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ADVANCE Discourse: Lab

Next Group to Battle Obesity? Pets

Published October 23, 2012 10:00 AM by Valerie Newitt

I heard on the radio just this week that the obesity epidemic among Americans --- human Americans -- is slowing down a bit. That's great news, but perhaps in an attemp to cut our own calorie intake we've been throwing a few too many scraps to our pets. Studies and surveys now suggest that up to 70 percent of dogs and cats are obese or overweight.

It's easy to understand. Pets who share our homes often fall prey to our dietary habits and lack of exercise. To address this, the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University has created the nation's first obesity clinic geared especially for pets and overseen by a full-time, board-certified veterinary nutritionist. The clinic taps the strength of the school's three board-certified clinical nutritionists. Such experts are a rarity, since fewer than 100 veterinarians have been boarded by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition.

Although dogs and cats are not prone to coronary artery disease, being overweight can lead to complications such as diabetes, orthopedic problems and respiratory complications, as well as reduced quality of life and life expectancy, according to information provided by Cummings.

The clinic will focus on three areas: providing effective weight loss programs for pets deemed to be overweight and obese, educating people on how to prevent, identify and combat obesity within pets, and conducting state-of-the art clinical research on optimal methods for its treatment and prevention.

The clinic may offer hidden benefits, as well. 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.

posted by Valerie Newitt

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