PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – We’re not the only ones packing on the pounds – our pets are overweight too.
You take them outside, you walk them, but nothing seems to be working.
Well, how about a doggie fat camp?
“My nearly 10-year-old dog, Tucker, a small female Sheltie, is overweight,” said KDKA’s money and politics editor Jon Delano.
Tucker is not alone, say veterinarians like Dr. Gus Schwabe.
“Obesity in our house pets, primarily cats and dogs, is probably one of the leading health problems we see in veterinary medicine today,” Dr. Schwabe said.
It’s a problem that affects most dogs even if their owners don’t know it.
Dr. Schwabe: “Approximately 70 percent of the dog population in the United States is overweight.”
Delano: “70 percent?”
Dr. Schwabe: “Yes, and about 30 to 40 percent are obese.”
And this can cause orthopedic and arthritic problems in dogs, even Type II diabetes and early death.
Hoping to get some insight, KDKA put Tucker in a Jeep and drove to the Pleasant Valley Animal Hospital in northern Bucks County.
Because it’s one of the state’s only advertised doggy fat farms, specializing in weight reduction.
That’s where Tucker met other dogs like Baxter and Mo, whose owner says, “She’s way too heavy.”
It’s a common complaint.
Inside, Tucker was greeted by Matt Putchat, a licensed veterinary technician and founder of the camp.
First was the obligatory weigh-in.
About 15-1/2 pounds for the dog.
“Losing a couple of pounds certainly will help not only health-wise but also some of those joint issues and some of these arthritic issues we see with these older guys,” said Putchat.
Baxter, a large, overweight beagle, has already lost nine pounds with five more to go.
Part of his therapy at Pleasant Valley involves this water tank with an underwater treadmill.
“Good boy, good job,” Putchat encourages the dog.
Water gives dogs buoyancy for an easier walk.
“You can see under the water it really encourages them to pick their legs up,” Putchat said.
Baxter’s owner, Brenda Grimm, holds a lean treat to encourage the dog forward.
But most of us don’t have access to water therapy, so Putchat has some simple home exercises for dogs like Tucker.
After first assessing the Sheltie, “There’s a little bit of a roll there but not a whole lot.”
He put a jacket on Tucker to stabilize her during the exercises, like a weight-shifting routine on a ball.
“Having her step back to the left here. Good girl. And then having her shift her weight back. Again, it doesn’t look like much, but if I do this for 5, 10 minutes, I’m going to get her muscles tired, get some fatigue there, and burn some calories,” said Putchat.
Another easy at-home exercise for your dog is walking up stairs.
And if you’re lucky to have one, a treadmill can beat that impossible walk in cold winter weather.
“On a treadmill, five to ten minutes, can get her tired, where it may take her a 25, 30 minute walk to get her tired outside,” said Putchat.
Fortunately, for Tucker and most dogs, home remedies can suffice along with better diet and no people food.
“Instead of patting the dog on the head or giving them a good rump scratch, we give them a cookie, and that’s really the worst thing we can do,” counsels Dr. Schwabe.
Whether it’s food or exercise, turns out we pet owners are both the problem and the solution.
“People would rather sit in their livings rooms and let the dogs sleep in the corner,” says the veterinarian.
Looks like more walks for Tucker and his owner!