Pet Obesity Epidemic

Pet Obesity in companion animals, which might be pets or service animals, is a frustrating and seemingly intractable problem. It is not surprising to learn that a disturbing percentage of house cats and house dogs are too fat — but horses? That’s crazy!

Like humans, obese pets tend to suffer from co-morbidities such as arthritis, heart disease, and diabetes. This is undesirable for many reasons, starting with the basic considerations stemming from compassion. Veterinarians have to make a living too, but who can afford those kinds of problems? Also, like with humans, in extreme cases. There could be intervention from governmental agencies that are mandated to protect children and animals.

Unlike humans, pets are not amenable to helping themselves with psychological tools, not even the effective kinds like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. This is strictly a “you” problem, the “you ” in this case being the humans who have taken on the solemn responsibility of pet ownership — the pet “parents,” as it were.

Dogs Obesity

When dogs are put on a weight-loss program, half the time the program is abandoned before completion, and blame for that rests squarely on the humans in charge. When canine pets do succeed in losing weight, half the time they gain it back again. Where does the culpability lie?

Again, with the humans who have the sole ability to drive to the supermarket. Run a credit card through a device, bring home the 50-pound bag of food, and lock it into a closet. This very unfortunate circumstance is owned by the humans, who alone control the disbursement of table scraps and random snacks.

Another dimension of the problem is that, similar to parents of human children, pet owners are notoriously blind to encroaching obesity. Like the mother of popular comedian Gabriel Iglesias, they might say, “You’re not fat. You’re fluffy.”

Far too often, parents are sadly mistaken. Like children, pets eat in response to stress, and exhibit eating-related behaviors that look very much like addiction.

A few years back, Dr. Pretlow and veterinary nutritionist Dr. Ronald J. Corbee published a paper, replete with 55 references, titled “Similarities between obesity in pets and children: the addiction model.” It discusses many topics, like withdrawal symptoms and parental codependency.

This is our reminder that Dr. Pretlow will speak on July 20 to the American Society of Animal Science, on the topic, “What’s causing obesity in pets and what can we do about it?” The deadline to register for this virtual (online) event is July 16. Pages are available describing the full contents of this gathering, and the method of registration.

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