As we wave goodbye to January, let's take a moment to reflect on our New Year's resolutions, particularly those aimed at improving our health and wellness. This desire for a healthier lifestyle isn't just limited to humans; if our canine companions could express their goals, many would likely echo our aspirations for better health. This assumption isn't baseless—recent studies have shown that approximately 56% of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese, positioning obesity as the leading nutritional disorder among pets.

The link between the health of pets and their owners is undeniable. The adage 'you are what you eat' holds true for our pets as well. Research indicates that over 78% of dogs classified as overweight or obese have owners who could also benefit from healthier lifestyle choices.

One significant barrier to addressing pet obesity is the reluctance among many veterinarians to discuss a pet's weight issue with an owner who is also struggling with weight. This hesitation, rooted in the fear of offending the pet owner, hampers our ability to diagnose and manage obesity in dogs.

The consequences of pet obesity are severe and wide-ranging, including an increased likelihood of joint issues, heightened risk of cardiovascular and respiratory conditions, greater susceptibility to skin diseases, a potential for diabetes, and an elevated risk of certain cancers.

Addressing dog obesity is complex due to the vast diversity among dogs in terms of size, breed, age, and activity level, making it challenging to prescribe a one-size-fits-all exercise regimen or a specific number of daily "steps."

A promising tool in combating this issue is advanced activity trackers, such as the updated Fi Collar. This device not only monitors your dog's daily activity but also enables you to set and adjust daily activity goals tailored to your dog's needs. It facilitates comparisons with other dogs in the network, offering insights into what constitutes a reasonable exercise regimen for your dog based on various factors. This approach promotes accountability among pet owners and encourages the establishment of customized, attainable goals for their dogs.

While step counting is a relatively novel approach to measuring exercise efficacy, ongoing data collection and analysis from devices like the Fi Collar are invaluable in refining our understanding of optimal exercise levels for different breeds and individual dogs.

For dogs (and their owners) aiming for a healthier lifestyle, I recommend engaging in activities that promote both fun and fitness, such as 20 to 30 minutes of jogging, frisbee, or fetch at a park, coupled with two to three brisk walks daily. Dietary adjustments should be made under the guidance of a veterinarian, possibly through a gradual reduction in daily food intake or a switch to a lower-calorie diet.

Wishing you and your furry friends a year filled with health and happiness!

Dr. Jeff Werber, D.V.M.