks for a great series, Dr. Tudor. I continue to look forward to more of your posts.

    My dog has lost some weight over the last two months, thankfully. Reducing his calories by 50 per day seems to have made a real difference.

  • OldBroad and 3Dogs
    04/20/2012 10:35pm

    Thank you for "getting" what I am trying to do for pet weight management and knowing that your veterinarian is a valuable resource.
    3Dogs: I am pleased that you program is working. Although the law does not allow me to offer you personal advice, it does allow for me to consult with your veterinarian if she prescribes the diet. I would be more than happy to consult with her if she is interested.
    Dr. T

  • 04/25/2012 07:01pm

    Thank you, Dr. Tudor! I will keep this in mind!

    Looking forward to your next post.

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