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Obesity epidemic spreading to pet population

Tuesday, November 18, 2008 Posted by Travis Saunders

I came across a few interesting articles today that are related to the growing problem of obesity in pets. The first can be found on, and outlines the obesity epidemic in the dog population, as well as offering tips on ways that dog owners can help their pooches get back to a healthy body weight. Not surprisingly, the article suggests that reduced caloric intake and increased physical activity are effective strategies in reducing obesity in dogs, as they are in humans.

Up until today I didn't realize that the obesity epidemic extended outside of our own species, but I am wondering if this phenomenon can be explained by reports that obesity and health behaviors act as social contagions, as I discussed last week. Dogs in particular need to be walked by their owners - if their owners are inactive, I would think that it would be quite easy for the dogs to become inactive as well. Similarly, I would expect physically active owners to be more likely to ensure that their animals receive plenty of exercise as well. These idea are expanded upon here, in an article that also outlines how the move from a semi-wild life outdoors to a tame existence indoors has also influenced obesity in "companion animals".

And finally, I came across an article on which reports that a reality TV show in Britain will follow 8 of Britain's fattest pets as they attempt to lose weight in a format similar to Biggest Loser or Celebrity Fit Club. The goal of the program is to raise awareness of obesity in pets, so that owners will stop "killing their pets with kindness" by overfeeding them unhealthy human snacks. No word on whether the show will be available on this side of the Atlantic.

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We are PhD students in the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. Our research focuses on the relationships between obesity, physical activity, and health risk. This blog is our attempt to consider the many "cures" for obesity that we read about on a daily basis. Enjoy.


The opinions expressed here belong only to Peter and Travis and do not reflect the views of any organization. Any medical discussion on this page is intended to be of a general nature only. This page is not designed to give specific medical advice. If you have a medical problem you should consult your own physician for advice specific to your own situation.

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