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In the News: Obesity Goes to the Dogs

By , SparkPeople Blogger
The obesity epidemic has gone to the dogs.

Seven dogs and one cat in Britain are starting a 100-day lifestyle makeover, complete with diet and exercise. They're all more than 30% overweight, according to a Reuters article.

According to the story: "The pet who achieves the biggest percentage weight loss and best follows their new regime will be crowned champion, winning their owner a pet-friendly holiday."

About 30% of Britain's dogs are overweight or obese--that's about 1.95 million fat dogs. One-third of cats and dogs in America are overweight or obese, too.

We would like to suggest that pet owners register their pudgy pets for our newest site, After all, shouldn't man's best friends make their lives an adventure, too?

(I'm kidding about that last part. There is no "" I thought we needed some light reading here on the blog.)

One of the causes is feeding dogs and cats people food. Another major cause is inactive pets. Dogs can't walk themselves if owners don't want to get off the couch.

Maybe joining SparkPeople could be the answer to the pet obesity epidemic:

Owner joins SparkPeople, learns to eat healthy foods.

Pet is no longer fed greasy, unhealthy table scraps.

Owner embraces daily exercise.

Pet gets taken on daily walks, thus slimming down.

Wow. Can SparkPeople help pets, too? :)

Have you ever had to put your pet on a diet? Do you think that our pets are unhealthy because we, as a society, are unhealthy?

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The pet food you purchase can make a huge difference on a petís weight. When I got back from college, I found that my Mom had not been taking care of my Rottweiler, Max. He was severely overweight, his fur was grey, and all he did was sleep. He was only 4, but looked like a very old dog. The food he was eating was the cheap stuff at the grocery store, the 50 lbs bags that are only $10 which are basically just ground corn. Dogs are carnivores, they need protein. I went to the pet store, read through all the labels, asked the associates for advice and found a dog food that had the main ingredients of chicken, lamb, and brown rice. Price? $29 for a 50lb bag. Big deal, I could skip eating out a few times and this was food for a month. I fed Max twice a day, giving him an egg with the morning meal. When I got home from work we went for walks. On the weekend, we went to the park. In only a month there was a huge change in Max. His fur was returning to a dark glossy black, he was more energetic, his weight dropped, and most importantly, he was happy again. He was finally getting the proper nutrition and exercise a dog needs. In three months, he was looking like his old, puppy self, and in 6 months, he could have been passed off as a show dog. Max ended up passing away 2 years later from bone cancer but at least in his last two years he was happy, healthy, and loved.
The same was with my cat, Pilot. She had a sensitive stomach as a kitten so I purchased the holistic food for her. I went through a time period where I did not have a lot of money and had to purchase the cheap food. In this time, she gained weight, her fur felt dry and dusty, she shed more, had more hairballs, and threw up nearly every day. As soon as I was able to buy the better food again, Pilot improved almost immediately. I canít really take her for walks, it embarrasses both of us, but the food she eats has a big impact on her health.
This is a frustrating subject for me. I've had 5 cats in my life, and none of them was ever overweight, until now. My Bear is just that, a big, cuddly bear! He's healthy, goes for annual visits to the vet, and lives on a special low-calorie, high fiber diet. I feed his very svelte sister the same food because she's a grazer, and I have to leave food out for her. Their food is pre-measured and I feed them at the low end of the prescribed amount. The only people food either of them gets is lettuce. Bear loves it and will beg for it when he hears the salad spinner, or sees me making a salad for myself. So I give him a little plain lettuce a few times a week. They're both indoor cats, and while the female was very active when she was younger, Bear is more of a spectator than a participant. He likes to watch me swing around the cat toy. Occasionally, he'd join in when she'd play, but now they're both older, neither of them is that interested in playing. I know he must be eating some of her share, but I can't pick hers up or she won't get to eat at all, and since I'm not home most of the day, and she won't eat in one sitting, taking up the food just isn't an option. So, I have a fat cat who eats only lettuce and diet food! Hence my frustration. Report
I walk my dog daily. It is our time to be together. She even makes me go for a walk when I am not feeling like it. She will just look at me a wimper. She will go to where her leash is a bark at me until I get up and take her for a walk. Report
I often foster rescue dogs. These are animals that are given up, usually because people change their mind about wanting to share their lives with them. Many people don't understand the commitment it takes, which includes making sure your dog gets enough exercise. Putting him out in the yard works for potty breaks, but not exercise (unless there is more than one dog and they play together).

Dog walking is one of the best ways for people to get in shape, and it increases the health and well-being of the dogs as well. If you don't have a dog, borrow a neighbors! You will be doing them a favor, and also doing their dog a favor! This is an especially nice gesture for people who have animals who may not be able to walk them themselves (for health or other mobility reasons).

Great article! Report
Yes, my Golden is on a healthy diet. She gained weight over the winter and she has a congenital heart condition that limits her physical activity. I cut down her treats to one a day, and cut 1/4 of her kibble and replaced it with low sodium canned green beans. She has lost two pounds in two month. That's a lot for a dog! She gets two walks a day:) Report
It wasn't intentional; however, getting dogs has helped my husband with his health concerns. He used to come home from work every day and sit in front of the TV until meal times or bedtime. He has been slowly gaining weight over the years to the point where he was starting to have health issues because of it. We added two dogs to the family over the course of the last year and a half. Now when he comes home each day after work, the first thing he does is take the dogs for a walk at the dog park. The dogs are in great shape and spend the whole time running around because it is an off leash park and he walks about 2-3 KM every day. Even this winter with the snow and ice he has continued to walk them. The dogs don't have a weight issue and my husband is slowly loosing weight as well.

They say pets are good for your health and I firmly believe it. Report
Ah! MUST LIVE!!!!!
I am a vet Tech that has regular clinics everyday, where I tell X owners to put their dog/cat on a diet/exercise program. Please, Please, Please make the Site REAL!!
I had a lady today, that very proudly, lifted her doggy up and showed me his tummy, exclaiming "Look at his big muscles!" To which I replied "NO! That is not muscle... that is FAT!" This dachund weighed in at 17.5 LBS, thats not quite double what this elderly pet should weigh. The owner also told me, that her pooch does not like to be touch on its back or legs, and cries out in pain. "HELLO! Your pet can not handle 17+ lbs, it is hurting him". I thought.
So while this was a joke, I could seriouly use it to motivate my client owners into making healthy changes for their pets.
PS. I gave the owner a few diet/exercise options and asked her to come back for a weight check in 3 months. But no-one at the clinic thinks she will change anything or bring the pooch in just to check the weight, even though we do this for free :( Report
Barkpeople- good one! Yes my lab is currently on a diet because she absolutely cannot help herself and eats everything is her view- even plastic! She is me a few years ago minus the cigarettes! Report
I tried putting my cat on a diet. He was NOT thrilled and would jump and claw my leg every time I walked by his good bowl. I think he may just have had a genetic propensity for obesity or something because I have two other cats, feed them all the same, they get the same amount of activity (read: very little!) and only he was fat. Guess pets really are just like people! Report
During the winter our dogs, a 7 yr labradoodle, and 2 yr goldendoodle, aren't as active as they are in the summer. We get alot of snow, so its hard to walk them!
They love to play in it, but can't be out like they are in the summer. We switch their food to a light food during the winter. They are my babies! Report
Walk your dogs! We take ours on bike rides while they run out their energy. Bad dogs=bored dogs. Report
We just got a dog early this year after being pet-free for a number of years. I am very, very aware of keeping her healthy and fit. I probably wouldn't have been 2 years ago before my own journey began, but I sure am now. My brother has a dog that is so overweight he can't even climb stairs. It's just not right. I only feed her dry dog food and occasional treats. That is actually challenging to do, because my urge is to "treat" her with table scraps, but I know, and my vet told me, that it's actually detrimental to her health. She also gets walked many times a day. My neighbors even comment about how my dog is walked constantly. I also take her to the dog park frequently. I want her to stay lean and healthy. Report
If you are a dog owner, I think you are morally obligated to walk yr dog every day, unless it runs freely in the neighborhood or on the farm. Nuff said. Report
My vet had a "Biggest Loser" contest for dogs and cats. My cute little schnauzer won first place (a year of free dog food and $100 credit on our vet bill) by losing about 33% of her weight. I never thought she needed to lose that much, but you can tell she feels much better and has A LOT more energy. We both are healthier because of it. Report
i actually just started to pay more attention to my cat's eating habits. Specifically, I am no longer letting him enjoy eating as much as he wants. I have weighed out how much he is supposed to get (dry food is all I feed him) and marked a container at that amount. Each morning I fill the container to the marked line and portion it out through the day. I think this will help him maintain a healthy weight.

I think that people spoil their pets too much that they might be fat or that they don't make an effort to play/walk their animals. I don't play with my cat as much as I should... Report
My cat has an overactive thyroid and only weighs 5 pounds. I keep trying to get her to gain weight but to no avail. Report
We are overwieght so why wouldn't our pets be too.As we start to eat healtier hopefully we'll feed our pets healthier.When we walk we need to take our dogs with us.It is a great social bonding experience for canine and human alike. I can't wait to be able to walk again and I hope to take my dogs with me when I hike again.It is harder to get your cats active. My son and his wife actually put harness on their cats and walk them around the apartment complex.The laser toy doesn't motivate them anymore.They all get exercise and it is a social experience.It also gives your neighbors a chance to see your oet and if it gets out they know who it belongs to. Report
LOL... cute! Report
Well my mileage tracker is actually my dogs fitness tracker. I log all our walks there. I also go to the gym but it is track seperately.

We average a little over 3km a day, sometimes more sometimes less a day. So far in 2010 the human has walked 81kms. The girls likely more as part of the time they are off lead.
I like to think of the two as my personal trainers who work for dog food. As they insist on there walks.
In the summer we also go down to the local river to swim. Usual spead about an hour swimming.
As a result my girls are in great shape and I am getting better Report
Sorry to say I have one of the over weight ones. Didn't notice till she got diabetes and went on vetsulin and lost 30 lbs. It's all my fault. What I ate she got a piece of. Of course I'm overweight also and have type 2 diabetes. I should have know better. I am trying to take care of myself better now since my best buddy got diabetes because of me. Dogs can teach us so much. Report
I think my dogs are in a good weight range, they do keep me on track though!! They love their walks and have no problem reminding me to take them lol . . . I think its a great way to get some extra exercise in! I can totally see how animals could get over weight though, mine don't eat any human unless its veggies now and then . . . But I know a lot of animals that eat a bunch of fatty foods . . Report
My 84yo father calls their dog his personal trainer, since walking the dog guarantees that my father will do at least some walking every day. And not surprisingly, my dad is not overweight, nor is the dog! Report
I used to let my cat eat whatever it wanted and not surprisingly, like me, it got heavy. When I moved a new vet suggested a diet, and now my cat weighs have the amount he used to...he did not love the plan, but I am sure he is much healthier! Report
And I was all set to sign up my pets for !!! Report
One of my favorite quotes (sorry I don't remember who)

"If you pet is fat go for a walk."

Could just be the truth. Wish I were able to have one. (sigh) Report
How 'bout a I'm seriously into diet and exercise and supplements for my elderly horse and his younger girlfriend... He's "off green grass" and has slimmed down and become calmer and less lame (Cushings, aka "horsie diabetes") and she actually runs to the round pen for her horsie calisthenics (run and jump routine). She's actually muscled up. I've muscled up too thanks to walk-jog work but still find a challenge in getting total pounds down.

Just an irrelevant riff here. Report
My cats are treated as though they are my children. They have healthy diets just as I do. They are portioned out the amount they are to have for the day first thing in the morning. They get half of that portion in the morning, the other in the evening and as a treat 4 little cat snacks at night. That is it. Personally I think that owners that over feed their pets shouldn't have them! Report
I have 2 shelties who are brothers and they are as different as night and day. The one, Jamie, runs back and forth around the fenced back yard every time a car goes down the back alley. His brother, Cooper, sits on our deck and watches. He is a deck potato! The vet told us that Jamie is an excellent specimen for the breed, but Cooper is becoming a little pudge ball. He has been on a diet for the past year but he still just likes to hang around the deck and watch his brother run around beserk in the back yard. Sighhhhh.... Report
Pets are just like children.They want attention and one way to get it is to beg for food.It is easy to keep your pet at an average weight(I have three cats and all three are more than 12 years old)if you feed them healthy pet food not people food.They will do the rest.Keep them healthy!! Report
One of my good friends has a cute little pug named Emmie - aka the "barrel." Her doc put her on a diet, but her itty pile of kibbles still gets a sprinkling of cheese every day for flavor! It is so natural to want to pamper our pets, and hard to not let them eat what they want! I also had a very fat cat. Report
My darling dog was the best inheritance left by my late mother. Mother use to take the dog for three or four short walks a day. The dog is now 14 and weighs 18 pounds down 2 pounds from her midlife. she will not eat if not hungry, always tastes my food and gets her treats nightly. But she has walked almost every day of her life. come to think of it when my Dad reach his 70's he felt he was too heavy so cut his daily portions down and lost about 20 pounds.
I am also in favour of Report
Aaawww! There should be a BarkPeople! That is so clever! I do think animals are influenced a lot by owners. Owners are the ones in charge of care, including food and exercise. People need to take responsibility for their pets just like their children. Report
I agree with poster #79; my vet has said the same thing about pet food labels. I follow his advice on how much food I should feed my cats, and it's much less than what the package says, even though I feed them a weight management formula. My cats are 7 and 9 years old, and they are at a very healthy weight. They are also both indoor only cats, but they have plenty of toys to play with, and I spend time playing with them too so they stay active. Report
I don't know how people let their dogs get overweight... I can barely afford to FEED my 2 dogs and myself! lol! I did, however, notice that when I left my 2 dogs at the doggie hotel, my smaller girl pup gained 3 lbs and my larger boy lost 2. I'm thinking they ate together.... Do all females take from their males plates or does she just get that from me?! ;-) Report
I call my 5 month Irish Setter my gym membership. We walk/jog at least 6 days a week and I have lost 15 pounds in the past 2 months. I give him most of the credit. There are two options: 1. Burn off his energy in a walk/jog or 2. Have my belongings shredded by a frustrated puppy. :) He's a great trainer! Report
I absolutely LOVE the idea of "!" I think you should give it some serious thought!

My last dog was obese when he died. He was a large breed--a German Shepherd/Collie mix, and was around 95 pounds most of his adult life. He developed hip dysplasia (common for German Shepherds) and was not able to get as much exercise as he needed. We didn't feed him a lot of treats or table scraps, but he just didn't burn the calories he did when he was young and active. The extra weight made the hips worse, the bad hips prevented him from losing the weight. It was quite the conundrum! His vet said it would be cruel to put him on a "diet," so we didn't cut back his food intake too much. We loved him and helped him as much as we could, and finally had to put him down at age 12 when the hip dysplasia got so bad he couldn't even stand to relieve himself. It was clear that we were keeping him alive for ourselves, which is selfish--and ultimately we had to give him our last act of kindness. He was 125 pounds when he died--about 30 pounds overweight. I guess we shouldn't judge overweight pets just as we shouldn't judge overweight people--many are struggling with problems we can't possibly understand just by looking at them.

I now have an active border collie who runs herself thin. She never stops! And I hope she's never forced to slow down like our beloved Sheppi did. Report
Poochie is one pound overweight and for a SHI TZU that is too much. we have cut his treats in half. and we have cut back a little on his canned food. He has never had table food . He is a housedog so the only exercise he gets is when we take him out for walks. He is very actice for a 9 year old. Report
My dog is a healthy weight, we measure his food and don't feed him a lot of food scraps. But I definitely think Sparkpeople has helped him get some more exercise. That is one of my goals, to make sure my dog has the appropriate amount of exercise as well as myself. Together we have been sticking to our daily walking routine which makes for one happy dog! Report
I own three dogz and they are all of a healthy weight. I don't give them people food, even at times they help themselves. When they are fed they often leave food in their bowls and they seem to save it for later. As for walking/excerise, they run themselves crazy in the backyard. We'll go back there and they love to chase the balls. Seems like we get tired before they do. Report
I had to put my bunny on a diet and exercise regime. He's looking svelte now! Report
My dogs wake me up every morning to take a that I am back on track we are all losing weight! Even my daughter and her friend that came over tonight said wow, Chapelle looks great...I can see her waist! Soon they will be saying that about me too :) Report
I was all excited about BarkPeople for a whole half-second.

I did email the SP help desk, and they advised that I could in fact track my pet's nutrition and exercise through the Family Tracker option. :) Report
We have 2 greyhounds who are not overweight (I've seen overweight greyhounds and it's not a pretty sight), but our cat is a little chubby. I recently changed her diet to a better quality food and she gets some good play time every day. I think she even likes it when the dogs follow after her to sort of chase her down the hall...cracks me up!

Before I got on the healthy life style myself, I learned more about quality nutrition for my animals while my own nutrition was awful!!!

We keep each other going, too. They get us out walking and we get them out walking!

My dog is on a diet right now! We adopted him about 3 weeks ago and he's about 20 pounds over weight. I take him for regular long walks, I burn about an EXTRA a day 200 calories when we go out, so I can't even imagine how many he burns. Report
My 8 year old pudgy pug has definitely benefited from multiple daily walks & close attention to what she is eating (measuring food, etc). She has lost 2 pounds over the past 2 months. That's a lot for a little dog, but my vet is very proud of both of us. My 7-month old Boston Terrier is growing up healthy! Report
I wish I could take my cat for a walk. He's 11 lbs, but I read that that's about normal for an orange male tabby. We only feed him 1/2 cup of food a day now, and it's weight control food so it should be helping some. He doesn't get much exercise though. We got him when he was 5 weeks old and he was only 1 lb! Report
I have 2 cats (both large frame cats around 12 lbs which the vet is happy with) and 1 dog. My poor Harley has had hip dysplasia since he was 6 months old (although they couldn't diagnose him with it until he was an adult) and is basically lame in his back half. The vet would like him to be around 90-95 lbs, but now that he's full-grown his chest has fully barrelled out and he's 105! Which officially makes him too big to carry around...LOL So, back to the diet we go, which probably won't help because he never eats all of his food (which is diet food), his "cookies" are his vitamin supplements in cookie form, and he doesn't get much people food. Alas, I wish there were a - I think I'll go look for a team of tubbypuppy owners...LOL Report
I almost fell for the thing, too. See, I got these 2 cats. Peaches and Stripes. They're about 12 years old. Stripes is a revved up toothpick. Long and lean, he's a heat generator. And skinny! That cat is skinny! His sister, Peaches, is, to put it quite bluntly, a bowling ball with legs. Stripes can eat like a pig, but he burns it off just existing. Peaches, not so much. So I was kinda looking for some way to help her. Ah, well. Report
Ok, I'm gullible. I was ready to head to A family joke is that when my daughter's cat lays on her side, she is the shape of Montana. I insist that my cat's eat only their daily portion of cat food. Unfortunately, my husband thinks that anything left in the pots is good for them and feeds it to them. It's hard when opinions of what they want/need clash with others in the household. Report
I have an Australian Shepard that I rescued from a shelter. When I got her she was 37 pounds over weight. She and I are losing weight together. She is the best walking partner around. Report
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