Face it, your dog is fat

The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) estimates that 55% of dog and 54% of cats in the US are obese or overweight. That makes 93 million dogs or cats that are obese or overweight. That is a staggering fact.

And it’s also really gross if you can turn that into a visual.

Fortunately, I am not the only one who feels this way.

Nestle Purina has teamed up with Jenny Craig to create “Project: Pet Slim Down” – my new favorite reality show online. In fact, my entire family is rapt.

It stars 8 overweight and obese pets -- 3 dogs and 5 cats – whose owners want them to lose weight. Why? Because they want their pets around for as long as possible, of course!

A vet and vet tech prescribes a diet and exercise regime, and the show follows each pet over a four-month period. Each pet has a weigh-in every thirty days, and the owners are also interviewed to see how the regime is working for the pet and the family.
Each pet’s 120-day journey is documented in a 6 to 7 minute clip, and it is entertaining and often amusing to see how these obese pets are able—or not --to lose weight when their owners finally focus on food amounts and motivate to exercise their pet.

A few things in particular struck me the about the show:

The first is how almost every owner had no idea how fat his or her dog really was. They all tended to think their dogs “could stand to lose a few,” or might actually be “a little” fat—but most of their dogs were really, really fat -- often obese. The dogs were panting for breath when they moved at all, and the cats -- they rarely moved.

Second, it made me think about how humans are constantly shown images of what we are “supposed” to look like, but the average dog owner has no idea that a dog is supposed to have a visible waist. And that extra “skin” that you can grab onto is actually a full-body “tire.”

Third, when the vet tech began showing one cat owner what he had to do to get his cat to burn calories – by manually placing his cat on a high spot and then forcing the cat to jump off, a dozen times every day -- I realized that getting a cat to lose weight is a, extremely tedious task.

Lastly, and there’s not surprise here, I noticed that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Pets tended to look like their owners – wink, wink. But, with that said, after the 120-days slim-down regime many of those owners were looking better too.

As you might expect, some of the pets in the Pet Slim Down excelled at the weight loss—one dropping 20% of its bodyweight. It made me giggle to see the before-and-after shot of a panting, obese pig-dog, after he turned into an agility fan.

But on the flip side, there were others, like a cat that was only able to drop a single pound. His healthy weight should have been 12 pounds, he clocked in at 20 pounds, and after 120 days of much less food and being shoved off a high platform to burn calories, he ended up at 19 pounds. The owner had worked hard, but the results just weren’t there.

So if you think your pet is just a little fat—yes, that’s you--check out Purina’s Project Pet Slim Down. (www.projectpetslimdown.com) You’ll learn a lot, probably smile, and hopefully be inspired.

Will your pet be like Fibi or Zeus?

Jennifer Quasha is a writer and most recently the co-author of "Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Dog's Life: 101 Stories about the Ages and Stages of our Canine Companions" and "Chicken Soup of the Soul: My Cat's Life: 101 Stories about the Ages and Stages of our Feline Family Members." Check out her website at www.jenniferquasha.com.