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Cummings School opens animal obesity clinic

Published: Friday, September 21, 2012

Updated: Friday, September 21, 2012 02:09

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Courtesy the Cummings Foundation

The Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine early this month opened an animal obesity clinic that specializes in custom weight-loss plans for pets.

 

The Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine early this month opened the country’s first animal obesity clinic at its Henry and Lois Foster Hospital for Small Animals in North Grafton, Mass. 

Featuring three American College of Veterinary Nutrition board-certified nutritionists, the Tufts Obesity Clinic for Animals aims to help pet owners create weight loss plans and balance nutrition for their cats and dogs. 

“I think a lot of people are either not aware that their animal is overweight or of the negative health consequences of being overweight,” Lisa Freeman, professor of clinical sciences at the Cummings School, said. “This is a place that they can come to get really comprehensive care in both preventing and treating obesity.” 

The clinic has an all-inclusive $250 fee that covers an initial appointment, four to six check-ups and the Foster Hospital’s registration fee. Once a pet owner pays, he or she can contact the on-call nutritionist with questions at any time, Research Assistant Professor at Cummings Deborah Linder said.

“I just really want to get the word out that [pet] obesity is so common and that it’s harmful,” Linder said. “With so many other diseases we do our best to help them, but we can’t always provide a cure or treatment. With obesity we can really attack it from all sides.”  

Without treatment, pet obesity can lead to pancreatitis, hyperlipidemia, joint disease and skin disease, according to the Cummings School website. To prevent these diseases, Linder said she personalizes each animal’s weight loss plan, helping pet owners restrict their animal’s caloric intake with consideration to nutritional needs. 

“Diets out there marketed for weight management are all over the place in calorie content,” Linder said. “Pets could potentially gain weight while eating weight management cat or dog food.

Linder said that although society may find overweight pets cute, her clients are always satisfied with the weight loss results. 

After Foster Hospital doctors recommended that three-year-old golden retriever Richie lose weight to improve a heart condition in June, he became a pioneer patient at the clinic. 

“I was aware that he was overweight,” Lisa Baruzzi, Richie’s owner, said. “He runs constantly, so I didn’t think it was that big of an issue. I was a little surprised that he had so much to lose.” 

Baruzzi said she now weighs Richie every two weeks and feeds him $90 prescription dog food. 

“Family wise, it’s just hard on some of us because we feel bad for him,” she said. “He’ll beg, and you just feel bad about that.”

Baruzzi said Richie has lost eight pounds since he began treatment at Tufts, adding that she hopes Richie will lose ten more to achieve a goal weight of 87 pounds. In between visits to the clinic, Baruzzi said she keeps in touch with Linder about Richie’s progress. 

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