Does Your Pet Need to Go to Fat Camp?

How Pet Fat Camp Works

In order to glean a better idea of what weight-loss camps really look like for dogs and cats, we checked out two reputable programs.

Dog Fat Camp at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, Knoxville, Tenn.

Length of camp: 2 to 4 weeks

Does the dog stay overnight? Yes
Can owners visit? Yes

Cost: $650 to $1,000
What to expect: “The camp includes an exam and consultation by a board-certified veterinary nutritionist and a board-certified veterinary sports medicine and rehabilitation specialist,” says Dr. Angela Witzel, DVM, assistant clinical professor of nutrition at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine. The dogs also get full room and board, multiple walks, a personalized nutrition plan and 10 underwater treadmill sessions (depending on physical ability). Fat Cat Boot Camp at Cats Exclusive Veterinary Center, Shoreline, Wash.

Length of camp: 16 weeks

Does the cat stay overnight? No
Cost: $95

What to expect: "Our goal in creating the camp was to educate owners on the benefits of a safe weight-loss program for cats, and to provide a framework that encourages them to help their pets achieve a healthy weight," says camp director Dr. Sarah Brandon, DVM. A Cats Exclusive veterinarian performs an initial consultation to determine the obese feline’s health status, as well as plan a healthy and effective weight-loss program. Owners then receive support from the staff via follow-up calls and monthly pet weigh-ins. At 12 weeks, there's another consultation with the vet to either determine a long-term maintenance plan or adjust the current plan if weight-loss goals haven’t been met — before the final weigh-in at 16 weeks.

Finding a Camp in Your Area

The APOP is currently working on a credentialing process to help owners find safe and reliable pet weight-loss camps. Until then, Dr. Ward suggests that owners do a thorough investigation before signing up their pet with a program. “Find out what type of training and credentials the program has, and make sure they work with a veterinarian,” he says. The best way to find a credible camp in your area: Ask your own veterinarian for recommendations.

And remember that keeping your pet trim and healthy starts at home. “Every time you reach for a goodie, stop and ask yourself, ‘Can I throw the ball, pick up the leash or scratch him behind the ears instead?’ ” says Dr. Ward. “Pets crave interaction and affection — not treats.”

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