The coincident and increasing occurrence of weight-related health problems in humans and canines in Western societies poses a challenge to our understanding of human-animal health relationships. More specifically, the epistemological and normative impetus provided by current approaches to shared health risks and chronic diseases in cohabiting human and animal populations does not account for causal continuities in the way that people and their pets live together. An examination of differences in medical responses to these conditions in human and pet dogs points to the existence of a distinct conceptual and ethical sphere for companion animal veterinary medicine. The disengagement of veterinary medicine for companion animals from human medicine has implications for our understanding what is required for health and disease prevention at the level of populations. This disengagement of companion animal veterinarians from family and preventive medicine, in particular, constrains professional roles, planning processes and, thereby, the potential for better-integrated responses to shared burdens of chronic conditions that increasingly affect the health and welfare of people and companion animals. 2013 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.