LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) – It is an epidemic here on the South Plains that many of our four legged friends are fat. Shedding your best friend's extra pounds is a team effort.
"She's a very sweet dog," said Gail Barnes fondly of her 7-year-old Rhodesian Ridgeback Black Cur mix.
Emma's a big dog, but she's not supposed to be quite as big as she is. "She was a tiny puppy and had a traumatic childhood and in the last two years she has put on weight," said Barnes about her couch potato pup.
Barnes realized she had to do something when Emma weighed in at 135 pounds, and her ideal weight is 75 pounds. Like so many people, Barnes was 'over-treating' Emma. "When we were eating we would feed them treats. Dog biscuits in the morning and then whatever we were having they would get a snack too, but we have stopped that," added Barnes.
"The majority of people that I tell them that their pet is overweight they are shocked," said Veterinarian Dr. Jeanette Lubenau with Above and Beyond Pet Care.
The love handles and sagging stomachs are nothing new to the folks at Above and Beyond. "The biggest loser, well we got the idea because we have all of these overweight pets and we need to reward them," said Veterinary Technician Kelsey Fisher who keeps track of the losers.
Barnes immediately enrolled Emma and her cat Sam in the program. Like NBC's The Biggest Loser, the animal that sheds the most pounds wins a visit to the vet.
Dr. Lubenau and Dr. Molly Fox are trained in K-9 physical therapy. Above and Beyond just moved into a new facility and built a rehabilitation center with a swimming pool and underwater treadmill. The water workouts get the job done according to the doctors.
For some animals this technology is more than a luxury. The water takes 80 percent of the weight off of the animal's joints and all of a sudden they are able to move easier. One patient, Kia, has two busted knees and needs to drop 20 pounds before surgery and the water treadmill helps her do what she can't on solid ground – walk.
Barnes' cat Sam weighs 22.8 pounds, but needs to shed half of his body weight. "We have to be in control for ourselves and for our pets because we are making our pets overweight," says Dr. Lubenau who adds that people have the best intentions but you are killing your pet with kindness.
There are so many options when it comes to choosing what to feed your pet. Treats are good in moderation but keep in mind that Dr. Lubenau says one milk bone is the equivalent of one candy bar for people. "You would be amazed to see they are just as excited to get those low fat rewards," adds the doctor. Pressed rawhide is a good option and green beans have zero calories for dogs.
The Barnes want Emma and Sam to be healthy. While Emma still has 47 pounds to go, she's dropped 13 making her the biggest loser. With Gail's help, Emma will once again get her girlish figure back, one walk at a time.
If you think your pet may be overweight check with your veterinarian for his or her recommendations for a weight loss program.
Above and Beyond Pet Care will host an open house August 7th from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
©2010 KCBD NewsChannel 11. All rights reserved.