Dog obesity growing to epic proportions

February 24, 2008 9:00:00 PM PST
It's nearly an epidemic for Americans. So it's no surprise, obesity is an epidemic for our pets. Forty percent of dogs are either overweight or obese. Pets gain weight the same way we do - too much food, not enough exercise.

So, how do you stop it?

Eyewitness News reporter Kemberly Richardson has the story.

"I don't like her to be this chubby, because I know it's not good for her," Meryl Zucker said.

The "she" she's referring to is her 8-year-old Shitzu, who has a distinct waddle in her walk.

Punim, Yiddish for "face," is adorable, but is literally part of a growing trend. Experts say 40 percent of dogs that are pets are overweight or obese.

Dr. Linda Isaacson, like thousands of other vets this month, is trying to keep the scales balanced with the first ever National Canine Weight Check. You can take your dog to participating offices. To find one near you, click here

Punim clocks in at 19 pounds, which is two pounds overweight. It doesn't sound like much, but it can lead to more serious problems.

"Osteo-arthritis, breathing problems, cardiac disease, disc slipping in the neck and back," Dr. Issacson said. "And then also, it puts them at greater risk for anesthesia in surgery."

Typically, if your dog is 20 percent over his or her normal weight, experts say it's not simply about losing a few pounds. Your dog could be obese.

"You don't want to be emaciated looking, but you want them to have a nice overall body conformation score for that breed," he said.

Certain breeds, like the Schnauzer, are prone to obesity. The Maltese is not. And when it comes to proportions, experts say do not fill up your dog's bowl. Put in half, more if needed. You have to take the lead, after all, remember that your pet can't make his or her own food.