Local vets dealing with wide problem of pet obesity

by: REVIEW, TIDINGS PHOTOS: VERN UYETAKE - The scale has happy results for Button, who is assisted by Megan McCabe, her favorite veterinary assistant at Banfield Pet Hospital.

Not long ago, Button was really showing her age.

At 17 pounds, the 13-year-old shih tsu was 4 pounds overweight and had totally lost her zip, zest and get-up-and-go. Her only activities were eating and sleeping, despite the best efforts of owner Elaine Evans.

“When I took Button for a walk it was more like a drag,” Evans said.

Today, Button is the prize weight loss patient at Banfield Pet Hospital in Lake Oswego. On a recent visit she was frisking around, happy, friendly, fit (a svelte 13.6 pounds) and ready to perform extraordinary physical feats. When trying to jump up on a couch, Button missed on her first two tries, but she made it on her third attempt to the cheers of everyone gathered around.

“She’s like a puppy now!” Evans said.

What’s more, Button has a waistline again.

Button is experiencing her second puppyhood thanks to veterinarian Cheri Heppner, who put the tiny dog on a low-fat diet, and the Banfield staff and Evans. They were patient, because it is not an easy thing for a dog to lose 25 percent of its body weight, but the result was a remarkable case of canine rejuvenation.

“Button is our best one yet,” Heppner said. “We’re all excited about her.”

WCheri Heppner, veterinarian at Banfield Hospital, said Button is her star weight-loss patient. Button has gone from fat to fit and sad to happy.

hat this country needs is a lot more Buttons. Most statistics point to a disturbing trend: The problem of pet obesity is growing ever larger. In fact, it is starting to become increasingly unusual for a dog or cat not to be fat. The 2013 survey by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention showed that 53 percent of American dogs and 66 percent of cats are obese.

Some of them are really obese. The database for Banfield, which has veterinary clinics all over the nation, shows that over the last five years there has been a 37 percent increase in obese dogs and an incredible 90 percent increase in fat cats.

Everyone has seen pictures of gigantically fat cats on the front of greeting cards, National Enquirer and many others places. These cats look round and fat enough to use as bowling balls, and they are always good for a chuckle. But it is truly no laughing matter.

“Cats sometimes wake up their owners in the middle of the night to get food,” said Dr. Amy Tongue, owner of Oswego Veterinary Hospital. “Indoor cats have a trend of getting fatter, fatter and fatter. The heavier they get the less active they are.”

Tongue once had a cat brother and sister come in for treatment. The female weighed 12 pounds. The male weighed a whopping 27 pounds and was “just an obsessive eater.” But the biggest cat Tongue ever treated weighed 34 pounds.

“It was a mess,” she said.

The battle of the bulge is increasing for pets across the nation. They have a great role model in Button, a 13-year-old shih tsu. Button has been helped by veterinarian Cheri Heppner.

Chubby canines can be a mess, too. Tongue has helped several dogs lose 30 to 40 pounds.

Instead of taking photos of their fat pets and sending them to their friends, owners need to get smart like Elaine Evans. They need to put their dog or cat on a weight loss program, which can be as easy as reducing their intake of food, taking the pooch for more walks and making sure the furry creatures keep moving by chasing toys or placing food bowls in several places around the house. If they don’t, the consequences may be arthritis, diabetes and liver disease.

“People will bring their dogs in for arthritis because they can’t walk,” Tongue said. “But often weight loss alone is enough to get them walking again. These dogs don’t need arthritis medicine.”

“Pets are like people,” Heppner said. “They all need diet and exercise to lose weight.”

Heppner has some helpful hints.

“Instead of giving a dog five dog biscuits, break up a dog biscuit into five pieces,” she said. Also, “some pets love vegetable treats, like broccoli, green beans and carrots. If you give a dog a hotdog you might be giving it half of the allotment of food it needs in a day. If you keep giving a dog 130 percent of its food allotment every day you’re going to end up with a fat dog.”

The universal problem is that it is hard to say “no” to your pet. Dogs and cats find it ridiculously easy to break down their owners and get some tasty tidbits. But Heppner suggests replacing food with other things they like, such as a walk or a belly rub. A little tough love can help your pet not only be healthier but live longer.

How serious is the pet obesity problem? In England they are sending pet owners to jail if they overfeed their pets and “cause them unnecessary suffering.” It would be doubly bad if pets are not allowed to visit their owners in jail.

So owners should take some simple precautions in order to stay out of the slammer.

“Give your pets a bird’s eye view,” said Kim Van Syoc of Lake Oswego, media consultant for Banfield. “If you don’t see a waistline, you need to do something about it.”

For more about anti-pet obesity programs at Banfield Pet Hospital and Oswego Veterinary Clinic, go to or

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