Often practitioners comment that owners eventually resemble their pets. But perhaps it is the other way around!
This obese cat has been gaining weight for three consecutive years. Now weighing 18 pounds he is a medical dilemma. This
cat's health is in jeopardy if allowed to continue gaining weight or if started on a strict dieting program without discussing
the dangers of lipidosis. As pet health care providers, it is our professional obligation to spend the necessary time educating
the client and providing him or her with proper health care recommendations.
How many times do we go into the exam room and observe a cat that is so obese that its width nearly equals it length! There
can be no collar because there is no neck.
As a veterinarian, we are poised to exclaim some profound bit of wisdom about over-feeding and the associated health risks,
but we make a quick turnabout as we raise our head and see the obese owner who came along with this obese pet. A new challenge
has arisen. How do we speak to this owner without insulting them?
Studies on the human side are claiming that approximately 1/3 of all Americans are obese and another 1/3 considered overweight!
That comes to an astounding two out of every three clients. Is it any wonder our pets are overweight?
And it is not simply for appearance sake, either.
Table 1. Wellness Guidelines for Puppies
A study recently released by the American Medical Association shows that poor diet and lack of physical activity account for
the cause of 6.6 percent of deaths in America. That is second only to tobacco use (18.1 percent) and more than the combined
deaths caused by alcohol, microbial agents, toxic agents, car accidents, gun-related deaths, drug usage and sexually transmitted
While obesity is not the only problem, it is simply the biggest problem and impacts all major body systems.
Pets generally don't feed themselves. It's the owner who feeds the pet, and feeds, and feeds and feeds. Furthermore, pets
tend to adopt the lifestyle of the owner. So now we are faced with the challenge of providing counseling for the pet and knowing
that it relates to the owner as well!
For a long time I was not comfortable making strong recommendations to these owners, unless, of course, the pet's health was
seriously at risk. However, the problem of pet obesity is now so large that we cannot sit idly by; we have to take a stand.
Table 2. Wellness Guidelines for Adult Dogs
We don't have to be nutritional specialists. We already have more knowledge of pet nutrition than 99.9 percent of the pet-owning
public, including breeders and pet shop sales clerks. Plus, consider the resources that we practitioners have.
What's needed is counseling. Counseling is the missing ingredient. Pet owners may know that their pet is overweight but are either ignorant of the risks or simply
unable to do anything about it.
Look again at the human side. Sixty-seven percent of Americans are either overweight or obese, yet the knowledge is out there.
Witness all the books and magazines teeming with weight loss programs, and consider the massive amount of dietary foods that
are available. With all that information, still more people are overweight now then ever before.