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What Not to Feed Your Pet: Vets Warn Pet Owners on National Pet Obesity Awareness Day


For Immediate Release

Calabash, North Carolina – Oct. 7, 2010 – Everyone’s heard that we humans have a little weight problem. Okay, a huge weight problem. Studies show we’re now sharing those excess pounds with our pets. On October 13, 2010, the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) will set out once again to determine how many of our furry friends are too fat.

“As a practicing veterinarian for almost twenty years, I’ve never seen this many overweight pets.” remarks Dr. Ernie Ward, founder and president of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. “We’re witnessing the super-sizing of America’s pets before our very eyes.”

All that super-sizing carries a hefty price. Veterinary Pet Insurance (VPI) claims it pays out over $14 million in weight-related claims each year. “It’s not only the cost in tens if not hundreds of millions of dollars in largely preventable medical expenses that concerns me.” reports Dr. Ward. “It’s the incalculable suffering and needless loss of life that compels me to take action against obesity. Pet obesity is by far the greatest health threat our pets face.”

APOP will conduct its fourth annual National Pet Obesity Awareness Day Study October 13, 2010 in almost 1,000 veterinary clinics nationwide. “This year we’ve teamed up with Banfield Pet Hospital, the largest group of veterinary clinics in North America, to increase the number of pets in the study. Banfield’s commitment to helping us wage the war against pet obesity is a welcome addition to our efforts.”

Last year’s study revealed 45 percent of dogs and 58 percent of cats were classified as overweight or obese by their vets. This equals almost 90 million pets at risk for developing diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney and respiratory disease and many forms of cancer.

Ward says high calorie treats are a major cause of the problem. “Many of today’s treats are so full of sugar and fat that I call them “Kibble Crack” because they can cause the same sorts of changes to brain chemistry as illicit drugs.” Ward goes further to state that pets are often fed several treats per day. “I’m not against treats; I’m against too many treats. It’s no different than eating dessert at breakfast, lunch and supper and then enjoying a few in-between meal snacks. We’ve become a nation of mega-treaters.”

In Ward’s book on pet obesity, “Chow Hounds: Why Our Dogs Are Getting Fatter,” he calculates the impact even small treats have on a dog’s weight. “If an average 20-pound dog eats a Snausages SnawsomesPeanut Butter and Apple Flavor treat, it’s the same as an average human eating half of a large Domino’s Pizza with Extra Cheese.”

Other of Ward’s “What Not to Feed” treats include:

– 1 Purina Busy Bone, size small/medium fed to a 40-pound dog is similar to an adult eating 4 McDonald’s Egg McMuffins
– 1 Milk-Bones Large Dog Biscuit fed to a 60-pound dog is the same as an adult eating 1 Snickers Bar
– 1 Pup-Peroni fed to a 10-pound dog is equal to an adult eating a Little Debbie Fudge Brownie
– 1 Premium Pig Ear fed to a 40-pound dog is no different than an adult drinking 6 12-ounce Coke Classics
– ½ hot dog wiener fed to a 20-pound dog is equivalent to an adult eating an 8-ounce choice, lean broiled T-bone steak
– ½ tablespoon Jif Creamy Peanut Butter fed to a 40-pound dog is the same as an adult eating 1 McDonald’s Sausage Patty
– 1 McDonald’s Cheeseburger eaten by a 60-pound dog is similar to an adult munching on 2 Taco Bell Taco Supremes and 1 20-ounce Coke Classic

“Because pet treats aren’t required to list calories on their labels, most pet owners aren’t aware of the dangers many treats pose. Our organization’s goal is to raise awareness about the causes and treatments for pet obesity in order to help pets and people live longer, healthier lives.”

For more information, visit www.PetObesityPrevention.org.

Contact:
Dr. Ernie Ward
DrWard@PetObesityPrevention.com
9256 Beach Drive
Calabash, NC 28469
Ph: 910-579-5550
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How Fat Is That Doggie in Your Window?

Pet Weight Translator Compares Weights of Portly Pets to Pudgy People

Calabash, North Carolina – August 2, 2010 – Vets concerned about the growing pet obesity epidemic want people to know that a 12 pound Yorkie is the same as an average female weighing 218 pounds and a 14 pound cat is equivalent to a 237 pound man. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) has created an online pet weight translator and tables of the most common breeds that compare those extra pounds on our pets in terms of love handles we can all relate to.

APOP Founder and President Dr. Ernie Ward remarks on why the group created these tools.  “As a veterinarian I’m always looking for ways to demonstrate how serious even a few extra pounds on a pet can be. These tables and calculations put pet weights in human terms, making it easier to understand. For example, if I tell a client their female Lab is 20 pounds overweight, that doesn’t sound too bad. Owners think ‘It’s a big dog.’ If I tell them it’s the same as them weighing almost 190 pounds, suddenly the light bulb goes on. ‘My dog is fat.’”

More important than light bulbs flashing, Ward hopes to educate pet lovers about the dangers of pet obesity and poor nutrition.

“Over half the nation’s dogs and cats are now overweight making obesity the leading health threat of our pets. Largely preventable diseases such as arthritis and diabetes are being seen in record numbers costing pets their life and owners millions in medical bills. The reality most of these cases could be avoided simply by preventing weight gain and shedding excess pounds.”

So what can pet owners do to fight excess weight in their pets?

“The single most valuable tool a pet owner has in the fight against obesity is a measuring cup. Most pet owners don’t measure how much they’re feeding and even fewer know how much they should be feeding.” responds Ward.

To determine how many pounds on a pet equal those on a person, the group used average heights for men and women, 5 foot 9 inches and 5 feet 4 inches, respectively. They then used the normal range of the Body Mass Index (BMI), 18.5 to 24.9. These weights were then compared to a breed’s normal weight range.

Ward explains, “Our calculations were performed in the most conservative fashion. We used the upper range of ‘normal’ weights for women (145 pounds) and men (169 pounds) as well as the upper weight range for breeds as a starting point for our pet equivalents. When our charts state a 23 pound Shih tzu is equal to a 208 pound female, you can count on it.”

One of the key barriers to pet weight loss is owner’s denial of the problem which Ward calls the ‘fat gap.’

“Many owners incorrectly believe their pet is big. The reality is very few of us are the size of an NBA or NFL professional athlete. Those guys are large. By putting their pet’s weight in terms normal people can relate to, I can more easily explain why their pet is ‘fat,’ not ‘big.’”

Click here to see the Pet-to-Human Weight Translator

Other highlights of the data include:

–          90 pound female Labrador retriever is equal to a 186 pound 5’ 4” female or 217 pound 5’ 9” male

–          Every excess pound on a female Lab is equal to 4 to 5 pounds on a 5’ 4” female or 5’ 9” male

–          15 pound average DSH/DMH/DLH cat is equal to a 218 pound 5’ 4” female or 254 pound 5’ 9” male

–          Every excess pound on an average DSH/DMH/DLH cat is equal to 14 to 15 pounds on a 5’ 4” female or 17 pounds on a 5’ 9” male

–          15 pound average DSH/DMH/DLH cat is equal to a 218 pound 5’ 4” female or 254 pound 5’ 9” male

–          105 pound male Golden retriever is equal to a 203 pound 5’ 4” female or 237 pound 5’ 9” male

–          Every excess pound on a female Golden is equal to 4 to 5 pounds on a 5’ 4” female or 5’ 9” male

–          12 pound Pomeranian is equal to a 249 pound 5’ 4” female or 290 pound 5’ 9” male

–          Every excess pound on a Pomeranian is equal to 21 to 21 pounds on a 5’ 4” female or 24 to 25 pounds on a 5’ 9” male

Contact:

Dr. Ernie Ward
DrWard@PetObesityPrevention.com
9256 Beach Drive
Calabash, NC 28469
Ph: 910-579-5550

###

Kibble Crack – Vet Exposes Sugary Secret of Pet Treats

Dr Ernie Ward exposes sugar in pet treats

Dr. Ernie Ward exposes sugar in pet treats

Click here for pdf of press release: Kibble Crack – Vet Exposes Sugary Secret of Pet Treats

(Calabash, NC – June 17, 2010)

Sugar is being added to many pet treats contributing to the growing pet obesity epidemic.

Today’s pet treats aren’t the dog bones of your childhood. Over the past decade, a surprising ingredient has begun to appear on pet treat ingredient lists: sugar.

Following the trend of sugar-laden children’s snacks, pet treat manufacturers are tapping into a dog’s sweet tooth to boost sales. “One of the key reasons I became involved with fighting pet obesity was when I began seeing sugar added to pet treats. I think if  more pet owners were aware of this, they may choose their treats more carefully.” says veterinarian Dr. Ernie Ward, founder of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) and author of “Chow Hounds: Why Our Dogs Are Getting Fatter – A Vet’s Plan to Save Their Lives” (2010 HCI). “When you have popular treats such as Snausages SnawSomes that list sugars as three of the first four ingredients, you know there’s a problem.”

And the problem is huge. APOP estimates that 45% of US dogs and 58% of cats are too heavy. That equals an estimated 89 million pets that are at high risk for developing conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure and more.

Ward says the problem is linked to money – lots of it. With US pet treat sales estimated to be nearly $2 billion in 2010, the treat bowl has turned golden. “Sugar is incredibly attractive to dogs. If a dog gobbles a treat quickly, an owner is more likely to give another – and another.  This adds up to more sales – and profits. In the race for pet treat profits, our pets’ health is being bankrupted.”

Ward also contends that added sugar has behavioral consequences. “Numerous studies in rats demonstrate that overfeeding sugar can create symptoms similar to drug addiction. A dog’s daily sweet treat may be contributing to overeating and other undesirable behaviors. This is why I call today’s high-sugar treats ‘kibble crack.’”

Dr. Ernie Ward battles Pet Obesity

Sugar is being added to pet treats

Of course, pet treat manufacturers are quick to blame pet owners for the problem. After all, dogs and cats don’t buy or give these products themselves. Ward agrees – to a point. “Pet owners definitely have a feeding disorder when it comes to their pets. Ultimately it’s up to each owner to control how much they feed their pets. What I want to bring attention to is what ingredients are in pet treats – and why. Pet owners must begin to question why there is sugar in a treat that claims to help teeth.”

Ultimately both the pet food industry and Ward have pet’s best interest at heart. “Today we have some of the best pet foods and treats we’ve ever had. For that, I am grateful. At the same time, we’re seeing some of the unhealthiest products masquerading as wholesome and nutritious. It’s time we reveal the sugary secret that is contributing to obesity in pets.”

Dr. Ward’s Dirty Dozen – Popular Sugary Pet Treats

Pet Treat Added Sugar
Canine CarryOuts Chew-lotta Dextrose first ingredient
Snausages SnawSomes! Beef and Chicken Flavor Sugars 3 of first 4 ingredients
Pedigree Jumbone Mini Snack Food for Small Dogs Sugars 2 of 3 first ingredient
Petrodex Dental Treats for Cats Dextrose second ingredient
Pedigree Jumbone Sugar third ingredient
Milk Bone Essentials Plus Oral Care Sugar third ingredient
Pup-Peroni Lean Beef Recipe Sugar third ingredient
Science Diet Simple Essentials Treats Training Adult Treats with Real Beef Sugar third ingredient
Cesar Softies Dog Treats Sugar third ingredient
Milk-Bone Chewy Chicken Drumsticks Sugar third ingredient
Meow Mix Moist Cat Treats Corn syrup fourth ingredient
Pedigree Marrobone Sugar third ingredient

Other common sugar-containing treats according to Dr. Ernie Ward:

  • Pedigree Jumbone – Sugar third ingredient
  • Beneful Snackin’ Slices – Sugar fourth ingredient
  • Pit’r Pat Fresh Breath Mint Flavored Cat Treats – Maltodextrin first ingredient
  • Three Dog Bakery Lick ‘n Crunch – Dextrose third ingredient
  • Beneful Snackin Slices – Sugar fourth ingredient
  • Busy Chewnola – Maltodextrin second ingredient
  • Exclusively Dog Vanilla Flavor Sandwich Creme Dog Cookies – Sugars first two ingredients
  • Canine Carryouts Dog Treats – Corn syrup second ingredient

For more information, visit www.PetObesityPrevention.com or www.DrErnieWard.com .

Click here for pdf of press release: Kibble Crack – Vet Exposes Sugary Secret of Pet Treats

Additional images for download:

Dr Ernie Ward Sugar Pet Treats

Interview with the Washington Post

Dr. Ward was interviewed by the Washington Post through their new Live Q&A Chat.  Here is a little snippet from that interview. Click here to view the full interview conducted April 13, 2010

Question: PEOPLE FOOD

What is your opinion of giving dogs “people food”? I often give my dog a little scrambled egg or cottage cheese mixed in with her kibble, or a small piece of apple or meat, etc., while I’m cooking. And she loves asparagus! She’s definitely not overweight – we go to the beach for a good run every other day or so (she’s a Jack Russell Terrier – it’s her “medicine”). I know what people foods could cause potential problems and don’t give her those. And it’s exclusively natural, low-fat stuff. I just like to vary her diet and keep her interested in food because like many terriers, she’s not very food-oriented. But do you think that people food could lead to obesity more easily than dog food? I am careful to limit her eggs, cottage cheese, etc., to about a tablespoon. I’m wondering, too, if as she gets older (she’s 3 now), it becomes something I should give her less and less often?

ERNIE WARD WRITES:

Sounds like you’ve intuitively adopted what I call the “Hybrid Diet” in my book, “Chow Hounds.” I advocate adding real, whole foods to a dogs’ diet. Of course, if you add “real food, ” you’ll need to adjust the amount of dog food you’re feeding to maintain the proper caloric intake. The biggest mistake most pet owners make is feeding “people foods” (I really dislike that term – food is food, especially healthy food) and continuing to feed pet food without adjusting for calories. For example, let’s say your dog needs 400 calories per day to maintain its current healthy weight. You indulge and give her some people foods that have 200 calories. You’ll need to reduce her dog food by that 200 calories.

And this is where we get into a potential nutritional problem: if the food you fed is nutritionally incomplete… [Read More...]

Founder of APOP Writes Book on Dog Obesity

CHOW HOUNDS (2010 HCI) by Dr. Ernie Ward explores the factors that have contributed to the gradual deterioration of our pets’ health over the past several decades:  the ways that veterinarians are educated and how they practice nutrition; the seduction and manipulation by major pet food companies; this country’s insatiable urge to incorporate food into all aspects of life; and the subtle shift in how today’s perception of “normal” weight has changed over the years — and how that distortion is passed down to our dogs.

Check it out here: http://www.chowhoundsbook.com/

Top Pet Fitness and Weight Loss Products of 2009

Click here to download PDF of press release

With half of America’s pets now estimated to be overweight, the demand for pet fitness products has never been greater. This year the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) is proud to announce its Top Pet Fitness and Weight Loss Products for 2009. If you’re looking to give your pet a healthy gift this holiday season, consider these innovative offerings.

Harnesses and Leashes
“One of the keys to fitness and weight loss in pets is exercise,” states Dr. Ernie Ward, Founder and President of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention and lead product researcher. “Exercise begins with a comfortable leash and harness and this year we saw several innovations in this category.”
Easy Walk Harness and Leash – ECO
Earth-friendly, no-pull walking harness for your dog. Made of 100% recycled milk cartons and all of the packaging is recycled. “This is quite simply the best and most earth-friendly exercise product we’ve run across this year,” comments Gina Toman, registered veterinary technician and one of the testers.
Come With Me Kitty Harness and Leash
“For owners of pudgy felines who think they can’t take their cat for a walk, there’s a harness for you,” says Ward. With its innovative, easy-to-use and secure design, the Come With Me Kitty Harness and Leash is a must for any overweight cat who needs exercise.
Sporn Simple Control Harness
Every dog needs a go-to, everyday harness. Some harness systems require a book of instructions and an engineering degree—not this one. “Sporn has one of the easiest and most comfortable harnesses we’ve tested. On and off in a matter of seconds, our users commented that this was the one harness they could take with them anywhere (and they did),” remarks Ward.
EzyDog Leash
It’s pretty hard to improve on the standard dog leash: handle, rope, and clip. The secret to a better leash is the handle. EzyDog has basically taken a mini water-ski handle and attached it to a dog leash that results in a surprisingly comfortable walking leash. They also added a shock-absorbing stretch material that eases the arm and shoulder strain of abrupt pulls. “Even our most stubborn puller failed to cause dreaded “hand pinch” common with traditional leashes. Walkers with arthritis or other painful hand conditions will appreciate the EzyDog’s unparalleled cushion and comfort,” comments Ward.

1. Toys


“Play is an important part of staying healthy for pets,” emphasizes Ward. “You are the best toy for your pet, although we found several impressive products that can make playtime more fun—and beneficial— for everyone.”

Dog Tornado
The Dog Tornado is the perfect solution to entertaining your dog (or cat). This interactive food game has four layers with rotating discs, and three of these layers have compartments for hiding dog snacks. When your dog rotates a layer, she reveals a hidden snack. The game can be made more or less challenging by altering the layers. “The Dog Tornado provides a workout for the brain as well as a way for improving physical coordination. I recommend hiding sliced veggies for a healthy play period,” advises Toman.

Dura Doggie Disc
“Many dogs love to play Frisbee. Trouble is, after a few outings, the disc is trashed,” muses Ward. Dura Doggie Disc is an incredibly tough, chew-resistant flying disc that doubles as a water bowl (how cool!). No more shredded palms or cut lips from frayed Frisbees.

ChuckIt! Ball Launcher
“As a guy, the thought of using anything other than my rocket arm to play fetch with seemed insulting,” laments Ward. “However, after injuring my elbow and being unable to throw for several weeks, I fell in love with my ChuckIt! Ball Launcher. In fact, my dog loved it so much that even when I resumed my mere mortal ball tossing to her, she insisted on the ChuckIt.” Men, women, and children everywhere will find their play sessions more beneficial when using this easy-to-use and inexpensive ball launcher. Men, prepare to be humbled. Dogs, prepare to be thrilled.

FroliCat BOLT Automatic Laser Toy for Cats
“We had a hard time finding an interactive exercise toy that a majority of cats liked. This laser toy comes the closest to pleasing a wide variety of kitties,” states Toman. It couldn’t be easier to use: set up, turn on, and watch the fun! The FroliCat shines a laser dot in a seemingly random pattern your cat will chase, leap, and pounce on for the 15 minute cycle. “If your cat chases the FroliCat twice a day for 15 minutes, it will be well on its way to better health,” adds Dr. Ward

Rumble Bumps
Dogs love anything that makes noise. Dogtronics has designed a line of interactive, touch-activated toys our testers found irresistible. “Our favorite noisy toy was the Rumble Bumps. The test dogs liked the fact that the toy made a variety of sounds when it was batted and chewed and their owners appreciated the silence when it was still. We found it to be a great toy to keep your puppy engaged while home alone,” shares Toman.

2. Food Bowls

“Everybody feeds their dog, so we decided to look at how food bowl selection could impact weight loss and healthy eating habits. Our findings may surprise you,” says Ward.

Brake-Fast Dog Bowl
“While this bowl was marketed as an aid to slow eating, we found another use: less feeding guilt,” states Dr. Ward. The bowl has three columns in the middle that magically make that half-cup of diet food appear larger. It also takes a dog a little longer to eat, thereby delaying any guilt. “We found it to be a great crutch for pet owners who feel the need to fill the bowl.”

Neater Feeder
Perhaps the most-used product is also the messiest. “We observed dogs that are what we term “enthusiastic eaters. These dogs tend to spill their food on the floor, leading to owners adding additional food into the bowl, thereby promoting weight gain,” explains Toman. The Neater Feeder solves most of your pet’s food and water messes with an innovative edge and drainage system. Our testers liked the different sizes and the ease of cleaning. Your floors will love the no-spill design.

3. Technology Products

“Technology common for human exercise is now becoming available for pets,” notes Ward, who is also a certified personal trainer and Ironman triathlete. “I expect even better products in the next few years that will aid in pet weight loss.”

Fitbit
“Quite simply, this product wowed everyone,” reports Ward. “While not technically a pet weight loss product, the Fitbit tracks your calories burned, steps taken, distance traveled, and sleep quality. This is important because you can accurately measure how far you’ve walked your dog and at the same time you’re getting in better shape.” The tiny Fitbit uses the same type of controller used in Nintendo’s Wii system and fits easily into a pocket or on a belt or waistband. Your data is wirelessly transmitted to your computer where you can view your exercise and sleep patterns. For less than a hundred bucks, this is one weight loss tool every pet owner should have.

The Beacon by Ruff Wear Dog Safety Light
“We liked this product because it was small, easy-to-use, inexpensive, and a life-saving idea,” says Toman. During the cooler months, we’re often forced to walk our dogs when it’s dark outside. Everyone’s key concern is visibility. Ruff Wear has created a tiny LED light that can be seen up to a half mile away. “Testers liked the three settings, continuous, slow, and fast flash, and that it was easy to clip on or off using the split ring or built-in clip.”

DogTread by PetZen Doggie Treadmill
For the dog that has everything—except a good daily walk—you can’t beat a treadmill. “With straightforward controls and quiet operation, the DogTread from PetZen is one of our favorite dog treadmills,” reports Ward. For busy people or individuals with physical limitations, a dog treadmill is an excellent alternative to outdoor walking.
Other Products

Liver Biscotti
“Dog owners always ask me what the best treat is for pets. Crunchy vegetables are my favorite,” answers Ward. For owners desiring a commercial dog treat, it’s hard to find a tasty dog treat with less than 1 calorie per piece, but somehow Liver Biscotti has done just that. “Dog owners need to remember it’s not the size of the reward that matters to dogs; getting a reward is what’s important,”advises Ward.

The Port-A-Poo Poop Bag Holder
“Walking your dog is fun; handling your dog’s unexpected bathroom run is not,” muses Dr. Ward. Fortunately, there’s an easier way to pick up where your dog left off, the Port-A-Poo. With two sizes to fit either on a standard or retractable leash, the Port-A-Poo is a hands-off solution to one of life’s messier problems.

DOOG Walkie Belts
“Ok, we were skeptical when we first saw this dog walking belt (for people) from Down Under. I mean, do you really need it? Was this an Aussie gag?” jokes Ward. “However, after just a few strolls, we couldn’t walk our dog without it.” Its two quick-dispenser pockets for poop bags and hand wipes were enough but the Walkie also holds an mp3 player, cell phone, treats, wallet, keys and other small essentials. “The ability to stylishly hold all our stuff without dragging our walking shorts down was worth the price alone,” adds Ward. They also come in matching dog collar styles for all you fashionistas.

VizVest Safety Vest for Dogs
Sure, we know there are tons of dog reflective vests available. This one caught our eye because it easily adjusted to a variety of dog shapes, stayed in place, was lightweight enough for year-round wear, and inexpensive. We also liked the fact that there was an opening on the top that allowed the use of certain walking harnesses. It’s true your dog may look like a road-side worker but because the VizVest uses the same materials used in human safety vests , it just may save both your lives.
All products mentioned are trademarks of their respective owners.

About this Report and Product Selection
None of the products tested and selected were obtained free of charge nor did APOP inform the product manufacturers that their product was being considered. Further, the manufacturers did not contact APOP or product testers during the evaluation process. The manufacturers were notified of their selection only after the final report was complete. Products were rated on innovation, practicality, availability, cost/benefit, durability, ease of use, and pet/owner acceptance.

Click here for PDF download with pictures of products: APOP_Top_Pet_Fitness_and_Weight_Loss_Products_2009_Press_Release

Over Half Nation’s Pets Overweight

“Pudgy pooches and fat cats are now the norm.” states Dr. Ernie Ward, founder and President of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP). “This is the first generation of pets that will not live as long as their parents. Even worse, the majority of today’s overweight pets will endure painful and expensive medical conditions – all of which can be avoided.”

To raise awareness about the dangers of pet obesity, APOP (PetObesityPrevention.com) will hold its third annual National Pet Obesity Awareness Day Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2009. On this day, hundreds of veterinarians will gather data on the waistlines of our nation’s pets. Pet owners may log onto the group’s website and answer questions and report their pet’s size and weight.

“This year APOP has partnered with the Student American Veterinary Medical Association (SAVMA) to heighten the discussion of pet obesity at the nation’s veterinary medical schools. Too often veterinarians aren’t taught how to prevent obesity – only to treat the consequences.” comments Ward.

“We’re excited to be working with APOP on this year’s Student AVMA’s One Health Challenge theme of Obesity Awareness – both for pets and people. This is a serious issue and veterinary and human medical school students need and want to know more than just ‘go on a diet.’” states Ryan Colburn of Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and Student AVMA Global and Public Health Officer, ad hoc.
Currently APOP estimates 50% of dogs and cats in the United States are overweight or obese (84 million). 44% of our canine companions are overweight or obese (33 million) and a staggering 57% of our cats are too heavy (51 million).

“This epidemic is needlessly costing pet owners tens of millions of dollars in unnecessary medical bills, not to mention the crippling arthritis, challenges of diabetes, and increased risk of cancer these pets endure.” says Ward. “We’re loving our pets to an early – and painful – death.”

The biggest cause of the pet obesity epidemic? “Carbs. Today’s pets consume high carbohydrate and sugar treats and foods that create changes in their brain chemistry, causing them to crave these foods even more. I call it ‘kibble crack’ because we’re literally creating an addiction to these high-calorie carbohydrate foods.” replies Ward.
What’s the cure? “Everyone wants a magic pill for losing weight when the safest, cheapest and easiest cure already exists: eat less, eat healthier and exercise. Put down the biscuit and pick up a carrot; instead of feeding your cat a carbohydrate-based diet, look for a high-protein alternative. Take your dog for a walk each day. Small steps go a long way toward big weight losses.”

Ward, who is also a certified personal trainer, USA Triathlon-accredited coach and Ironman athlete, offers this weight loss advice for pet owners. “Your best workout buddy is your dog. They never give excuses; any chance to get outside is a good one for a dog. Dogs and people are a perfect match in terms of aerobic abilities, dietary needs and emotions. If you’re having a bad day, take your dog for a walk or jog. I may feel lousy at the beginning of a run with my dog, but I’ve never ended a run that way.”

Health Risks associated with Obesity in Pets

  1. Osteoarthritis
  2. High blood pressure
  3. Type 2 diabetes (cats)
  4. Insulin resistance (dogs)
  5. Kidney disease
  6. Cancer
  7. High cholesterol
  8. Respiratory disease
  9. Skin disease
  10. Increased surgical complications

Washington Post webchat on Pet Obesity

Overweight pets increase their risk of heart disease, osteoarthritis, several types of cancer and a host of other illnesses. Dr. Ward took live questions in this webchat hosted by the Washington Post.  more>

Pet Obesity Expands in US

Nationwide study finds half of dogs and cats now overweight or obese, an increase from 2007.

In the US, over 44% of dogs and 57% of cats are now estimated to be overweight or obese according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP). The second annual National Pet Obesity Day Study conducted in October, 2008, found that from 2007 to 2008, the number of overweight dogs and cats increased by 1% and 4%, respectively.

“Pet obesity continues to emerge as a leading cause of preventable disease and death in dogs and cats. Our pets are in real danger of not living as long as previous generations and developing serious and costly diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, and other largely avoidable conditions,” states lead researcher Dr. Ernie Ward.

Obesity rates in cats were highest at 17.8%; dogs were slightly better with 9.6% classified as obese. Approximately 39.6% of all cats and 34.7% of dogs were classified as overweight by a veterinary healthcare provider.

According to the study, 7.2 million dogs are estimated to be obese and 26 million overweight. The number in cats is higher, with 15.7 million estimated to be obese and 35 million overweight.

“These numbers, 33 million dogs and 51 million cats that are overweight, represent a huge problem for everyone. Excess weight causes or contributes to many painful and debilitating conditions. Just as we’ve become a nation of couch potatoes, our pets have become a nation of lap potatoes—and that’s not good for anyone,” replies Dr. Ward.
Older animals had a higher incidence of being overweight; 52.1% of dogs and 55% of cats over age seven were found to be overweight or obese.

“This is a particularly concerning discovery for veterinarians. Extra pounds in older pets amplify any pre-existing conditions and complicate treatment. We’re seeing more and more diabetes, respiratory, and arthritic conditions in older pets as a direct result of obesity. These are often chronic, incurable, and generally preventable diseases. Pet owners need to understand that a few extra pounds on a dog or cat is similar to a person being 30 to 50 pounds overweight,” says Dr. Ward.

Pet owners with heavy pets accurately reported their pet’s weight status when asked by veterinary healthcare providers; 71.5% of owners with overweight or obese cats identified their cat as overweight or obese, and 60% of dog owners agreed with their veterinarian’s assessment of their dog’s weight.

“This tells me pet owners know their pet is too heavy. It’s up to veterinarians to help pet lovers get their pet back to a healthy weight,” responds Dr. Ward.

Smaller breeds of dogs had more trouble with their weight than larger breeds. Breeds such as Dachshunds, Chihuahuas, and Yorkshire terriers were more likely to be classified as overweight than Labrador retrievers, Golden retrievers, or German shepherds.

“Smaller, indoor-only dogs tend to have more trouble maintaining a healthy weight because they don’t get adequate exercise. Unfortunately, these are also the dogs we’re seeing a high number of weight-related disorders in,” says Ward.

The second National Pet Obesity Awareness Day study was conducted using data collected by 95 US veterinary clinics in October, 2008. In all, 669 dogs aged 1 to 16 and 202 cats aged 1 to 19 were evaluated. Approximately 10% of dogs were classified as obese and 35% as overweight. Approximately 18% of all cats were rated as obese and 40% as overweight.

New Data Suggests Pet Obesity is on the Rise

A new nationwide study indicates that pet obesity continues to expand. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), almost half of the nation’s dogs and cats are now overweight or obese. The group conducted the National Pet Obesity Awareness Day study in October 2007 and found 43% of all dogs and 53% of all cats were classified as overweight or obese by a veterinary healthcare provider; 10% of all dogs and 19% of all cats were classified as obese.

“The startling fact was the number of obese cats,” comments the study’s lead investigator and founder of APOP, Dr. Ernie Ward. “We knew from a pilot study completed in early 2007 that obese cats were the fastest growing segment. It is alarming that almost one-in-five US cats is now clinically obese. This means we will continue to see an increase in cases of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and other weight-related diseases.”

The study also looked into pet owners’ assessment of their dog’s or cat’s weight. “We found that the majority of pet owners understand that their pet is too heavy,” notes Dr. Ward. In fact, 53% of dog owners with overweight or obese canines classified their dog correctly and 66% of cat owners with flabby felines stated that their cat was overweight or obese. “As we questioned pet owners further, we discovered that many of them had never been told that their dog or cat needed to shed a few pounds. I believe that in order to win the war on obesity it must begin with bilateral communication: pet owners need to ask if their pet is too heavy and veterinarians need to tell owners when a pet is overweight.”

According to APOP estimates, this study indicates that as many as 32 million dogs and 46 million cats in the US are overweight or obese. Almost 8 million dogs and 17 million cats are thought to be obese.

“Carrying a little extra weight isn’t a stable condition that’s simply annoying or unsightly. Fat is biologically active tissue and an excess amount negatively impacts almost every body system,” states Dr. Ward. “We’re in real danger of raising an entire generation of pets that will live a shorter life expectancy than the dogs and cats we enjoyed as children.”
The nationwide study was conducted in 98 small animal veterinary clinics and included 704 dogs and 283 cats.

A new nationwide study indicates that pet obesity continues to expand. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), almost half of the nation’s dogs and cats are now overweight or obese. The group conducted the National Pet Obesity Awareness Day study in October 2007 and found 43% of all dogs and 53% of all cats were classified as overweight or obese by a veterinary healthcare provider; 10% of all dogs and 19% of all cats were classified as obese.“The startling fact was the number of obese cats,” comments the study’s lead investigator and founder of APOP, Dr. Ernie Ward. “We knew from a pilot study completed in early 2007 that obese cats were the fastest growing segment. It is alarming that almost one-in-five US cats is now clinically obese. This means we will continue to see an increase in cases of type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and other weight-related diseases.”

The study also looked into pet owners’ assessment of their dog’s or cat’s weight. “We found that the majority of pet owners understand that their pet is too heavy,” notes Dr. Ward. In fact, 53% of dog owners with overweight or obese canines classified their dog correctly and 66% of cat owners with flabby felines stated that their cat was overweight or obese. “As we questioned pet owners further, we discovered that many of them had never been told that their dog or cat needed to shed a few pounds. I believe that in order to win the war on obesity it must begin with bilateral communication: pet owners need to ask if their pet is too heavy and veterinarians need to tell owners when a pet is overweight.”

According to APOP estimates, this study indicates that as many as 32 million dogs and 46 million cats in the US are overweight or obese. Almost 8 million dogs and 17 million cats are thought to be obese.“Carrying a little extra weight isn’t a stable condition that’s simply annoying or unsightly. Fat is biologically active tissue and an excess amount negatively impacts almost every body system,” states Dr. Ward. “We’re in real danger of raising an entire generation of pets that will live a shorter life expectancy than the dogs and cats we enjoyed as children.”The nationwide study was conducted in 98 small animal veterinary clinics and included 704 dogs and 283 cats.