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December 21, 2014

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R.I.P. Meow: Examining the pet obesity epidemic

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Ben Swan

Meow may have been an extreme case, but he helped draw attention to pet obsesity in America.

News that Meow, the 39-pound orange-and-white tabby, died over the weekend probably came with little surprise, given that since arriving at a shelter in Sante Fe, New Mexico, last month, he was the poster child for animal obesity, even appearing on the Today Show as part of his brief media tour.

Animal advocates and reporters suggested that Meow’s situation draws attention to pet obesity, possibly inspiring animal owners to look at their own elephants in the room. But that could be complicated. According to Banfield Pet Hospital’s State of Pet Health 2012 report, the majority of pet owners believe, incorrectly, that their dog or cat is the proper weight. Additionally, pet owners in Nevada are possibly shoveling a little too much food into the cat or dog dish, as the report lists us as one of the worst states in the nation for pet obesity—25 cases per 100 dogs and 24 for cats.

The Banfield Applied Research and Knowledge report, known as BARK (or as I call it, Medical Education Overview Window or MEOW) compiled data from Banfield clinics last year, determining that dogs and cats are reaching “epidemic levels” of fatness. Since 2007, excess body weight has increased by 37 percent in dogs and 90 percent in cats. And the extra tonnage is associated with serious diseases: arthritis, diabetes mellitus, heart disease and hypothyroidism ... R.I.P., Meow.

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