Please permit a not-so-short history and then some of the most exciting news Healthy Pet Connect has ever had for our followers.
Spoiler alert ...mark your calendars for our big event noon Sat March 30th, 2024 in Madison, WI for our fist annual HPC Pet Rescue Celebration. This is what HPC has been building towards over our almost 3 year history and is essentially the story of how HPC came to be…
My current clinic, West Towne Veterinary Center and the clinic I owned previously Westside Family Pet Clinic and 4 Paws Swim & Fitness a pet fitness/rehab center (from 2006 to 2012) all in Madison, WI have always emphasized preventive care for pets. The Purina Lifespan study in 2002 http,s://newscenter.purina.com/LifeSpanStudy concluded dogs could live an average of 15% longer (and many other benefits) if kept at ideal weight for most of their life. Reading that study sealed my fate/future. (There is a backstory or two!) What bonded client would NOT want their pet to reach ideal weight? I firmly believed that then and still do now.
In 2003, I began a major professional pivot as a veterinarian to learn as much about nutrition as possible. I attended every nutrition related CE event I could find. Mind you this was 2 decades ago when there wasn’t online CE everywhere. I traveled to Chicago to see Dr Dottie LaFlamme & Dr Mike Lappin speak. I sought nutrition tracks at AAHA and NAVC (now VMX). I learned about BCS, MCS and scoured through countless feeding guidelines trying to make sense out of the myriad of nutrients and levels. I was invited to tour Hills, Purina & Iam's manufacturing facilities. My brother owns Real Wasabi® and I went to fancy food shows with him and quizzed endless dog food manufacturers. In short, I did my homework. I used the information and did my best to help get our referred CCL rehab patients (primarily labs & goldens) back to ideal weight hoping to prevent the contralateral joint from being affected and back to vitality.
People often categorize me as "the cat guy" check out my best buddy here!
In our 5 Dr preventive practice we saw so many overweight dogs we decided to have a weight loss contest. The first contest had only 4 contestants (all dogs) one of which was Pearl, a hurricane Katrina survivor who weighed 34 lbs (her ideal weight was 20) The client Dr Dave Brunson who was a boarded veterinary anesthesiologist at UW Madison and a good friend continually reminded me that I had used the F word (the 3 letter one) I am not sure I did, but I could have. The contest grew yearly by leaps and bounds and by 2019 had 64 contestants. That year it was about 50/50 dogs & cats but In the early days it was mostly dogs because quite frankly I was afraid to do weight management in cats (think hepatic lipidosis, finicky eating, highly bonded owners etc) I will round back to that.
We decided to donate per pound lost to rescues and offer prizes to help motivate people to join. I sought sponsors which at first were just pet foods (Hills and Purina were both very generous). Here is one of my favorite pictures when one of our contestants with their 100# of food prize which as you can see was probably lasted a while!
Pets Reducing for Rescues was born! (later renamed Fit Pets for Rescues)
We then sought other products that were health related, like pet activity monitors (HeyRex, Fitbark, Babelbark), emerging smart scales like Tailio (now Petivity) Tolleta (a facial recognition litter box scale from Japan and smart feeders Portion ProRx, SurePet and some others as well as smart web cameras from Petcube. There was even a dog bed with a built in scale that never actually got built. These were all very popular among my clients, many of whom work in tech or science in Madison many at Epic software and of course are/were highly bonded pet parents.
We promoted the products on social media especially the success that came using the feeders in multiple pet households, the scales being far more accurate than typical human bath scales and the activity monitors that helped insure our exercise Rx was carried out at least in dogs. The web cameras were pivotal in catching food stealing/sharing in multiple cat households. By auctioning off donated items, pet parent donations, sponsor $ donations and some clinic contributions were were able to donate over $25K to 3 local rescues over 11 years. We had local press with some national reach many times over the contest's 11 year history.
Oh, and what about the cats? After attending a lecture at the WVMA by Dr Deb Zoran who said just make sure you use an Rx food with protein over 40% and go slow I undertook my first cat weight challenge in 2008. Clover went from 19# to 12# and regained vitality and lived a long and healthy life and his owner was very appreciative. After that, the rescues knew we would foster severely overweight cats, and we constantly had one or more cats housed in Bugs Cat Gym, a foster & boarding area above my clinic. We would always house 2 or more cats in a shared area to simulate a multiple pet household and use pet restricted feeders (Surepet & Portion ProRx) and my staff as surrogate pet parents. We had several 20 plus pound cats from 2012 to 2019. It allowed us to further test feeders, scales and wearables which led to 3 posters and a study published a peer reviewed journal https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34672236/ all related to weight management and the use of technology. Of course you have now undoubtedly heard about Spudgie who came to us weighing 37# and now weighs 12# losing 25# over 20 months. Patches in Richmond started at 42# and is now 27.7# using our HPC platform an amazing 15#. Harley, a loveable 28# fellow just joined us last month from MCP. My staff and I have been well trained by many cats!
Then came 2020. Shortly after our FPR kickoff event in March you all know what happened. Our Gold sponsor at the time was Babelbark, an activity monitor was perfect timing as they had a pet parent app to facilitate remote data entry. We held the midpoint and grand finale using FB live and we had just finished our pilot study in 2019 so were able to use 6 foster cats (2 from each rescue) and that equipment to further collect data related to technology use. The client participation & turnouts of course were much smaller than expected as everyone was preoccupied at the time. The really interesting thing was that we had always wanted to take our contest virtually/nationally and Covid threw us into that. Coincidentally, yesterday I just saw one of our “graduates” Seeley, from that last contest we held and it made my day!
Soooo finally to let the proverbial cat out of the bag ….
We will be holding our Fit Pets for Rescues Fundraiser (1st since Covid 3 yr break) in March of this year to take our fundraiser to national/international level! The twist is now it will be powered by the HPC app/dashboard so ANY clinic and ANY rescue can participate!
The only requirement is that pets be on an HPC subscription to allow us and supervising veterinarians to watch for too rapid weight loss and correct feeding if over a BCS 8/9. This also will allow easy donations to rescues keeping track of points to win prizes etc
We will need to limit clinic participation to those that can enroll a minimum of 3 clients The clients pay all subscription costs and the veterinary dashboard is free for veterinarians the first 10 users.
This is a great way to train staff and build community Staff gets very efficient at handling weight management cases saving time while addressing the pet obesity epidemic and any local events (weigh-ins) held at clinic are a great opportunity to bond with our hardworking rescue community
We are open to sponsors that support healthier pets via validated products and tele-monitoring with veterinary supervision.
Here are some preliminary details (press release coming in next 2 to 3 weeks)
Biggest loser (more than 20% over ideal)
Iron Cats (between 10 & 20% over)
Prides (groups of 3 or more losing together)
There will be a special Enormous Boy group (Harley, Patches & Gus)
DOGS (divided into over 40# & under 40#)
Biggest Losers (more than 20% over ideal)
Iron Dogs (between 10 & 20% over)
Packs (groups of 3 losing together)
There will be more than 5K in Pet parent & participating clinic. Prizes with points award for participation and helping us enroll pets
This paw point system will be digitized in our app/dashboard for FPR 2024!
Pet parent points
Donating to a rescue of your choice ($5 increments)
Forming a pack or pride (3 cats or 3 dogs friends/family recruiting)
Buying one of our sponsors donated products
Buying products on our marketplace
1st, 2nd or 3rd place in FPR contest
Ambitious undertaking? Perhaps, as our developer has just rebuilt our prototype and there may still be some rough edges but we haven't overwhelmed Joe yet! But how can we possibly wait when our pets are STILL getting more overweight every year.(61% of cats overweight per 2022 per AOPA study) with not a single thing (Rx foods, trackers, etc) that has moved the needle? Until now!
We are 100% convinced that with our remote care solution pets can reach ideal weight and stay there even having FUN along the way and of course helping our rescues!
Thanks for reading and please reach out to us if you are interested in joining as a pet parent, participating clinic, or sponsor. We will do our best to welcome you into our HPC community and this exciting fundraiser!
BTW I still love to travel and have lots of new weight management/technology related success stories since 2020 to share. I have served on the PNA, AAVN, AAFP, AAHA & TVC boards have worked with all the major pet food companies and most technology products (oh, and Bug my adventure cat and co founders love to travel as well) so if you need a speaker or support to get a Fit Pets for Rescues event kicked off please feel free to ping us!