The Costco Connection
Costco and Costco.com offer a variety of pet
supplies, including healthful foods and treats,
supplements, flea and tick collars, and more.
By Chrystle Fiedler
WHEN BROOKLYN BURTON of Columbus, Ohio,
entered her great-uncle’s house in 2013 to help clean
up his hoarder lifestyle, the last thing she expected to
find was a dog that needed to be rescued. “I was
shocked,” says Burton. “I wasn’t even sure what kind
of dog he was supposed to be. He was such a blob, and
he had a lot of trouble walking.”
Dennis was, in fact, a miniature dachshund and,
at 56 pounds, extremely obese—over 45 pounds
overweight, due to a diet of fast food, pizza and frozen
dinners. Unfortunately, he has plenty of company.
The eighth annual National Pet Obesity Prevalence
Survey, conducted this year by the Association for
Pet Obesity Prevention, found that 58 percent of
U.S. cats and 53 percent of dogs are overweight.
“Just like people, pets often aren’t as active as
they should be [in order to] burn off the calories
that they are eating,” says Dr. Susan Nelson, clinical
associate professor at the Kansas State University
College of Veterinary Medicine and a veterinarian
in the Pet Health Center.
Part of the problem is that most owners don’t
realize their pets are overweight or even obese.
“When you see your pet every day, it’s really hard to
see the weight that they are putting on,” says Nelson.
“People are often shocked when their pets weigh in
at the vet.”
Excess weight can lead to a variety of serious
problems, from Type 2 diabetes (especially in cats)
to osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, heart prob-
lems and various forms of cancer. Specific breeds—
dachshunds, for example—are at high risk of
developing back problems. “Excess weight puts
more strain on the back, especially when running
and jumping,” says Burton’s vet, Dr. Kathleen Ham
of Ohio State University’s College of Veterinary
Medicine. “This can lead to ruptured disks.”
Start with your vet
Before you start your pet on a weight-loss program, see your vet. “It’s important that you work
with your vet to get a program that is safe and that
will work for you and your pet,” says Dr. Andrea
Fascetti, a professor of nutrition in the School of
Veterinary Medicine at the University of California,
Davis. “The plan needs to take into account the
owner’s relationship with the pet, what they like to
do together and what’s important to them.” Your vet
can also rule out underlying issues, such as hypothyroidism, that can contribute to weight gain.
Burton, a nursing student, consulted with her
vet and then switched Dennis to one-third of a cup
of dry dog food twice daily, and
he shed 10 pounds in just three
weeks. “I did a lot of research to find
out the best diet for a miniature dachs-
hund and how much they should be eating for a
healthy weight,” says Burton.
After Dennis lost over 44 pounds he needed
skin removal surgery. “He was stepping on his
belly skin and had developed painful skin
infections because the folds were trapping
moisture,” says Ham, who performed the
operation. Afterward, Dennis had phys-
ical therapy and was put on an exercise
program. “Losing weight is really a life-
style change—diet and exercise—and
[Burton] embraced all of it,” Ham adds.
A new leash on life
Making positive changes
may be difficult but it’s
worth it, especially since
research shows that
pets with a healthy
weight live longer. A
landmark 2002 study
of paired Labrador
retriever siblings, published in the Journal of the
American Veterinary Medical
Association, showed that when one
was fed normally and one was fed 25 percent less, the leaner dog lived up to two years
longer. This type of diet isn’t the norm for most
dogs, but it points to the benefits of weight loss.
The slimmer Dennis, now 6, is a new dog.
“When I first got him, he was very depressed and
unhappy, because he didn’t feel good,” says Burton.
“Now, he’s into everything. He runs and likes to
fetch the ball and plays tug-of-war, and he’s just
Ham says of his transformation, “It’s really just
a remarkable journey. Dennis shows that it’s never
too late to make positive changes if it will improve
your pet’s quality of life.” C
Chrystle Fiedler specializes in writing about health.
for your pet
; Have your vet screen and
evaluate your pet and create a
weight-loss and exercise program
that is safe and will be effective.
; Spaying and neutering can
cause weight gain, so it’s important to reevaluate your pet’s
nutritional needs afterwards.
; Be patient. Work with your
vet to tweak the weight-loss plan
; Don’t wait to start. It’s easier to maintain a pet’s healthy
weight than it is to lose pounds.
; Don’t cut out treats. You
can go low-calorie with baby carrots and air-popped popcorn and/
or just factor regular treats into a
—Dr. Andrea Fascetti