Dr. Deborah Linder of Tufts University recently opened an obesity clinic at the school’s North Grafton, Massachusetts, USA, campus to help people help their pets lose weight.
The pet obesity clinic is one of just a few to be associated with a veterinary school and staffed by specialists trained in pet obesity and other health problems. In addition to treating dog and cat patients, Linder also conducts research on pet obesity at the clinic.
The biggest challenge in addressing pet obesity, Linder says, is that most owners do not accurately assess their pet's weight. Nearly 40 percent of owners of overweight pets do not think their pet has a problem, according to research.
For most dogs, Linder says the best way to identify a weight problem is to touch around the rib cage, which should feel about as padded as the back of the owner’s hand. For cats, “if there’s a fat pad in the abdomen between the back legs, that cat is overweight,” said Dr. Kathryn E. Michel, medical director and nutrition professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.
“What really gets me is that obesity and even [having] overweight animals is completely preventable,” Linder said. “We do the best we can to help them, but it would be better to prevent.”