Wednesday, October 9, 2013

National Pet Obesity Awareness Day, October 9, 2013

In honor of National Pet Obesity Day I revisited the blogs I have done on the weight issues I have seen in pets. It was a long jaunt down a depressing road.

I have written a half dozen blogs on the subject. I even did my own mini "Biggest Loser" project where I followed three pets through about six months of a well coordinated, jointly managed diet, fitness, and monitoring program. Each pet was given a specific tailored diet plan, exercise regimen and monitoring schedule. The clients were also given free access to all of our clinics resources, personnel expertise, and we even mounted our own personal coaching and cheering squad. The results were abysmal. The pets lost a few pounds during the slim down period, but not one kept the pounds off, nor did they finish the 6 month trial. We tried to not get discouraged, but it was hard not to be. In the end I am not even sure that the plan did more harm than good. Everyone felt like a failure. Completely contradictory to our intention. The last, and worst thing I can ever provide is discouragement. Biggest Loser is right..(hang head, trudge to back of stage..).

How did our "Biggest Loser" pet edition start? Well,, it all started over lunch. A staff meeting and lunch and learn sponsored by Purina to pitch their latest brain child, Project: Pet Slim Down. Designed to be a place where people can go to learn tips, tricks, and get advice on how to help their pet lose weight.

The topic of pet obesity is one that every veterinarian is frustrated by seeing. We see the diseases that obesity causes, (diabetes, osteoarthritis, heart disease, respiratory difficulties, cancer, and loss of vitality).

There are now a huge number of low calorie treats, diets, and drugs available to try to help pet owners help their pets lose weight.

These products are all backed by the latest in scientific research and scientific trials. They work on paper and in study groups. In reality they fail about 95% of the time in my practice. I am almost incapable of listening to another lecture about another 'new' product to help cure the epidemic of obesity occurring in the U.S..

The problem in my opinion in the huge majority of the cases is very simple. It is owner compliance. Well, I should clarify that the compliance is very difficult, but sometimes even getting to the issue of implying that someone's pet is 'obese' is also a dicey process. Some people take the accusation as offensive, some like to live in denial, and some can't stop the begging, food reward, begging, food reward cycle.

Is it hard to believe that our pets diets are going to fail, when our human parents, and their human children have such a difficult time themselves? Obesity in adults is over 50 %, and children? well, it is quickly approaching the same tipping point. Pets? Well, they are right behind both parents and children. To state that obesity is an epidemic is to put it all in perspective.

How can we keep trim, healthy pets who exercise and eat right when mom and dad struggle with it themselves. Like all parts of life we have to lead by example and be responsible parents.

So we vets try to refine our communication skills, be as adaptable as we can, and learn to listen to the experts provide us with yet another product and yet another pitch.

There is an avalanche of information about how beneficial maintaining a healthy weight is to all creatures. I hope we are well beyond the point of having to discuss this. But how do we turn that knowledge into our reality?

I guess that we get our sweatsuit, sneakers, motivation, optimism, and determination back out, and hit the pavement, AGAIN?

How do I answer the question about shedding those extra pounds? I ask you a whole slew of questions. I try to understand what lead to the weight, and then come up with a realistic long term plan to help you and your pet live a longer healthier life together. There is no single, easy, answer of one size remedy fits all.

The wonderful company SlimDoggy is dedicated to promoting a healthy lifestyle for pets, resolving the obesity in our dogs and educating all of us on how to raise a happy, healthy, fit dog. They can be found on Twitter,  Facebook, and their own site. They blog daily with success stories, tips, nutrition advice, exercises for both you and your pet, a calorie counter, and even have their own app!

Slim Doggy Wordless Wednesday National Pet Obesity Awareness Day.

In the latest issue of DVM 360 there was this article; "Seventh annual study hopes to better quantify obesity prevalence in cats and dogs. Association for Pet Obesity Prevention calls on veterinarians to collect data Oct. 9." Please tell me we are past the point of the collecting data stage of this disease? 

Related past blogs:

The Worlds Fattest Dog

Biggest Loser Contestant Duke

Dazzle's Weigh In

If you have any questions, suggestions, or comments please find me here, or at, where a whole slew of us will answer any and all pet related questions for free!, or on Twitter.

Jekyll, my beagle, is never one to miss a snack-ortunity..Easy enough in the fall when he walks out the front door to the miles and miles of cornfields that he is sure were planted just foe him. Have a hankering for a kernal, no problem, he just jumps up, grabs an ear and heads to the front porch.

Thank goodness he is careful nibbler. He gently bites off a few corn kernals, chews, and leaves bare cobs behind.

When he's full he heads back to the field to grab a few ears to bury for a rainy/snowy day. 

Come spring we have these random stalks popping up everywhere. 
My husband has yet to find the humor in his genius.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this thoughtful post. As you noted, it must be very frustrating to see so many obese pets and you nailed it with your assessment of the root problem - owner compliance. We appreciate the shout out for our efforts. One approach we are taking in our work is to educate the owners about the food & portions they feed, but more importantly about the costs of having an overweight pet - to their bank balance as well as to their enjoyment of their pet. We created a new infographic today - it can be found on our site - please check it out and use/share as you see fit.