The canine obesity epidemic can be tamed (and the answer is not in weight loss diets)

This weekend we participated in the inaugural PETCO Walk/Run/Wag 5K9 event in San Diego. With well over 1000 participants it was an unequivocal success for many reasons. Two of these are:

  1. Greg Welch used the words Furminator, woof, and Alsatian in the same sentence without missing a beat
  2. We gained more evidence that fit people have skinny dogs and the canine obesity epidemic can be tamed.
  3. The Poop Patrol did their thing and the organization of the event was unbelievable.

Although the debates will rage which is most significant, for now, we will discuss the fact that the dogs at the Walk/Run/Wag event were entirely unrepresentative of the larger dog population in San Diego. With a few exceptions, these dogs were fit. The canine obesity epidemic was no where to be found. Even the bulldogs were fit1 and not the run of the mill overweight porker that you see running around dog beach.

The question is why? Although correlation does not equal causation2, it seems to us that the only thing that all of these dogs have in common is the fact that their owners, for whatever reason, wanted to get off their bum and go run around for a few hours on Saturday morning. Fitness, to some degree is important to these pet owners. Our bet is that this is reflected in the way they feed and exercise their dogs.  We concede that this observation is neither groundbreaking nor interesting. The implications of this observation, however, are interesting.

landyRemember, veterinarians are reluctant to discuss pet obesity with pet owners. It is a taboo topic that is riddled with landmines. Rather than addressing the “real issue” veterinarians often prescribe weight loss diets. In our experience, even though these diets should work (and they do work well when used properly) in real life they do not work as planned.  Dogs on weight loss diets often stay fat. The reason is not the diet it is the pet owner.

As we have noted time and time again, and as the PETCO walk/run/wag has shown us this weekend, fit people have fit dogs. Perhaps veterinarians, rather than prescribing a weight loss diet, should be prescribing a fitness program for the pet owners.  Talk about land mines….


1. well…at least a fit as a bulldog can get
2. Remember you are reading a blog post and not Scientific American


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