What our pets can teach us

Man’s best friends maybe could teach us something about obesity and a lot of other things.

There is an epidemic of pet obesity in this country. More that 50% of dogs and cats are overweight or obese. Same as their owners. In animals they use the body condition score (BCS) to measure obesity for population study purposes. The BCS is the animal version of the body mass index (BMI) used for this in human animals. The BCS is an assessment of the animal’s weight for age and weight for height ratios, and its relative proportions of muscle and fat but it is derived in a biggly different way than the human BMI. The assessment is made by eye, on the basis of amount of tissue cover between the points of the hip, over the transverse processes of the spine, the cover over the ribs and the pin bones below the tail. Each animal is graded by comparison with animals pictured on a chart. The grading may be in a score of 5 units or 8. (1)

Veterinarian Dr. Ernie Ward is a lean and mean looking guru and evangelist in the areas of pet nutrition and weight loss. He gave a special presentation at this year’s Obesity Action Coalition Conference, August 10 to 13. (2-5) He asks why do pets die so young? Obesity complications are one reason. He points out 4 mistaken beliefs about pet nutrition and obesity: – Corn is healthy for dogs. – Low or no grain diets are not healthier for dogs. – Organic pet foods are not healthier for pets. and – Diets of raw food are not healthier for dogs and cats.

He also interviewed Dr. Robert Kushner on his you tube video of the Obesity Action Coalition Conference. In 2006 Dr Kushner did a study that he says was the most fun he ever had. He investigated the effectiveness of a combined people and pets (PP) exercising together (PPET) weight loss program. Thirty-six pairs of overweight or obese people with an obese pet (PP) (all dogs) and 56 overweight or obese people without pets (PO) participated in a 1-year prospective controlled weight loss study. Everybody received dietary and physical activity counseling, and the dogs were fed a calorie-controlled prescription diet. Average weight losses at 12 months were 4.7% (PP) and 5.2% (PO) for the people and weight loss among the dogs was 15%. Time spent in physical activity increased in both groups to 3.9 (PP) and 3.5 (PO) h/wk. Two-thirds of total physical activity in the PP group was spent with the dogs.

So the dogs lost a lot of weight the people not nearly so much and the pets didn’t make for more weight loss than not. But it was more fun and maybe helped with compliance.

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John DiTraglia M.D.

John DiTraglia M.D. is a Pediatrician in Portsmouth. He can be reached by e-mail- [email protected] or phone-354-6605.