Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Animal Obesity Clinics: Reasonable or Ridiculous?

By Langley Cornwell

Some time ago I had an active and rambunctious black Labrador retriever. Even though she was very food oriented, I was able to keep her at a healthy weight because of all the exercise she did. Then she had a small surgery and gained weight during recovery. It was my fault. Even though her energy expenditure was less than half of what it used to be, I continued to feed her the same amount of dog food. Not smart. So I reduced the quantity of her food and she got back down to a healthy weight range. Although that simple formula worked for us, I still see lots of overweight pets. Even so, I was surprised to read about animal obesity clinics.  

It's not only humans that are fighting obesity. More and more dogs and cats seem to be battling the bulge and, just like humans, the complications of obesity in pets can be serious. But does that mean you need to take your pet to an obesity clinic? Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University seems to think so. With their opening of the first animal obesity clinic in the country, the school hopes to help pet owners tackle obesity issues that may be plaguing their pets. Let's take a closer look at the situation to help us determine whether or not an animal obesity clinic is really necessary.

The American Pet Obesity Problem

We've all seen the occasional cat or dog that’s so large he has to drag his oversized belly around, but other dogs and cats that don’t seem so big may also be classified as overweight. Recent studies actually show that over half of the dogs and cats in America are obese. Your pet may not look overweight to you, but even a small amount of extra weight can be dangerous for a pet.

Why Obesity in Pets is Dangerous

There are a number of risks that are associated with overweight pets. Just like humans, the risks of your pet being overweight are numerous. One of the most risky conditions associated with pet obesity is diabetes. However, there are also a number of other risks, which include heart problems, joint issues, a higher risk of death during surgery, decreased liver function, and even heat intolerance. In other words, obesity can shorten the lifespan of your dog or cat.

What Causes Obesity in Pets?

There are a number of reasons why pets become obese. First of all, many Americans aren't as active as they should be, which means they don't take their dogs for walks as often as they should. The same goes for cats. Unless the owner provides toys, the cat will not be as active as their wild counterparts. Another reason is poor quality food, which lacks nutrition and causes pets to overeat to try to get the nutrients they're missing. Make sure you’re providing a wholesome and nutritious pet food like CANIDAE and FELIDAE. Lastly, pets are often overweight because they receive too many treats and table scraps. Regardless of the reason, it's an issue that needs to be addressed. In fact, I address this very issue with my husband often. Don’t get me started…

What Does the Animal Obesity Clinic Offer?

The Cummings School Animal Obesity Clinic offers an initial appointment followed by 4-6 checkups and access to an on-call nurse who will answer any of your nutritional questions. The price tag for this assistance is around $250.

If you don’t live in North Grafton, Massachusetts you may want to start by taking your pet to your regular vet. Sure, the vets at the Cummings School may be more skilled in nutrition than your average vet, but that’s still a reasonable place to start.

Is the Clinic Really Necessary?

Unless your pet is in dire need of immediate attention to address his obesity problem, the clinic is probably unnecessary. A visit with your veterinarian can yield valuable information on getting your pet's weight problem under control. The vet can address why the pet may be overeating, and discuss proper diet and an exercise routine. You can also do research online to find more valuable information, and read our recent article, How to Help Your Dog or Cat Lose Weight.

While an animal obesity clinic may sound like an instant solution to your pet's weight problem, there's a good chance that you can achieve the same results through your own vet and by being more knowledgeable of your pet's diet and activity level. Whatever choice you make, it's important that you do something to get your pet's weight under control. Otherwise, you risk shortening their lifespan considerably.

What do you think? Are animal obesity clinics a good idea?

Dog photo by Mr. TGT
Cat photo by Les Chatfield

Read more articles by Langley Cornwell


  1. I am not sure I buy into the need for a specific clinic, but whatever gets people moving I guess. The problem we have here is that Ivy could stand to lose a couple of pounds - and she needs to donate them to Mozart. Ahh - the joy of the multi cat household. :)

  2. I really think the answer to keeping our animals at the right weight is just by watching their diet just as we do our own diets. It is hard but it has to be done and I guess people just need to pay attention.

  3. Wow, Americans really have an obesity problem! It's hard to do, because when Finn gives me the eyes I want to give her a treat, but we have to maintain control! :)

  4. Well, obesity is a very serious problem, and something needs to be done to combat it. I never would have imagined an obesity clinic, but I guess it makes sense.

  5. I always ask the question "who's making the money?" I am sure each owner can monitor the diet of their pet the same way they do their own diet!!!

  6. I am beginning to not give Katie as many treats as she got. Just ober indulgent. Sometimes I just give her a piece of her kibble as a treat.


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