- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 27, 2007

Human hysteria over obesity is nothing compared to dog hysteria over obesity. Fat dogs around the world are discreetly asking one another, “Hey, does this collar make my tail look big?”

Dogs are wondering which has more calories: Master’s turkey sandwich, eaten while Master is busy looking for the TV remote, a garbage-can foraging expedition or, perhaps, something unthinkable, such as the cat’s food.

Master, himself, must ponder the sizable selection of diet kibbles in the dog-food aisle, which promises that fat Fido can get into a size 2 by summer and feel confident when encountering svelte breeds such as salukis or whippets. The American Kennel Club, in fact, should consider adding a Fat Class to its national competition just to liven things up in Madison Square Garden next time.

“Attention ladies and gentlemen. Now entering the arena, it’s Grand Champion T-Bone Tubby Rotundo Ralph of Sirloin Farm, winner of this year’s Fat Class.”

Imagine. T-bone Tubby Rotundo Ralph could waddle around the ring and then get a big endorsement deal with Purina.

Of course, veterinarians cringe over fat dogs, for fat dogs are evidence that the human-dog relationship is seriously awry. Humans think dogs are human and therefore must wear clothes, send greeting cards, use deodorant, attend parties, get married, sleep in beds, take Prozac and eat junk food.

The dogs, being dogs, are agreeable with the whole idea. The vets, being vets, estimate that up to 45 percent of our canines are overweight.

And the Food and Drug Administration, being the Food and Drug Administration, has just approved Slentrol, the world’s first “obesity-management drug for dogs,” manufactured by Pfizer, famous in a parallel universe for making Viagra.

Soon, Master may be out on the front lawn screaming, “Bowser. You bad dog. Now come over here and take your Slentrol.”

Logic might dictate a snappier name for the potion. Woofaslim, perhaps. Snoutabout might resonate with the dog-owning public. But Slentrol it is — to be available in April as a pill or elixir and cost that earnest owner about $2 a day. But hey, it’s all about that human-dog relationship.

“In our culture, we often equate food with love,” says Claudia Kirk, a veterinarian at the University of Tennessee who also notes that life has become so complicated that many of us can’t get it together to take the dog out for a walk.

If fat pills for dogs are a reality, could dog girdles be just around the corner?

Yes, of course — the Pooch-a-Smooth from Maidenform, guaranteed to make even the plumpest poodle feel just like a pup again. And naturally, a poodle in a Pooch-a-Smooth needs a robotic dog-walking device for those afternoons when Master is not inclined to wander around the neighborhood, little plastic bag at the ready.

Dogs are not alone in their corpulence, however. There is the phenomenon of fat cats, brought home just last week in Portland, Ore., when a 22-pound cat got caught in a neighbor’s doggy door while trying to sneak in for a snack.

Hercules — a baleful, tubby tabby — had a head “the size of basketball,” according to one Jadwiga Drozdek, who found the cat wedged in an entrance normally reserved for a diminutive dog.

The kindly Miss Drozdek freed Hercules, offered him a generous feed out on the patio and called the Oregon Humane Society, which eventually returned Hercules to his worried owner.

The media was alerted. Hercules became known locally as the “cat burglar,” his story paired with much information about “feline obesity.”

But Hercules is somewhat of a pipsqueak compared to fat cats elsewhere. Guinness stopped taking applications for the title of fattest cat on the planet in 1998 in fear that the clueless among us would force-feed Mittens and Bootsy to make the grade. Fat cats still stalk Earth nonetheless.

There is a Russian cat named Katy Koshka who weighs 50 pounds and has a 28-inch waistline. “Orange Thing,” an American kitty from Minnesota, tips the scales at 40 pounds.

But it doesn’t stop there. Several pet industry sources say that our aquarium fish, gerbils, guinea pigs and rabbits are overweight. Both the National Cockatiel Society and Bird Times, an industry publication, report that “avian obesity” is on the rise.

There’s no word yet from any lizard or hermit-crab groups on the state of their respective creatures, though the California-based Veterinary Pet Insurance Co., one of the nation’s largest health-insurance providers for pets, estimates that overall, 40 percent of our pets are just too fat.

“As Americans continue to adopt a more sedentary and pampered lifestyle, so will our pets,” says spokeswoman Aine McCarthy. “As Americans’ waistlines continue to grow, so do their pooches’ paunches.”

She has advice for fat pets, which may seem strangely familiar to every human who ever went on a diet: less food, more exercise. Humans who think their pets are human should be comfortable with that.

Jennifer Harper covers media, politics and kibbles for The Washington Times national desk. Reach her at jharper@washington times.com or 202/636-3085.

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