Kimberly Neiland and her dog,"Bear," are both fighting the battle of the bulge.
Bear is 30 pounds overweight, and when the vet examined the dog, he felt an extra layer of jiggle where he should have felt ribs. Meanwhile, Neiland wants to drop 50 pounds.
"I tried Weight Watchers, I was doing some online thing and was able to stick to it for about two weeks and then just kind of fell off the wagon," Neiland said.
They're not the only pet and pet owner who have edged into a heavy zone.
Over 60 percent of adult Americans are now overweight or obese, and an estimated 60 million cats and dogs in the U.S. are overweight or obese. That is 50 percent of the pet population.
To try to combat the trend, the Wellness Institute at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago and Hill's Pet Nutrition have teamed up for a new research study, a 12-month weight management program for people and their pets. The nutrition and exercise program aimed at satisfying pet owners, their heavy hounds, and their chunky cats will be run in the Chicago area, and is called People and Pets Exercising Together (PPET).
Under the program, people and their pets eat together, exercise together, and weight in together, based on the theory that the buddy system will help pets and their owners lose weight. It calls for counting calories, and having pets and their owners exercise together for 30 minutes daily.
Now Neiland and Bear, one of her twin Alaskan malamutes will work on achieving their weight loss goals as a pair.
"It will be something to entice me to get out and walk with him, and it's good for both him and myself," Neiland said.
Is Your Pet Overweight?
Many pet owners are simply unaware that their pets are packing a few too many pounds.
But for animals, even a few extra pounds can be serious. For pets, being 10 percent over ideal body weight is considered overweight, and being 20 percent over the ideal body weight is defined as the onset of obesity.
An extra five pounds on a dog that should weigh 17 pounds, or an extra three pounds on a cat that should weigh 10 pounds is similar to an extra 50 pounds on a person who should weigh 170 pounds.
Certain breeds of dogs, including Labrador Retrievers, Cairn Terriers, Cocker Spaniels, Long-haired dachshunds, Shetland Sheepdogs, Basset Hounds, Beagles and mixed-breed cats have a greater tendency to gain weight and become obese.
To find out if your pet needs to lose weight, try this three-step weight check.
Rib Check: Place both thumbs on your pet's backbone, and run your fingers along their rib cage. If you cannot easily feel their ribs with slight pressure, they are probably overweight. Profile Check: Take a look at your pet from the side. If you don't see a clearly defined abdomen, they are probably overweight. Overhead Check: Stand directly over your dog or cat while they are standing up. If they don't have a clear and defined "hourglass" figure, they are probably overweight.
The Buddy System
The PPET weight loss program is based on the concept that the buddy system is the most effective way to lose weight. The experts figure, who's a better buddy than your own pet?