Thursday, January 20, 2011

American Pets Are Fat

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.

I agree.

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.


  1. People think Lexi is super skinny, but she's a perfect proportion of weight/height. And Tsuki, compared to Kitsu she looks skinny but she too is proportioned.

    I don't want to say "within standard" because like the one size fits all feeding, standards create a wash on what is a healthy weight. Proportion is better, right?

    I know Buckley and Kitsu are at the higher end of what is healthy for weight... but Buckley has a beagley body and Kitsu likes food, like me.

    But I agree with your post entirely. We are a screwy society when it comes to weight consciousness.

  2. Speaking of fat pets. There was a male Westie in the store today that I really would have had an easier time rolling through the store than walking. His body was so barrel-shaped that it nearly engulfed his legs and neck. And his owner made me fit him for a pink butterfly collar. Sad dog :(

  3. We had a dog at the clinic a couple of weeks ago for x-rays that took almost a full hour to get because she was so overweight that every time we put her on her back, all her mucous membranes would quickly start to turn purple and blue. She literally was like a beached whale on her back, her lungs could not work against her own weight.

    Proportion is definitely better! I watch Kitsune like a hawk because so many Shibas I see are just little barrels with legs. Somehow, despite their high energy level, they are notorious for becoming little blimps. The few times we've seen another Shiba somewhere, invariably Jason blurts, "OMG, that dog is FAT." (Luckily, we've always been speeding past in a car, so I'm not mortified.) Of our pets, Mojo is a perfect weight, Kitsune is usually tending towards the lower end of acceptable, Simon is downright fat and I can't seem to make him not be (time for thyroid and blood glucose testing) and Peanut is a little chubby. Pionus parrots are known for being "perch potatoes."

  4. The receptionist at our vet's office thinks we have the only dogs in the practice that aren't fat. I prefer mine a wee bit on the skinny side, I like to see some ribs. Which may be a reaction to all the Greyhounds I saw that looked like barrels with legs when we lived in Florida.

    Part of the problem with dog food bags is that there is usually no calorie count on there; a chart with amount of calories needed for inactive, moderately active, and hyperspaz pets and the amount of food to feed would be better than the really vague recommendations on most bags.

    I get a catalog (Smartpak) where they will do up little single serving bags for you of various kinds of food. Maybe useful for people who don't know how to use measuring cups?

  5. OMG, the questions I've had about pet food bags and how much to use..

    One in particular sticks out. Lady's dog was morbidly obese. Vet tells her dog is fat. She comes to the store looking for a weight loss formula food. In the course of the conversation with me it comes out that as her dog gained weight, she kept upping the amount she was feeding because "the bag said if the dog weighs 100 pounds, feed four cups. So when he got to 100 I fed him four cups. When he got to 140, I fed him four and a half cups..."