Weight management: insights from the science of human behaviour change

Tamzin Furtado
Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Helping animal owners to recognise and manage obesity in their animals is a particularly complex area of communications in veterinary medicine. Several studies have outlined the difficulty veterinary professionals face in such discussions, including frustration with the client, embarrassment (particularly if the owner is also overweight), and a sense of inevitable failure. However, obesity continues to be a serious and prevalent welfare problem in dogs, cats, and probably other companion animals as well — hence those discussions will only continue. This review considers veterinary surgeon–client interactions around obesity from the perspective of behaviour change psychology and motivational interviewing, in order to determine how veterinary surgeons and nurses can best assist owners. We consider how an approach based on a supportive and empathetic conversational style could be best suited to these discussions, leading to tailored weight management solutions. Nurses are ideally placed to work with owners in this way.

Figure 1. Simplified diagram of a pet owner's psyche.
Figure 1. Simplified diagram of a pet owner's psyche.

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