TIMMINS -- Veterinarian and practice owner Dr. Ed Butterworth knew it was his business' 50th anniversary — but he didn't expect the applause and congratulations from some of the people he's served over the decades.

In addition to personal gifts from clients, the Timmins Chamber of Commerce presented him with a plaque Wednesday -- made with a stone from the Hollinger Mine -- to commemorate the occasion.

"It was enjoyable seeing them and having them appreciate the fact that we've been around for 50 years," Butterworth said.

Building trust with clients

His practice has been a full-service animal hospital since 1974, but long-time staff say Butterworth made a lasting impression on the community from smaller beginnings.

"A few clients that were here today were here today have been with him for 43 (years), when he was working as a veterinarian out of his home," said assistant manager Rosie MacQuarrie, who has worked at the animal hospital for around 30 years.

Butterworth is known for "not beating around the bush," which is why MacQuarrie believes clients trust him and rely on his services.

As well, Butterworth notes that affordability is a challenge in the veterinary industry, particularly with surgeries, which is why he set a mission for his practice early on.

"Our ideas of what veterinary medicine should be, it should be affordable," Butterworth said. "If it can't be affordable, then why are we doing it?

Obesity a top issue for pets

While the celebration happened to fall on National Pet Obesity Awareness Day, Butterworth said overweight pets is one of the top issues he's noticed.

The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association estimates up to 60 per cent of pets are overweight or obese, which, Butterworth adds, can lead to a number of health problems.

"I see animals coming in here that are twice the weight they should be," Butterworth said.

"It's causing a lot of medical issues with them, particularly arthritis, lameness issues. We're seeing a lot of cats with diabetes."

A survey of more than 1,700 Canadians by dog food Kabo asked about their knowledge of pet obesity.

It found that:

- 70 per cent feed their dogs table scraps

- 41 per cent feed their dogs two or more treats per day

- 22 per cent had pets recommended to lose weight by their veterinarian

Pet experts point to overfeeding and lack of daily exercise as two of the top causes of animal obesity.

Butterworth said there could be a number of undiagnosed pets and believes veterinarians should be more blunt with clients who have overweight pets.

For pet owners, he said it's important to research their pet's ideal weight and communicate with their vet about best practices to keep them healthy.

"Buy a measuring cup for the dog food bag, measure it," Butterworth said. "Learn how to 'body score,' so you know what is the ideal body weight for your animal. Then it's as simply a matter of weighing your dog regularly and if there's problems, then you adjust."

Looking 50 years ahead

As for what the next 50 years could look like for the Timmins Animal Hospital, Butterworth said he's looking to retire eventually, but hopes the practice lives on. 

He said whoever carries on the torch should also carry on his straight-forward approach, as well as his passion for animals and connection with the community.

"I hope they carry on the same attitude to looking after animals as I've tried to over the years," Butterworth said. "I tell people what I think they need to hear and hopefully they understand where I'm coming from."