Veterinarian Silje Hvarnes sounds the alarm for Norwegian dogs

Veterinarian Silje Hvarnes sounds the alarm for Norwegian dogs

Overweight and obesity are not only a rapidly increasing health problem among humans – many four-legged animals are also overweight.

– Dog owners don't think about the fact that a couple of slices of cheese would have been equivalent to a hamburger for a human, vet Silje Hvarnes tells Dogbladet.

- What's wrong people?

– What's wrong people?

Already in 2019, Aftenposten Inside wrote about the problem. At the time, NMBU College of Veterinary Medicine Associate Professor Nicole Frost Nyqvist said studies in Denmark estimated that about 40 percent of dogs were overweight. 4-5 percent were considered obese.

There is reason to assume that the figures are similar in Norway. In this country, there are approximately 560,000 – that's more than 200,000 dogs struggling with obesity as a result of unhealthy lifestyles.

It causes serious health problems and shortens the lifespan of dogs.

Veterinarian Silje Hvarnes has seen it often at the animal clinic where she works.

Now she's sounding the “fat alarm.”

– Many fat dogs

– As a veterinarian I feel that we have too many fat dogs in Norway, says Hvarnes.

– We often feel sorry for our dog as we sit back and enjoy it, but it's easy to forget that a grilled sausage for a small dog is like six Pepe's pizzas for a human.

– or if I give my 7kg dog a couple of slices of cheese… it's like having a hamburger, Hvarnes further explains, adding that a chew from the store is the equivalent of a small Snickers. Chocolate for humans.

- Got a lot of reactions

– Got a lot of reactions

That's exactly what the vet wants to help two- and four-legged friends with in a new TV show.

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Many people know the cheerful girl from TV shows like “Viltirlegen” and “The Farm”, which she won in 2008.

Now she helps fat dogs get back into shape.

This summer, filming already begins as soon as participants book.

What the program is called is currently a secret, but Hvarnes explains the following:

– It's a dieting program for dogs – or, I don't like to use the word dieting, it's very negatively charged and can scare people away. “It's a little cruel to ask that you have to lose weight,” Hvarnes says with a laugh.

She goes on to note with interest how obesity is often found in dogs that come to the animal hospital for things like vaccinations or dental cleanings.

However, obesity is a very sensitive issue – and she feels many dog ​​owners don't want to hear a word about it.

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– Many dog ​​owners find it embarrassing or painful. They are shy and quick to take it personally, even if we mean it well. My job as a vet is to make it harmless. There are no dog owners who give a little extra to fatten up a dog unless the animal medically needs it.

Many people don't even know their dog is overweight. Obesity is not only the fault of the owner, the vet also explains:

It can depend on both breed and genetics – which the owner should be aware of. Labradors and many other small dog breeds are among those prone to gaining weight.

It also happens that dogs are neutered for health reasons – this almost doubles the risk of weight gain compared to a non-neutered dog.

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– Castrated dogs have a 20 percent lower energy requirement because their metabolism slows down. They gain weight quickly and can easily become overweight, Hvarnes explains.


As a veterinarian, Hvarnes is interested in good communication with pet owners, where obesity is not taboo or embarrassing—but both dog owner and veterinarian want the best.

The sausage dog attacked: - bit the cheek

The sausage dog attacked: – bit the cheek

Of course, there are those who want the help of Hvarnes to lose weight. Hvarnes has experienced that as dogs lose weight quickly, dog owners think it's funny at first – but then the motivation wanes a bit as the weight stagnates.

– So how do you keep your motivation?

– My job as a vet is to guide and explain why your dog needs to be slimmed down. After all, you want your dog as well as possible. Dogs live much shorter lives than humans. If they are overweight, your dog's lifespan will be even shorter. Some breeds have a two-year reduced lifespan due to excess weight, Hvarnes insists and continues.

– Being overweight shortens the life of our pets and they get more health problems. Your dog's quality of life is important. In addition, the muscles and joints have many extra kilos of weight to carry. It is hard on fitness and increases the risk of heart and vascular diseases. It can also cause hormonal disorders and poor immune system. We humans also have many problems.

PET dog: According to the vet, a short and frequent cuddle.  Photo: Private

PET dog: According to the vet, a short and frequent cuddle. Photo: Private
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– but for many, there's a lot of quality to life in giving the dog a little something extra and having fun together? Maybe it's more important than longevity?

– It's perfectly legal to give it some treats, Hwarnes is quick to assure, but encourages you to think about what kind of treats.

– The dog forgets what it has eaten

Maybe it doesn't always have to be a slice of cheese, but rather a slice of cucumber or carrot, the vet suggests.

Another input she has for dog owners is to think about what the dog gets from food throughout the day. Many people give the same amount of dry food every day – and the dog already forgets about dinner leftovers and what was left of yesterday's food package.

– So it's wise to cut down on dry feed and remember what we've given. Another aspect Hvarnes believes contributes to many dog ​​owners giving a little extra is teaching the dog many emotions. “We're happy now, and we'll have that later.”

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Of course, many stores are overflowing with dog treats.

– Before, the dog got an occasional bone to chew on – now if you go into a pet store, there are plenty of them. Even in grocery stores, they often have a small shelf of treats for dogs.

Plus, we have our own busy lives, which often leave little time for travel and guilt — which makes it easy to seek out a treat, says Hvarnes, who invites participants to the show.

– Just like we humans lose weight, there is no “quick fix” for dogs.

Joshi Akinjide

Joshi Akinjide

"Music geek. Coffee lover. Devoted food scholar. Web buff. Passionate internet guru."

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