Talk About the Animals

The annual meeting (virtual, of course) of the American Society of Animal Science will feature an astonishing variety of topics over a four-day period, Sunday, July 19, through Wednesday, July 22, 2020.

Dr. Pretlow has been invited to speak on the afternoon of Monday, July 20, on the topic, “What’s causing obesity in pets and what can we do about it?” The website provides the complete list of symposia on a day-by-day basis.

Another page describes how to register, which must be done by July 16. This page also describes the various ways in which attendees may interact with the presenters, including the opportunity to ask questions. The organization says, “All Symposia will be conducted live online. They will also be recorded to allow viewing after the meeting.” Now is a great time to sign up for this event!

Here are some highlights of the organization’s history and mission:

The American Society of Animal Science fosters the discovery, sharing and application of scientific knowledge concerning the care and responsible use of animals to enhance animal and human health and well-being. ASAS developed diverse and dynamic membership programs, and fostered the growth of the premier journal in animal science and the premier animal science meetings. In 2008, the American Society of Animal Science celebrated 100 years of sharing great research and supporting science careers.

Recent news of animal companions and human health

A meta-analysis published in 2017 established that “pet ownership can benefit social, cognitive, education and social development.” Apparently, this is especially true of dogs. Writer Jenna L. Jones interviewed UC Irvine’s Dr. Sabrina E.B. Schuck, whose areas of expertise are pediatrics and child development, about the beneficial psychological effect that pets can have on families.

There seem to be mental health benefits in the form of lower anxiety and reduced stress. Of course, most parents fondly imagine that having a pet will teach kids about responsibility. But it could go the other way, with perpetual tension over the roles that parents and children should fill in pet care.

An interesting aspect of this is that Dr. Schuck does not issue any kind of blanket endorsement of pet adoption in all families, under all conditions. She says,

Caring for animals is obviously an immense responsibility, and the decision to bring a dog, or any pet, into the home is complex… There is no “one size fits all” for human-animal interaction. And we are all working hard to figure out for whom pet ownership is most beneficial.

Surprisingly, the evidence in favor of pets is largely anecdotal, according to Dr. Schuck, who notes that there have been “very few well-controlled, randomized trials examining the immediate benefits of pet ownership and fewer still longitudinal studies examining this question.”

But the tendency of dog ownership to inspire family members to take walks is pretty well documented, and more walking leads to less childhood obesity (and less adult obesity too, for that matter).

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Abstract and Program Information,”, undated
Source: “Symposia List by Day,”, undated
Source: “Power of pets: Exploring psychological effects of adding a dog to the family,”, 05/18/20
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Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

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The Book

OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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