Healthy Weight Protocol (HWP) is a scientific measurement of pets, as compared to mentally comparing the size of your obese dog with other obese dogs. Pet owners (and veterinarians) see so many obese pets that, in our minds, the standard has been changed. A “right-sized” pet appears too thin to us. Obesity is thought of as “the new normal.”
Even the often-used system of Body Condition Score (BCS) is subjective, depending on the doctor’s assessment of fat overlying the ribs, the amount of waist in front of the pelvic bones, the sag of the abdomen in the standing pet and other visual and tactile perceptions.
Instead, morphometric measurements give specific values for body parts that do not change as a pet gains or loses weight. Thus, a too-heavy dog can have his Body Fat Index (BFI) determined, and an accurate ideal weight established, even while he is obese.
The ideal weight based on Body Fat Index is then used to determine how many calories the pet should consume per day. Studies show that feeding allowances based on BCS alone result in half of pets consuming too many calories.
According to APOP (Association for Pet Obesity Prevention), in the last five years the incidence of overweight or obese dogs has increased by almost 40% in the US, and the number of overweight or obese cats has increased 90%.
Here are the steps:
1. Your veterinary hospital’s staff will weigh your pet and take four measurements of dogs and six of cats.
2. The data is put into an Internet-based tool that Hill’s Pet Nutrition provides. There is a Web site for computers and an app for smartphones. The tools calculate Body Fat Index, ideal weight and feeding allowance, as well as a chart showing how much weight your pet should lose and the time required to lose that weight safely.
Hill’s Pet Nutrition introduced its Prescription Diet Metabolic Advanced Weight Solution (Metabolic) pet food after studying its effects in real, in-home trials with 314 pets. It is noteworthy that these were not laboratory dogs and cats, they were client-owned pets. 96% of dogs and 81% of cats lost weight in just two months.
How does it work? Not like any pet food ever created before. Up to now, diet food had to be carefully measured and just as carefully dispensed. Too much of even the diet food and weight loss was stymied. Metabolic, however, works in a totally new way. Its ingredients activate your pet’s metabolism to regulate appetite and burn fat. Dogs and cats with inefficient metabolism profiles naturally store fat as a reserve, then defend those reserves in case they are needed. If we feed a food that only restricts calories, the body of the inefficient metabolizer enters an anti-starvation mode, slowing metabolism even more to maintain body fat.
Contrast that with Metabolic’s effect on that same pet’s metabolism. Now the obese animal’s metabolism acts more like that of a lean animal, chewing up body fat to reduce the body fat index to a healthy, 15-25% range. The degree of effect on metabolism can actually be measured. Hill’s Pet Nutrition studied 20 cats and 20 dogs, comparing gene expression related to metabolism. Healthy gene expression increased and unhealthy gene expression decreased in every cat and every dog. Study participants had varying degrees of change, but every participant had some positive change. Think of gene expression as an off-on switch. Though mammals have many genes, not all of them are working or “on” at any one time. Genes turn on or off according to the body’s perceived needs. Metabolic’s ability to alter metabolism causes detrimental genes to be turned off and beneficial ones to be turned on.
We’ve been using Metabolic for only a short time, but are already seeing weight-loss benefits and excellent acceptance of the food’s palatability and texture. In other words, dogs and cats love it! And pet owners are loving the health benefits.
See you next week, Dr. Randolph.
Frequently asked questions about the Hill’s Healthy Weight Protocol
- Question: Why should I be feeding to the pet’s ideal weight?
- Answer: Simply put, excess fat tissue does not increase a pet’s calorie need. So feeding to an overweight pet based on their current weight leads to consumption of excess calories. We need to feed to their ideal weight to ensure they get the right amount of calories.
- Question: What is the Hill’s Healthy Weight Protocol e-tool?
- Answer: The Hill’s Healthy Weight Protocol e-tool is an objective, quantitative evaluation. This diagnostic approach utilizes a series of body frame (morphometric) measurements to determine the pet’s ideal weight. There are four simple measurements for dogs and six measurements for cats. The measurements take about 2 minutes to complete and only need to be done once to establish the pet’s ideal weight for life.
- Question: Can the Healthy Weight Protocol morphometric measurements be used on all pets?
- Answer: No. Although all pets should be evaluated by BCS/MCS during the nutritional screening evaluation, this diagnostic approach is only useful in patients considered to have abnormal body conditions based on currently available methods of assessment (BCS > 3/5 or 5/9).
- Question: Should the Hill’s Healthy Weight Protocol be used on animals of all ages?
- Answer: No. The Healthy Weight Protocol e-tool and BFI Risk Chart are designed for otherwise healthy adult pets over the age of 1. They are not intended for use in puppies, kittens, pregnant or lactating females, or geriatric animals that are likely losing lean muscle mass.
- Question: How do you know that the pet will not regain weight once ideal weight is achieved?
- Answer: As long as the patient remains on Metabolic Advanced Weight Solution, and is fed appropriately, our clinical evidence indicates that the patient will not regain the weight that was lost.
- Question: Is the reason that pets lost weight because the food is not palatable?
- Answer: Metabolic Advanced Weight Solution was developed to be highly palatable for both dogs and cats. The pets lost weight because of the efficacy of the product.
- Question: What are the recommended feeding guidelines after ideal weight is achieved?
- Answer: There are two feeding guides, one for weight loss and one for weight maintenance. Feeding amounts should be adjusted based on the individual pet’s needs. Once the pet achieves ideal weight, it may be necessary to increase the amount of food in order to maintain that body weight. We recommend you schedule regular weight checkups to monitor weight loss and reassess the feeding plan as needed.