Association for Pet Obesity Prevention

The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) is committed to making the lives of dogs, cats, all other animals and people healthier and more vital.

Our Mission

The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) has launched campaigns to fight pet obesity within the veterinary medical community, veterinary schools, and state and local veterinary organizations, and has reached out to various media outlets. We are made up of dedicated veterinarians and veterinary healthcare personnel who are committed to making the lives of dogs, cats, all other animals and people healthier and more vital.

APOP was founded in 2005 by veterinarian Dr. Ernie Ward with the mission of developing and promoting parallel weight loss programs designed to help pet owners safely and effectively lose weight alongside their pets.

Obesity is the number one health threat pets face, and the most important pet health decision owners make each day is what and how much they feed.
— Dr. Ernie Ward, Founder

What We've Achieved

  • Founded in 2005
  • First annual U.S. pet obesity prevalence survey completed in 2007
  • Board members have written textbooks, published peer-reviewed research, and authored hundreds of medical papers and articles on pet obesity since 2005 
  • Several Board members co-authored peer-reviewed American Animal Hospital (AAHA) Weight Management Guidelines in 2014 and Veterinary Clinics of North America Small Animal Obesity textbook in 2016


Meet the dedicated veterinarians
helping pets and people live healthier lives. 

Dr Ernie Ward


Dr. Ernie Ward is an internationally recognized veterinarian known for his work in the areas of general small animal practice, life extension and longevity, practice management and leadership, long-term medication monitoring, special needs of senior dogs and cats and pet obesity. He has authored three books, including “Chow Hounds: Why Our Dogs Are Getting Fatter.” Dr. Ward has been a frequent guest on television programs and served as the resident veterinarian for the “Rachael Ray Show” from 2007 until 2014. He has over 100,000 followers on Facebook, and serves over 20,000 on his Twitter accounts, Off Label Veterinary NewsYouTube vlog, and popular weekly podcast, Veterinary Viewfinder  (iTunesAndroidStitcherTuneIn), and is a highly sought after veterinary media expert.


Dr Steven Budsberg


Dr. Steven Budsberg is a Professor and Director of Clinical research at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine and past-President of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons. He has been awarded numerous teaching and research awards including: Pfizer Animal Health Award for Research Excellence, 1995; Creative Research Medal – University of Georgia Research Foundation, 1996; AVMF-AKC Excellence in Canine Research Award, 1997; Distinguished Postdoctoral Veterinary Alumnus Award, Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine, 1998; AVMA – Fido Award, 2004; Charles Dobbins Award for Excellence in Service, University of Georgia, 2005; Pfizer Animal Health Award for Research Excellence, 2010. Dr. Budsberg has extensive interest and experience in the areas of Canine Gait Analysis, Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs and Evidence Based Medicine applications in Orthopedics. Dr. Budsberg is a Boston Marathon qualifier and avid runner and triathlete.


Dr Julie Churchill


Dr. Julie Churchill graduated from Michigan State University (B.S and DVM.) She attended the University of Georgia for her small animal internship in medicine and surgery. She then completed combined residencies and her PhD program in small animal internal medicine and clinical nutrition at University of Minnesota.

Dr Churchill is a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Nutrition and currently an Associate Clinical Professor, section chief and director of the Nutrition Service at the University Veterinary Medical Center.

Dr. Churchill is passionate about all aspects of small animal clinical nutrition including the role of nutrition in maintaining wellness and preventive care, obesity prevention and treatment, the nutrition needs of geriatric patients, nutritional management of kidney diseases, and critical care nutrition. She is also interested in improving ways of client communication to successfully integrate nutrition into the patient care of every patient. She worked on the task force to develop the AAHA guidelines for weight management. She serves on the board of the Pet Nutrition Alliance (PNA) as well as the educational tools committee of PNA working to development of a” Go-to” website for credible nutritional information for veterinary practice teams and consumers. Dr Churchill also serves on the Education Committee for the American College of Veterinary Nutrition.


Dr Mark Peterson


Dr. Mark Peterson graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1976, moved to NYC to do an internship and medical residency at The Animal Medical Center, and then completed a post-doctoral fellowship in endocrinology and nuclear medicine at The New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center and the AMC.Following his training, Mark stayed on as head endocrinologist at the AMC for over 30 years. In 2009, Mark opened the Animal Endocrine Clinic, a specialty referral hospital devoted exclusively to the diagnosis and treatment of dogs and cats with endocrine disease, where he now cares for his endocrine patients.

Over the last 35 years, most of Dr. Peterson’s clinical and research efforts has been directed toward advancing our understanding of endocrine disorders of the dog and cat, especially diabetes mellitus, thyroid and adrenal disease. He has published more than 450 journal articles, book chapters, and research abstracts. With more than 300 lecture presentations to his credit, Dr. Peterson is a frequent speaker at veterinary colleges and scientific seminars both in both the United States and abroad.


Dr Joe Bartges


Dr. Joe Bartges received his BS in zoology in 1983 from Marshall University in Huntington, WV, and his DVM from The University of Georgia in 1987.  He completed an internship and residencies in small animal internal medicine and nutrition in addition to a PhD at the University of Minnesota in 1993.  After a post-doctoral position at the University of Minnesota, he joined the faculty at The University of Georgia in 1994 where he remained until 1997.  In 1997, he joined the faculty at The University of Tennessee where he remained until 2015.  During this time he achieved Professor of Medicine and Nutrition, held the Acree Endowed Chair of Small Animal Research, and served as interim department head for approximately 2 years.  He then joined the staff at Cornell University Veterinary Specialists in Stamford, CT, as an internist and nutritionist and was Adjunct Clinical Professor of Medicine and Nutrition at Cornell University.  Currently, Dr. Bartges is Professor of Medicine and Nutrition in the Department of Small Animal Medicine and Surgery.  He is board-certified by the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (small animal internal medicine) and the American College of Veterinary Nutrition.


Dr lester mandelker


Dr. Lester Mandelker is a board certified specialist in Feline and Canine Practice. He is a nationally recognized veterinarian and an expert in veterinary pharmacology, pet supplements and antioxidant therapy and pet health care. Dr. Lester Mandelker is the owner and director of Community Veterinary Hospital located in the Clearwater and Largo area of Pinellas County in Florida. He also runs The Paradise Pet Motel located on the premises. Dr. Mandelker is the only board Certified Veterinary for both Dogs and Cats in the Belleair, Clearwater, Largo and Seminole areas of Pinellas County Florida. He has practiced for over 35 years and has been recognized twice among the nation’s top veterinarians. He practices on all dogs, cats and exotic pets. Dr. Mandelker also consults with other veterinary specialists online about complex cases through the Veterinary Information Network (VIN). He is also a competitive tennis player.


Dr Elizabeth Lund.jpg


Dr. Lund joined Banfield in 2006 as Senior Director of Research. Her professional experience has included work in academia, industry, and public health. In addition to her DVM degree, Dr. Lund has a MPH and a PhD in epidemiology/informatics. Banfield’s Applied Research & Knowledge team is dedicated to the generation and dissemination of new knowledge and understanding in support of the practice of evidence-based veterinary care. Dr. Lund’s PhD thesis research focused on the development and evaluation of a model for diagnostic surveillance in companion animal veterinary practice using computerized medical records. Over the last 20 years, she has been active in epidemiologic research on risk for disease in companion animals, specifically overweight and obesity, as well as co-morbidities associated with excess body condition. Current research at Banfield focuses not only on generating new knowledge to support optimal veterinary care but enlightened dissemination of this information to all stakeholders in the veterinary profession, i.e., veterinarians, paraprofessionals, and pet owners.


Dr Phil Zeltzman.jpg


Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a traveling, board-certified veterinary surgeon near Allentown, Pennsylvania. He performs specialized surgery on dogs, cats, and exotic animals. Dr. Zeltzman is co-author of “Walk a hound, lose a pound” (Purdue University Press, May 2011) with leading nurse researcher Rebecca Johnson. This book is dedicated to the prevention and treatment of canine and human obesity. He has published numerous articles in national and international veterinary journals. He is also a prolific speaker internationally. He is a contributor to The Bark, Veterinary Practice News and Dog Fancy. His interests include all aspects of soft tissue, orthopedic, cancer, reconstructive and neuro-surgery, as well as physical therapy and emergency cases. He has a strong interest in the prevention and treatment of overweight and obesity. Dr. Zeltzman is a passionate skier and a ski instructor, but was forbidden to ski again after a hip fracture.