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The Daily Vet by petMD

The Daily Vet is a blog featuring veterinarians from all walks of life. Every week they will tackle entertaining, interesting, and sometimes difficult topics in the world of animal medicine – all in the hopes that their unique insights and personal experiences will help you to understand your pets.

In honor of Presidents’ Day, I want to pay tribute to the immensely popular first dog of the United States (FDOTUS, akin to the terms POTUS and FLOTUS), Bo Obama.

Bo's Identity and Origins

In the victory speech for his first presidential term, Barak Obama stated the first daughters had "earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the White House."

This exclamation provoked significant speculation as to the canine companion Obama and the First Lady would choose for Sasha and Malia.

The selection of a male Portuguese Water Dog (PWD), which they named Bo (after musician Bo Diddley), came after much media scrutiny surrounding the message being sent to the general public pending the new puppy’s acquisition from a breeder, rescue, or other outlet.

Pure breed dogs may end up under the care of a rescue organization due to mismatching between the dog and the new owner or to the residing pet, or because of undesirable behaviors being exhibited by the dog. In my observations, many pet owners spend insufficient time considering the suitability of a breed’s behavioral and physical attributes for their particular lifestyle and finances.

Reportedly, Bo came to the Obamas as gift from another celebrated American family, the Kennedys. After being purchased by an undisclosed individual, Bo was returned to the home of his biological mother, Penny (as per the breeder’s contract). As Bo’s littermate is Capie, a PWD owned by Senator Ted Kennedy, the Obama-Kennedy relationship ultimately led to Bo romping around on the White House lawn.

Although Bo’s time in the White House is limited to two presidential terms, the Obama family will surely be providing his forever home regardless of the physical location in which they live.

Health Issues Affecting the Portuguese Water Dog

As a large breed dog, concerns exist for numerous diseases that arise during early development or during the transition from the juvenile to geriatric years; diseases that affect many body systems, including:

  • Musculoskeletal: arthritis, degenerative joint disease, intervertebral disc disease, traumatic ligament rupture, etc.
  • Endocrine: hypothyroidism, diabetes, kidney and liver disease, etc.
  • Cardiovascular: heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), etc.
  • Respiratory: difficulty breathing, exercise intolerance, etc.
  • Dermatologic: skin fold dermatitis (inflammation), etc.
  • Immune: cancer, etc.

Bo’s Weight Becomes the Subject of Controversy

Although Bo’s breed is relatively uncommon, he’s now part of the majority of pets in this country that are currently battling the bulge. An astounding 54 percent of pets (over 88 million cats and dogs) in the United States are estimated to be overweight or obese according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP). Obesity leads to an undesirable array of potentially irreversible health problems that can affect nearly all body systems, especially the musculoskeletal and endocrine systems.

The correlation between being overweight and the development of cancer should motivate owners to keep their pets trim on a lifelong basis. Excess weight increases the degree of inflammation to which all organs are exposed, thereby promoting undesirable cellular changes and cancer growth. Obesity has a well-documented correlation with canine bladder and mammary cancer.

Knowing of Michelle Obama’s enthusiasm for health and fitness for her fellow Americans through her Let’s Move! campaign, I was surprised to learn of Bo’s apparent corpulence. Yet, in acknowledging Bo’s full-figure and dedicating the First Family’s efforts to promote his weight loss through exercise and calorie restriction, Michelle has set a great example for other pet owners worldwide.

Bo’s Breed Wins Best in Working Group at Westminster 2013

If your television was set to the 2013 Westminster Kennel Club (WKC) All Breed Dog Show, then you saw Bo’s breed win Best in Working Group. Matisse is an intact male (i.e., he retains his manhood for the option of producing future generations of PWD puppies) competing at a youthful 20 months of age who bested many other working breeds touted to perform highly on the hallowed Astroturf at Madison Square Garden.

This is quite an achievement, as “the Doberman was the one to watch” according to Karolynne McAteer, judge and Director of streaming video for WKC. 

Although President Obama’s State of the Union Address left him unable to watch Matisse’s big night on live television, I hope his DVR was set.

So, on Presidents’ Day 2013, let’s recognize Bo and his other unique, notorious, and lovable Portuguese Water Dog breed representatives. And learn more about Bo by visiting his official webpage.

Dr. Patrick Mahaney

Image: Bo's Official White House Portrait 

Comments  2

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  • Bo Knows
    02/19/2013 07:51pm

    Guess I haven't been keeping up with the latest news on FDOTUS. I wasn't aware Bo had gotten a bit pudgy. The few pictures I've seen, Bo is usually romping on the White House lawn, using lots of energy and getting plenty of exercise.

    You have to wonder if Bo is sneaking into the White House kitchen and charming the staff for treats.

  • 02/28/2013 01:26am

    I'm not sure where Bo's extra calories are coming from, yet I speculate that they are from multiple sources.
    POTUS/FLOTUS even recently announced (at a kid's function) that Bo should not be fed and was on a diet.
    I've also seen the pics of Bo showing good energy on the Great Lawn, yet he's a young pooch and if he remains overweight/obese during his adult/senior years than he could develop potentially serious and irreversible health problems!
    Thank you for your comments.
    Dr. PM

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