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Up in the Gym, Mabel’s Working on Her Fitness

By Natalie Lester, PetSafe® Brand Marketing Specialist

I’ll be the first to admit I am a little fluffier around the edges than I should be, and my doctor may tell me I should lose the weight to feel better and become healthier. However, it isn’t really a life or death matter and the bowl of ice cream tonight won’t hurt, right? In all seriousness, there have been many recent trends for Americans to watch what we eat, work out, and live a healthier lifestyle. Yet when it comes to our pets, we don’t seem to apply these same principals to our pets and pet obesity is a real problem.

According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, an estimated 54% of pets in the United States are overweight or obese, which translates to 98 million pets. These pets face risks including Type 2 diabetes, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, many forms of cancer, heart disease, and many more. They also face a decreased life expectancy, and that is a truth no pet owner wants to face.

We recently saw an extreme obesity case in Knoxville. Mabel the beagle was relinquished by her owners to Young-Williams Animal Center at a whopping 67 pounds. The animal center cared for her for a few months, but then they took her to the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Science where she met nutritionist Dr. Angela Witzel.

“She was the fattest dog I had ever seen,” Witzel said. “After walking a mere 25 yards, she would just collapse and for the first few weeks, we had to cart her back and forth from the treatment rooms.”

Witzel has treated many dogs during her tenure at UT, but she had recently been in the market to adopt one of her own. She was thinking of adopting a greyhound, which would have been the complete opposite of Mabel. However, as any good pet owner knows, the majority of the time your pet chooses you rather than the other way around.

“She really needed me,” Witzel said. “Even though she was so big and in so much pain, her personality was so sweet. I had her home with me in a few days.”

She began exercising on PetSafe’s® Brand Vet Therapy Underwater Treadmill two times a day three days a week.

“Since she could barely move, her ability to exercise was really limited but the Underwater Treadmill removed some of her body weight so she could walk easier,” Witzel said. “And, it builds her muscles with the resistance of the water. It may be easier for her to do, but it is a more efficient form of exercise.”

When she first evaluated Mabel, Dr. Witzel had to determine what her ideal weight would be. They decided it was between 22 and 23 lbs. Then, they decided what she need calorie wise. Mabel’s prescription diet is higher in proteins and nutrients so as they cut back on calorie intake, she wouldn’t become deficient in any key nutrients. As part of her diet, Mabel was still treated to licks from the low-calorie Lickety Stik®.

“Lickety Stik is nice because it is so low calorie,” she said. “You really get that bonding experience with your pet and it doesn’t wreck their diet.”

Mabel is part of the Fat Camp at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Science. Watch the video to learn more and see a Mabel on the Underwater Treadmill. What a good patient!

Witzel said Mabel has been a great patient and pet. “She is such an easy dog to manage, and she is so polite to my cat,” Witzel said. “She loves to lick my cat’s food bowl and she will wait patiently while she eats and then lick it when the cat is done.

“When I first got her, her personality was buried and everything was a struggle. Now, she jumps, wiggles, runs, and trots,” Witzel said. “You can tell she just feels so much better than she used to.”

Mabel is well on her way to her goal weight.

What about your pet? Is he or she a little fluffy around the edges? What fitness goals could you set and achieve together?


As the PetSafe Brand Marketing Specialist, Natalie manages The Paw Print blog and generates other brand related content including public relations and promotions. Before PetSafe, Natalie worked in the local media covering politics, education, and religion. Natalie’s puppy, Emma, spends almost as much time in the office as she does.

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