Alison Sweeney Backs 'Million Pound Pledge' for Pets
Host of NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” tackles growing problem of pet obesity.
Allison Sweeney, the host of NBC’s reality show “The Biggest Loser,” is familiar with the realities and struggles of weight loss.
So it came as a surprise to her when she realized that her Boston Terrier, Winky, was several pounds overweight.
“I wanted to do something about it right away,” Sweeney told Zootoo in an e-mail.
Sweeney and her family changed up their routine: after consulting their veterinarian, they stopped feeding the 7- or 8-year old rescue table scraps, and started getting her outside more to exercise. They also changed her regular diet, and opted for Hill’s Science Diet Light food.
Within a month or so, the family’s work with Winky started to become evident. And within a year, she dropped those few pounds that were keeping her down and potentially placing her health at risk. Some health problems for overweight pets can include, but are not limited to, diabetes and heart disease – diseases overweight humans can also suffer from as a result of their weight.
But Sweeney kept up her interest in pet obesity, and for the second year in a row, is teaming up with Hill’s Science Diet in its now annual Million Pound Pledge.
The online initiative helps spread awareness and information about pet obesity, and allows pet owners to take a symbolic pledge on Hill’s Web site to monitor their pets’ health, and to take action if something looks amiss.
Some signs of obesity in dogs can include a sagging abdomen, excessive panting, and inability to feel its ribs or spine. Signs in cats can also include a sagging abdomen, matted hair on back or tail area and difficulty in seeing the cat’s waist.
“I'm hoping the Million Pound Pledge will help pet owners become more aware of their cats’ and dogs’ health and provide a solution for getting their pets healthy,” Sweeney explained.
The statistics might surprise some Americans.
About 54 percent of pets in the United States are obese, according to Ernie Ward, DVM, founder of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, comprised of veterinarians and veterinary healthcare personnel.
That equals about 93 million dogs and cats in the U.S. – and the number of overweight pets has gradually been creeping upward since 2005, when Ward first launched the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, or APOP.
“I found at the time that vets were asking very basic questions about pets and their weight, like what pet foods are better, how much exercise they should receive, how many calories they should be taking in,” explained Ward in a phone interview. “We wanted to educate both vets and pet owners about what has become today a modern crisis, and what has led us to this problem.”
APOP’s site contains lots of helpful information for interested pet owners, like the calorie content of popular dry and canned dog and cat foods, pet weight translators (to get pet owners an idea of just how big a 15-pound yorkie would be if she were a human) and the latest news on pet obesity.
But one of the main points Ward tries to stress in his writings and lectures around the country, he says, is that food does not equal love when it comes to pets.
“Interaction is love,” he said. “We misunderstand, and think that because we love our pets we have to reward them and give them food. And the way we train and teach is with food, but people have to change their ways, and if they are going to train with food for young dogs, discontinue that as soon as possible.”
Pet food has also changed over the years, Ward says, and has become increasingly caloric, with more calories crammed into a smaller package.
“But people are still feeding their pets that same cup of food, and maybe it has 100 fewer calories than it did 20 years ago, or maybe it has 20 more calories,” he said.
One of the main mistakes people make is that they don’t know how much they should be feeding their pets each day, and simply follow the guidelines on the back of the pet food bag. That can also be misguiding, Ward cautions, since pets at different stages of their lives require different amounts of food, and the pet food bags won’t note those variations. Looking instead to the APOP’s feeding guidelines, posted on their Web site, could be a better option.
Feeding pets canned food, also, could be a good way to cut calories and help control your pet’s caloric intake.
“You know that with most of the canned foods they are going to have higher protein content, that is more satisfying to both dogs and cats,” he explained.
And table scraps aren’t always inherently bad, Ward says, depending on what the owners themselves are eating.
Has your pet struggled with being overweight? How do you keep your pet’s diet on track? Tell us below!
1 year ago
Skitters has struggled with weight loss and is still overweight but she was still hungry when she ate diet food so we put her on the food she likes and it is hard to exercise her she has a collapsing trekia and so when she gets excited she has a bad cough sometimes bad enough that she won't eat or drink for days and she throws up So we just let her be happy plus no vetrnairian has really been any help to us when they suggested diet food it all had corn in it except for a few the few that didn't she was still hungry after eating.
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