Fat Cats And Other Obese Pets

New data shows that 50% of U.S. cats and dogs are overweight
New data shows that 50% of U.S. cats and dogs are overweight

For 12-year-old Buffy of Calabash, N.C., the trouble began with too much steak (and chicken and ice cream) at dinnertime. In nearby Ocean Isle Beach, six-year-old Hershey harbors a fondness for beef and cheese snacks. And 14-year-old Fridge of Longwood, Fla., gets cranky if his bowl isn't full.

The problem, according to reporter Wendy Bounds, is that owners, many who think chubby pets are kind of cute, don't know when to cut back on the treats and don't get their pets enough exercise. The upshot, she writes, is a nation of pets potentially hobbled by chronic diseases including, "diabetes, arthritis, kidney failure, high blood pressure and cancer. Research also suggests that pets fed less over their lifetime can live significantly longer."

But identifying the problem is often harder than treating it. Consider Buffy:

Charles Dolcimascolo, owner of the 12-year-old cocker spaniel Buffy, routinely fed his dog table scraps until she ballooned to 42 pounds, double normal weight for the breed. "You couldn't tell if she was a dog or a pig because she's beige," Mr. Dolcimascolo, 72, says. "She'd get depressed if I didn't feed her."

Luckily, a burgeoning fat-pet industry is coming to the rescue.

Now, new efforts are afoot to stem what many vets believe is the single most preventable health crisis facing the country's 171 million-plus dog and cat pets. They include software for doctors to track a pet's "Body Condition Score," a blood test that could quickly determine animals' body-fat percentage, Weight Watchers-type pet diet plans and doggie treadmills.

This program aired on February 22, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.

Headshot of Rachel Zimmerman

Rachel Zimmerman Reporter
Rachel Zimmerman previously reported on health and the intersection of health and business for WBUR. She is working on a memoir about rebuilding her family after her husband’s suicide. 



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