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Pets, Like Humans, Struggle With Obesity

By David Wade, WBZ-TV
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Multiple award-winning journalist David Wade co-anchors WBZ-TV News at...
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BOSTON (CBS) – In a dog-eat-dog world, some dogs and cats eat too much. Jazzie is no exception. The miniature schnauzer is now 11-years-old. She has a heart condition, joint pain, and food allergies. Her weight made these conditions even worse.

“Jazzie has had a weight issue on and off throughout her life,” explains Michele Arnold of Hopkinton. With the help of veterinarians at Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, the Arnolds put Jazzie on a strict soy diet. She dropped from 18 pounds to 15 1/2.

Pet pounds, like people pounds, are a big deal. Big enough that the Tufts veterinary school in Grafton has opened the country’s first obesity clinic for animals. It’s led by Dr. Deborah Linder. “Obesity is a significant problem in dogs and cats right now with anywhere from 30-60 % of dogs and cats being overweight or obese,” says Dr. Linder.

On average: 1 extra pound on a cat is like a person putting on an extra 15 pounds. One extra pound for dogs is like 10 pounds. Research shows that dropping even a few pounds can add years to a pet’s life. Realizing there’s a problem is the first step and here’s a great guide. Just run your hands over the rib cage. In a fit animal it should feel like the back of your hand. If it feels more like the puffy part of your palm, it’s probably time for a diet.

Finding the perfect diet for any pet can be a big challenge. Pet food makers are not required to put calorie information on the label. Even when they do, it can still be confusing says Arnold. “You really need to know what’s in the product,” he says. “And I didn’t know that. There was no way for me to ever know that.”

But the quickest way to sabotage a diet: all those treats. “I would give her treats. The kids would give her treats,” confesses Arnold. And those treats add up fast, “one in the morning, a few in the afternoon, a couple at night… that could add up 20- 50 % of the diet, ” explains Dr. Linder.

The clinic costs $250. But, Jazzie feels like one million bucks which is like $7 million for dogs.

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