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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Pet Obesity Hits Mainstream

Today I was looking at Fox News (yes, I'm one of those) and saw an article about pet obesity in America.  My attention was grabbed by the title (Face It, Your Dog Is Fat) and I think the article was something that will be eye-opening for many pet owners.

Obesity in our pets is a rapidly growing problem, and something that every vet talks to clients about.  However, I honestly think most of my clients don't really understand the significance or severity of the problem.  Most will acknowledge that their dog or cat may need to "loose a few pounds", but I don't think that really makes much of an impression on them.  I do my best to make them aware of the potential health problems and shortened life span, but I must not be doing a very good job because few pets come back on their next checkup having lost enough weight.  Of course, I'm not the only vet with this problem, as the number of obese pets is growing, not shrinking.

The article mentions a phenomenon that most vets and veterinary staff are aware of.  Pets who are overweight very commonly have owners who are overweight.  This situation makes the conversation more difficult, as we have to be careful to only judge the pet and not the owner.  Sometimes this can make discussions awkward.  But more importantly it indicates the root of the problem, a lack of understanding of proper health and nutrition on the part of the owners.

Keep in mind, the pets don't pick which foods or how much they are fed.  This is completely in the control of the owner.

The article additionally discusses a web site that I wasn't previously familiar with, Project Pet Slim Down.  There is a lot of good information there about how to help pets loose weight, as well as charts for dogs and cats, showing what they look at various weights and body conditions.  I would encourage every owner to really take careful assessment of their pet and do something to keep them at a normal weight.

And I'm very glad that this issue is reaching beyond the vet office and being talked about in mainstream news sources. 


  1. I am horrified at the number of FAT animals that come into our shelter -- dogs definitely have a higher rate of obesity than cats in our shelter. Could be because the majority of cats come in as strays and thus are more likely to have gotten more exercise in life as outdoor kitties.

    What troubles me more than all of the obese critters that I see as part of daily life in the shelter, though, are the number of hefty pets I see at agility trials on the weekends. If you have made a commitment to train and show your dog in a chosen sport, the least you could do is make sure the animal is fit enough to perform without risk of injury. Of all pet owners, you would think that sporting competitors would take the issue of weight a bit more seriously, but unfortunately it isn't so. Of course, those owners are always the first to complain about knocked bars and going over course time, too...

    I will be the first to admit that I am an overweight handler and tend to have a difficult time getting myself to exercise enough and eat right -- but I'll be darned if my dogs aren't as fit and trim as I feel is healthy for them.

    Oh, and of course we get comments in public that they are "too skinny." Sure they are, compared to the flat blubbery beagle next to us.

  2. Of course I completely left out the content that was prompting me to respond in the first place....

    Last week my grandparent's 8 year old miniature schnauzer was diagnosed with diabetes. This dog is lucky if he's eaten one bag of dog food in his life -- his meals consist of bacon & eggs in the a.m., a cheeseburger and fries for lunch and roast beef & mashed potatoes for dinner. Basically, whatever the humans in the house are eating and in the same portion size!!

    After the diagnosis (apparently they were quite close to losing the dog prior to bringing him in to the vet) I asked my grandpa if they were following the vet's instructions for feeding. He conceded that my grandma is feeding him the dog food that the vet recommended, but that he is still slipping the dog scraps under the table at meal time.

    The dog will be lucky to live another year.


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