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Pet Obesity

November 1, 2013

The obesity epidemic extends to pets, but studying them could help us as well.



Pet obesity. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Labrador retrievers are prone to obesity as they age. (Pete Markham/Flickr)

House pets like dogs and cats now have obesity rates comparable to humans.  The good news is that by studying pet obesity, researchers may be able to help people too. Lisa Freeman is a professor at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. She says that pet obesity generally looks like human obesity, but there are some key differences.

LISA FREEMAN (Tufts University):

So for example, coronary artery disease is one of the really big risk factors for people that are obese. And that’s a disease that we don’t see in dogs and cats.

That’s true even though dogs and cats get other types of heart disease. Freeman notes that pets have naturally high levels of HDL, or good cholesterol, which is also known to be protective in humans. Aside from fleshing out the biology of obesity, Freeman’s team is developing coordinated diet and exercise programs for pets and their owners, to help them both maintain a healthy weight.  I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.