Anna McRee examines canine obesity for Senior Study

Anna McRee, with her dog Miss Jo, is studying obesity in dogs for her Maryville College Senior Study project.

Anna McRee, with her dog Miss Jo, is studying obesity in dogs for her Maryville College Senior Study project.

‘Tis the season for “getting fit” after a month of packing on the pounds for many Americans. But what about man’s best friend?

Before sharing leftovers with the furriest member of the family, consider the research findings of Maryville College senior Anna McRee.

The Rock Hill, S.C., native has been working as a veterinary assistant since her graduation from high school, but she heard the call of veterinary medicine years before.

“I was the inquisitive kindergartner who proudly declared that I wanted to be a veterinarian,” McRee recalls. “But a simple love of creatures was not the sole driving force behind my career choice… I have a passion for life and fulfillment of purpose that has only grown in fervor as I’ve matured.”

Needless to say, focusing on a veterinary issue for her Senior Study came naturally for McRee, who is majoring in biology. She selected canine obesity after she observed this topic of growing concern at the small animal veterinary practice where she currently works.

“Little research has been conducted on this topic, and it was manageable for the year-long study,” said Dr. Drew Crain, associate professor of biology and McRee’s Senior Study advisor.

In her 54-page study, McRee evaluated the incidence of obesity at My Pet’s Animal Hospital, a small animal veterinary practice in Knoxville, and assessed the efficacy of two treatment tools: medication and dietary intervention.

Data was collected for 594 dogs to determine incidence of obesity. Four treatment groups (comprised of 134 dogs total) were evaluated to examine the effectiveness of three treatment options. One group was treated with the newly-released pharmaceutical agent dirlotapide; one was treated with a restricted-calorie diet; another was assigned a specially formulated high fiber diet; and the fourth group acted as the control, receiving no treatment.

McRee’s study presented two major findings: 67 percent of dogs at the vet clinic were overweight/obese, and both dietary changes and pharmaceutical treatment were equally effective in promoting a healthy percent of weight loss over a 30-day period in obese canines. The control group actually gained weight, illustrating that therapy is necessary to induce weight loss, she concluded.

“It was interesting to note the dynamics between people and their pets. Most didn’t realize that their dogs were overfed or obese,” observed McRee.

Crain and McRee have opted to submit the study to the journal Bios. McRee has applied to the veterinarian schools at the University of Tennessee and Auburn University.

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