Got a pudgy pet? Send them to fat camp

VERNONIA, Ore. - Fat camp has been revamped for pudgy pets.

Indigo Ranch in Vernonia offers a service called 'Doggie Fat Camp.' The 16-acre ranch offers cage-free boarding, along with an exercise and diet plan for overweight pooches, for either four or eight weeks.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, obesity is the fourth leading cause of canine deaths. A study shows that about half of the dogs and cats in the United States are fighting obesity. Couple an animal's love of treats with a lack of motivation and it can be difficult for them to shed pounds.

"Part of the reason is that (pet owners) are in denial that their pets are actually overweight and the second part is that they have no willpower," said Heather Hines, who runs Doggie Fat Camp.

This describes what was happening with Ozzie, a rat terrier who weighed nearly double his normal size. Rat terriers normally weigh 25 pounds, but Ozzie was 46.2 pounds. Complications from his size included low endurance, shortness of breath and joint and hip problems from supporting his large frame.

Ozzie's owner, Linda Phillips, admitted that she overfed him on treats and table scraps.

"He is this size because of us," she said. "The guilt trip and the brown eyes get me."

Fat camp will completely rework what Ozzie eats, giving him high-quality food that has lean protein and no grains. Hines will also strictly monitor when and how much Ozzie eats. She'll also ease him into a fitness regimen of one walk a day for the first week and two walks a day starting the second week.

In a few months, Ozzie should look and feel more like his old self again.

"We are looking forward to having him back at his normal weight and keeping him there," Phillips said. "We're going to keep in touch with the people at Indigo Ranch and make sure that he stays on track."

A four-week stay at Indigo Ranch's Doggie Fat Camp costs $800 plus the cost of food. An eight-week stay costs $1,600 plus the cost of food. While that might sound expensive, experts say the price can be worth it in the long-term when you consider the cost of caring for an obese animal.

If fat camp isn't a good match, there are other resources to help curb a cat or dog's calories.