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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.

The Veterinary Nutrition Symposium's Best Research Reports, Part 3

Today’s post completes our look at some of the interesting research presented at the Clinical Nutrition and Research Symposium held at this year’s American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Conference in Seattle Washington.

Owner Perceptions of Their Dog’s BCS

The BCS, or Body Condition Score, is a visual system that accurately determines a pet’s fitness. One system uses a 5-point scale and the other a 9-point scale. In the 9-point scale a score of 1-3 is considered too thin while 4-5 is ideal and 6-9 is overweight (BCS Chart). One hundred dog owners participated in this study to assess the ability of dog owners to accurately rank their dog’s BCS on the 9-point scale. A pet nutritionist instructed dog owners about BCS rankings while independently ranking the owner’s dog. After instruction, owners then ranked their own dogs. Owners tended to give their dogs a lower BCS than the nutritionist.

Each point greater than 5 represents 10 percent excess body fat. By assigning a lower BCS, owners are overestimating the health status of their dogs and underestimating the health risks associated with excess fat.

These findings suggest that veterinarians and their staffs must make a concerted effort to carefully train owners (both dog and cat) to effectively use the BCS and to verify the owner’s literacy with the system. With adequate training, the BCS is an effective tool to aid owners in monitoring their pets' health at home.

Feeding Frequency on the Voluntary Activity of Cats

This small study examined the effect of how feeding patterns influenced the voluntary activity of cats. Ten cats were subjected to four different types of feeding patterns lasting 21 days. The cats were given a 14 day adjustment period for each feeding pattern. Their activity levels were measured for the last seven days of each trial. Activity was measured by activity collars especially designed for research in animals. The cats were housed in groups of two or three in four different rooms for the entire 84 days. The light cycle was a constant 16 hours of light and 8 hours of dark and the individual confinement for feeding was also held constant.

The feeding patterns were 1 daily, 2 daily every 12 hours, 4 daily every 8 hours, or 4 daily random feedings. Over all the daily activity of cats fed once daily was lower than cats fed four times daily, both scheduled and random. Activity associated with anticipation of feeding was greater for cats fed four times daily than those fed once daily. Cats fed twice or four times daily were more active during the day, while those fed once daily were more active at night.

If further studies with larger numbers of cats can corroborate these findings, they may have implications for designing feeding schedules for weight loss and weight maintenance programs in cats.

Chronic vs. Intermittent Weight Loss in Cats

It appears that long, sustained weight loss results in metabolic changes that slow metabolism. This result in weight plateaus and weight rebound after weight loss. This study evaluated six months of chronic calorie restriction (CCR) versus six months of intermittent calorie restriction (ICR) in 28 overweight cats.

Fourteen cats were fed 75 percent of their estimated daily maintenance energy requirement for six months. The other fourteen cats were fed  75 percent of their daily maintenance energy requirement for two weeks of the month and 100percent of their daily maintenance for the rest of the month for the same six month period. The researchers monitored weight loss weekly and fat loss monthly by MRI.

Both feeding methods resulted in identical weight and fat loss. The only difference found was a significantly greater fat loss in the ICR group at the end of the first month. The significance of this finding is unknown.

Intermittent calorie restriction may be perceived as less harsh by cat owners and might increase both owner compliance and retention in weight loss programs for their cats. The researchers did not test for weight rebound after the test period so it is not known if the ICR treatment had less effect on changes in metabolism and weight rebound.    

Dr. Ken Tudor

Image: Thinkstock

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