There’s no denying it: Our eyes are on our waistlines this time of year. New year, new you, right?
Minnesota Valley Pet Hospital, The Paw and Pet Expo are hoping you’ll examine the waistline of other family members, too: your pets.
Unfortunately, says veterinarian Leah Renne, doggie and kitty obesity is on the rise. But the aforementioned groups are spearheading a program to do something about it: “The Biggest Loser: Pet Edition.”
“We do see so many more overweight dogs these days, and the same is true for cats,” Renne said.
During the week of Jan. 16-20, dog and cat owners will have an initial exam with a veterinarian at the pet hospital to discuss diet, treats, activity and other behaviors, and the vet will help determine a 10-week weight-loss plan. Owners will receive a packet of information, coupons to local businesses, and if a prescription food is part of the plan, the first bag will be free. “Before” pictures will be taken, too.
Weigh-ins will be conducted every two weeks. And the final weigh-ins will be held the week of March 26, preferably with the vet who initially examined each pet. “After” pictures will be taken, and a final percentage of weight loss will be calculated.
The dog and cat with the biggest percentage of weight loss will be crowned “The Biggest Loser,” and prizes will be awarded, including gift cards and baskets of treats and toys.
Because it’s not about pounds lost, but the percentage of weight lost, Chihuahuas can compete against mastiffs and any dog of any size in between. Renne’s hoping to see plenty of cats competing, too.
The entry fee for the program, which includes both exams and all the weigh-ins, is $49.
Pets do not have to be regular clients of Minnesota Valley Pet Hospital. Enrollment in the program also gives participants a 50 percent reduction in cost for The Paw exercise activities, including underwater treadmill time, half or full-day day care with supervised play, and pool time.
So, for example, Thursday Night Pool Parties are normally $10 for 90 minutes, but “Biggest Loser” dogs will be admitted for $5. Half and full-day day care, normally $12-$24, will be $6-$12. Owners also will receive a punch card, with punches awarded for using Paw services. Ten punches will earn owners a $5 gift card to The Paw or Pet Expo.
Renne said exercise is a big part of a healthy lifestyle for pets, so The Paw’s participation in the program is a big asset. Lora Bode, a veterinary technician and therapist at The Paw, hopes it will help draw attention to some of The Paw’s under-used services that can help keep pets healthy.
“It’s frustrating to see how many overweight pets walk through the door,” Bode said. “A lot of it’s about educating the owner.”
Renne’s hoping Mankato’s program will be so successful that they’ll bring it back on a regular basis. While she knows the program has an obvious cute factor, she wants to stress the importance of pets living healthier lifestyles. Extra weight can cause diabetes, heart disease and orthopedic problems, among other things. And studies have shown that pets with healthy weights live years longer.
“We’ll try to be a really good support group for them,” she said.
For more information, visit “The Biggest Loser: Pet Edition” Facebook page, which will be linked from The Paw’s website, www.thepawmankato.com.