Local News

Purina, NCSU Researchers Give Overweight Dogs New Leash on Life

Posted March 9, 2000 6:00 a.m. EST

— Obesity can lead to a variety of health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and osteoarthritis.The same is true for cats and dogs.Now, there is evidence the same weight loss techniques that work on humans can also do the trick for pets.

Swimming is Cayla's favorite form of exercise. A couple of months ago, the 5-year-old yellow lab would have tired out a lot quicker than she does now. At 127 pounds, she was fat.

"The vet told me that her weight was getting to be a problem, and that it would be a problem in the future," says owner Bernie Rearden.

Cayla was recruited for astudy on weight management by Purina Dog Food and researchers at N.C. State's Vet School.

Rearden was told to reduce Cayla's calorie intake with low-fat food and toincrease her level of activity.

"It's not just the low-fat food. You can take any food and make a pet obese," says researcher Dr. Mark Jackson. "You have to change the feeding behavior, and the behavior of the owner at the same time, and I think that's where exercise plays an important role."

The combination of diet and exercise worked for 96 percent of the dogs in the study, including Cayla.

"I had to take her twice a week to be weighed during the eight-week study, and every time we went back she had lost a little and I was like, man, this is working," Rearden says.

Cayla lost 17 pounds and like most of the dogs, gained a new "leash" on life.

"They're more active, they're happier, they go to greet them when they come home. They look forward to interacting with them, rather than just going over to the food bowl and saying, 'Can I have some more food now?'" says Jackson.

One way tolearn whether your pet is overweightis to do the simple "Rib Test." Put your thumbs over the animal's spine and feel its rib cage. If you cannot feel bony ribs, your dog could stand to lose a few pounds. You canparticipate in the study online.Ask your vet if you have any questions.