American dogs are fat. 90% of the dogs I see in the clinic could stand to lose at least 5 pounds, and practically all the dogs I see have a weight gain over last year.
Like their owners, American dogs eat too much and don't get enough exercise. And just like their owners, the ultimate results of being chronically overweight can be the same: Diabetes, joint problems, breathing problems, heart disease.
I noticed Science Diet has a type of "Jenny Craig" program for dogs - pre-packaged portions in a box.
The host of TV's The Biggest Loser has come up with her own weight-loss program for pets, after being informed that her Boston Terrier could stand to slim down.
"Everyone wants to fix the problem without having to change habits," she said.
Fat dogs and cats are SO alarmingly common that many people who have pets in the normal weight range come to the clinic with concerns that their pets are too skinny. Of the 10% of people who have animals with a healthy weight, more than half of them will express concerns that they think their companion isn't eating enough, isn't eating a food with a high enough calorie content, or that something must in some way be wrong with them because they believe their pets are underweight. What's even more shocking, to me, is the fact that all of them, upon being assured by a veterinarian that their animals are at a great, healthy weight, express disbelief.
It's interesting to me that in a culture where body image issues are so prevalent, and we have more people than ever being diagnosed with eating disorders because they think they are too fat is the same culture that can look an obese pet and see nothing wrong.
The flip side of the problem is the fact that pet food companies try to make a One-Guide-Fits-All feeding table on every formula, and it doesn't work that way. It causes confusion, which often leads to overfeeding.
I hope the Biggest Loser Pets program raises awareness about pet obesity. So many companion animals could be living much longer, healthier lives with less money spent on chronic health problems if their average weight was, well, average. It's really very sad to me when I see someone who has an obese Labrador and they proudly announce, "My dog weighs 140 pounds!" As though it is something amazing, to be boasted of when really the poor dog is about 70 pounds overweight and can barely move. The American Bigger is Better myth pervades, and it is costing our pets years off of their lives.