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Saturday, Feb 4, 2023

See Spot Eat Less, Lose Weight

If obesity is the No. 1 health problem in the United States, guess what’s the biggest health concern for man’s best friend? You guessed it: Dogs these days are being overfed, under exercised and ending up overweight just like their owners. It’s something that Steve Pelletier personally learned when three years ago he and his wife adopted a 105-pound obese Labrador named Jack from a shelter. What he didn’t know was that that simple action was about to transform his life – ultimately leading to a $2 million windfall and a job at an L.A. pet food company. “If we hadn’t adopted him this never would have happened,” said the 53-year-old Camarillo resident. Pelletier, a tech-oriented Duke MBA, was prompted by his experience helping Jack shed 20 pounds to develop an iPhone weight-loss app similar to those utilized by people. Owners input a dog’s age, weight, breed and daily exercise, which the app uses to determine a pet’s caloric needs. It then has a proprietary database of pet brands and foods – with their calorie and nutrition content – that helps owners determine a healthy diet for their animal. The $2.99 app drew thousands of downloads, so Pelletier decided to leave his job at a data company and found SlimDoggy Inc., built around the app. Through a colleague, he was introduced to the management of Petnet, an L.A. tech company founded in 2012 that makes an Internet-controlled remote pet feeder and a smart bowl that assists owners give their pets the optimum amount of food. The company also sells pet food and offers home delivery. Petnet acquired SlimDoggy for about $2 million in February and brought Pelletier on as a vice president. The plan is to merge the app – now available for free – with Petnet’s own app. Petnet Chief Executive Carlos Herrera said he was impressed with the food database Pelletier developed. “We’re going to utilize the algorithms that are embedded,” said Herrera, noting Pelletier’s pet food database is the largest he knows of. Dr. Ernie Ward, a veterinarian and founder of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention of Calabash, N.C., said that pet obesity is not only the No. 1 health threat for pets, but it is expensive and preventable. “It’s costing untold millions in unnecessary vet bills,” he said. Pelletier, who has led a pretty interesting professional life with stints as a Wall Street trader and a Reagan White House economist, said he is surprised how it all has turned out. “Wow, now I’m doing stuff for pets. This is the most fun I’ve ever had,” he said. – Rosie Downey

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