Dolvett Quince was well aware of America's obesity problem. After all, he's one of the trainers on NBC's weight loss reality show, "The Biggest Loser." But, until recently, he had no idea that America's bad eating habits were trickling down to its pets.
Quince, an animal lover, is on a campaign to raise awareness about pet obesity, and in doing so he hopes he'll get Americans — and their pets — on the road to fitness.
He is working with Banfield Pet Hospital, the largest privately held pet hospital, with more than 800 clinics nationwide, to encourage pet owners to get more exercise for their pets and specifically to work out with their dogs. You'll find workout ideas at http://www.Banfield.com/Fitness. A recent Banfield survey found that 37% of the dogs they treat are overweight, and a whopping 90% of cats are too fat.
"We need to reverse this trend among ourselves but also among our pets," Quince said. He said "ourselves" with a straight face, even as he wore a skin-tight, fire-engine-red sleeveless top that strained to contain his chiseled shoulders.
Were you surprised by the statistics about pet obesity?
I was shocked. Just, jaw dropped. These are alarming numbers. It just goes to show our habits are becoming our pets' habits, and that has to stop. I wanted to get involved. I don't want to leave a stone unturned [in the battle against obesity]. Whether you've got four legs or two legs, guess what? You are going to get in shape.
You say the answer to this is working out your pet and working out with your pet. What does that look like?
Take your dog to the local park, maybe your local school, and look for some stairs to [run up and down]. Do shuttle runs in the park. Walk with your dog. Jog with your dog. Just get outside and do something with your dog.
This looks like a furry, four-legged trick to make exercise fun.
Yes! I'm just using the pet as a catalyst. At the end of the day, it's part of the family, right? The whole family should be moving, the whole family should be active. However you do it, I'm just happy if you and your family are in motion. Take your pet outside, bond with your pet outside. You had an opportunity to get up and get out of the house to go to work or school, now your dog wants to go out. Do the same for your pet.
What about cats? You can't make a cat do anything.
Cats are natural hunters. Take a toy, throw it down the hall and watch them go. And then do it again and again. It's better than you and the cat just slouching around and your cat looking outside the window.
How should pet owners get started, especially if both pet owner and pet are couch potatoes?
Talk to your vet. Ask him or her: 'My dog is this weight. Is that normal?' Find out: What is the right portion size for my pet? Am I feeding my pet the right food? What is the best exercise for my pet given the shape he's in? Just like people, your animal can get arthritis. Your animal can get diabetes. If you truly love your pet, you'll do your best to take care of him. And you'll take care of yourself, so you can be in the best possible shape to take good care of him.
[Other important safety tips for your pet: Make sure your pet has access to plenty of fresh drinking water during and after a workout. Be especially aware of the sun and heat during workouts, as animals can easily overheat. If you drive to a location for a workout, never leave your pet in a hot car.]