fat dogs

There is an obesity epidemic among dogs, too.

We hear all the time about the obesity epidemic in the U.S. and around the globe. But did you know that there is an obesity epidemic among our pets, too? Between 25% and 40% of dogs are considered obese, and this number continues to rise each year, in step with the rising rates of human obesity. Being overweight compromises the health of our dogs in various ways, most notably in increased rates of arthritis and other joint problems.

New research published this week has provided data to support the obvious: quality of life improves when obese dogs lose weight. Researchers had pet owners complete questionnaires assessing a range of quality of life factors for their dogs prior to weight loss. These factors included vitality, emotional disturbance, and pain. The dogs were then enrolled in a weight loss program, and upon completion of the program were again assessed for quality of life factors. Those who successfully lost weight had better quality of life scores than those who didn’t.

The research took place at the Royal Canin Weight Management Clinic in the UK. When it was founded in 2004, it was the world’s first weight management clinic for dogs.

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Now that we have so many fat dogs, the pet industry has stepped in with various weight management products. Some of these are genuinely useful, such as specifically formulated diets that can help with weight control. Others seem more like gimmicks. I’ve noticed that at PetSmart that I could purchase a (rather expensive) Hill’s® Prescription Diet® r/d® Weight Loss System, which has a picture of a smart-looking beagle on the front, her svelte belly wrapped with a blue measuring tape to show just how perfectly proportioned she is. The large boxed kit comes with 66 pre-packaged low-calorie meal and biscuit servings, as well as a Guide that includes tips for success. For the seriously obese dog, you can purchase the more serious Hill’s New! Therapeutic Weight Reduction Program. And you can enter your dog in the online Hill’s PetFitTM Challenge. If none of these things work, you can ask the vet for some Slentrol®, the “first prescription weight-loss medication for dogs,” courtesy of Pfizer. (Unfortunately, Slentrol appears to have some unpleasant side effects, such as vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy.)

As with humans, the best weight control program may be the simplest (and cheapest): smaller portions of nutritionally rich foods, less junk food (like Ody’s favorite Pupperoni), and more physical activity. Or course, our dogs will not make this easy for us. They will look at us with those beseeching eyes… But we need to exercise our willpower and simply walk away from the Pupperoni.

Do you dog a favor and keep her slim and trim. She’ll thank you for it.

Original article first published on Psychologytoday.com on Nov 20, 2018 and republished here by kind permission of the author. Jessica Pierce Ph.D. also publishes regularly for Psychology Today.

Author’s Books on Amazon

The Last Walk: Reflections on Our Pets at the End of Their Livesblank

Run, Spot, Run: The Ethics of Keeping Petsblank

Unleashing Your Dog: A Field Guide to Giving Your Canine Companion the Best Life Possibleblank

Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animalsblank

The Animals’ Agenda: Freedom, Compassion, and Coexistence in the Human Ageblank

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Bioethicist and writer Jessica Pierce, Ph.D., is the author of Run, Spot, Run: The Ethics of Keeping Pets (Chicago, 2016) and The Last Walk: Reflections on Our Pets at the Ends of Their Lives (Chicago, 2012). Additional authored and co-authored books include Unleashing Your Dog: A Field Guide to Giving Your Canine Companion the Best Life Possible (New World Library, release date of Feb. 6, 2019, with Marc Bekoff), The Animal's Agenda: Compassion and Coexistence in the Age of Humans (Beacon Press, 2017, with Marc Bekoff), Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals; Contemporary Bioethics: A Reader with Cases; The Ethics of Environmentally Responsible Health Care; and Morality Play: Case Studies in Ethics. Some of the questions she explores in her writings on death and dying in animals are: Do animals have death awareness? Why is euthanasia almost always considered the compassionate end point for our animals, but not for our human companions? Is there ever a good reason to euthanize a healthy dog? Why do people often grieve more deeply for their pets than they do for people?