The American waistline isn't the only thing that's got a growing problem. Our pets are packing it on as well — studies suggest that up to 60 percent of dogs and cats are obese or overweight. Comparatively speaking, they're in worse shape than we are; according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 35 percent of human Americans are obese.
To address this weighty problem, the nation's first obesity clinic geared especially for our animal companions has opened its door.
Created by the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, The Tufts' Veterinary Obesity Clinic will tap the strengths of the Cummings School's nutrition service, a 15-year-old clinical, teaching and research service located at its Grafton, Mass., Foster Hospital for Small Animals — one of the nation's busiest teaching hospitals.
Obesity can be a complicated topic for pet owners, the Cummings School says. Although dogs and cats are not prone to coronary artery disease — a leading killer of humans and a common side effect of human obesity — being overweight can lead to complications such as diabetes, orthopedic problems and respiratory complications, as well as reduced quality of life and life expectancy.
The clinic, which aims to see more than 600 clients per year by 2015, will focus on three areas: providing effective weight-loss programs for pets deemed overweight or obese, especially hard-to-manage cases and pets with multiple medical conditions; educating veterinary professionals and the public on how to prevent, identify and combat pet obesity; and conducting state-of-the art clinical research regarding optimal methods for pet obesity treatment and prevention.
The clinic will have three board-certified clinical nutritionists on staff under the supervision of Deborah E. Linder, a graduate of the Cummings School’s Doctor of Veterinary Medicine program and its two-year residency in clinical nutrition.
"By employing sound, research-proven methods, Tufts’ Veterinary Obesity Clinic will help owners achieve safe and effective weight loss for their pets," said Linder. "While the common perception leans toward overweight pets being happy, research has proven otherwise, and we hope to effect change in the obesity epidemic among companion animals."
The clinic may also provide some collateral benefits for the national girth. A 2006 study conducted at Northwestern Memorial Hospital's Wellness Institute suggested that overweight pets can encourage overweight people to exercise with them and lose weight simultaneously.