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“There has been a lack of actionable information on how much to feed your dog given their activity levels and thus, most advice is far too generic and may not be suited for your particular situation. No wonder why more than half of all dogs in this country are overweight or obese.”

Steve Pelletier has been in the software business since 1998 and has recently launched SlimDoggy. Previously he has founded an advertising technology company, (ironically named “FatTail”). Pelletier has worked on Wall Street and began his career at the Ronald Regan White House. He is passionate about both fitness and dogs.

SlimDoggy provides tools and technology that helps dog owners keep their dogs fit and healthy. SlimDoggy helps dog owners’ answer several key questions related to their dog including: “how much should I feed my dog?”and “what should I feed my dog?”

MO: What lessons did you learn while working on Wall Street and at the White House that you’ve been able to apply to running your own business?

Steve: While an Economist for the Regan Administration, I learned that I needed to improve my writing skills and that writing skills are essential to communicate thoughts and ideas to others. The simple exercise of writing helps me better frame my thoughts. Now, I have an active blog site and am writing publically on a regular basis.

On Wall St., I forced myself to learn, on a base level, how to create my own algorithms and programs that I could use to model financial instruments. This ability has helped me to create new products, like the SlimDoggy app, which uses proprietary algorithms to calculate a dog’s daily calorie burn and to calculate our proprietary dog food ranking index. I used these skills at FatTail as well to create products and product features that were analytical in nature.

MO: How did you come up with the concept of SlimDoggy?

Steve: SlimDoggy was inspired by a Yellow Lab named Jack that our family rescued in 2011. Jack was 105 lbs. and on both Prozac (for anxiety & hyperactivity) and Rimadyl (for joint pain). Jack was ‘unadoptable’, having been in the shelter for over a year before he found us. Using scientific research and guidance from our vets, we created algorithms to figure out portion sizes and calorie targets based on his daily activity. Within 3 months, Jack was down to 85 lbs, off both medications, and now a happy and healthy dog. When I learned that there are many dogs just like Jack, with close to 40 million overweight/obese dogs in the US (according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention), and that the incremental cost in extra food and vet/medicine bills is an estimated $8 billion annually, that is when I officially launched SlimDoggy.

MO: What do you think are biggest contributing factors to canine obesity and why is it an increasing epidemic?

Steve: There are many factors that have contributed to this problem. Here are four:

1- There has been a lack of actionable information on how much to feed your dog given their activity levels. Most advice is far too generic and may not be suited for your particular situation. No wonder why more than half of all dogs in this country are overweight or obese. This is one reason why we built our App.

2- Related to the first point, dog food labels, which provide feeding guidelines, are too generic and can lead to overfeeding in many cases. I did a case study with a 60 lb dog, who if following the feeding instructions on the can, would be overfed by 1 ½ cans per day costing that owner $1,375 per year! Overfeeding costs a lot financially as does the incremental medical bills associated with having a fat dog.

3- Most dogs require exercise. I think that many people think that putting them in their backyard all day, or taking them on 15 minute walks is enough. The fact is, in most cases, it is not enough. Many breeds thrive on running, agility, and other high intensity exercise protocols. As we often say, “get off your butt and workout with your mutt.”

4- Many people equate feeding their dog with loving their dog. They shower their pet with treats as a sign of their affection. The problem is, as we often say, “food is not love”. Over feeding your dog can cause a whole host of medical problems including diabetes, arthritis and orthopedic problems, kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Overweight dogs also live shorter life spans than lean and fit dog dogs, by almost 2 years on average!

MO: What’s one marketing strategy that’s worked really well for you so far?

Steve: I believe that providing customers and potential customers with useful information is the best marketing strategy. By becoming an information provider, sort of like a media company, we are able to build a trusted relationship with people who may eventually become our clients. We have done this at SlimDoggy and it has really helped us build our Brand. We shall see how that translates into revenue.

MO: What are some of your favorite features of SlimDoggy?

Steve: We love being able to provide legitimate and useful health and fitness information to dog owners. In our App, we are most proud of our algorithmic approach to canine calorie estimation as well as our dog food database of 2,300 foods and treats with calorie amounts, ingredients, and our SlimDoggy Food Ranking Index. Combined, these tools help dog owners better understand how much and what they should feed their dog to keep them fit and healthy. As I mentioned previously, studies show that fit dogs live almost 2 years longer than fat ones.

We are also proud of our SlimDoggy link library, (http://slimdoggy.com/slimdoggy-links/ ) which is our own curated library of interesting articles on all topics related to canine health and happiness.

MO: It is possible to get a dog in shape if the owner is unable or unwilling to exercise?

Steve: No, you cannot get your dog in shape without exercise. Without proper exercise, a dog will lose strength and muscle tone, which in turn can lead to injuries and other problems. That said, because diet is such a critical piece to weight management, you CAN have your dog lose weight and maintain a viable weight with diet alone. It is harder to do without exercise and not as healthy, but it can be done.

One last point on exercise. Like humans, dogs can actually experience the phenomenon known as ‘runner’s high’. It occurs when the dog engages in high intensity exercise (think running fast, not walking). Science shows that dogs experience a greater spike in the body chemicals, known as endocannabinoids, than humans do. This is another reason why exercise is so key. Not only does it help with weight management and muscle tone, but it makes your dog feel good and as a result behave better!

 

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