It’s that time of year, where thoughts turn to redemption and renewal. We make resolutions, start anew, and make goals. I’m not one for resolutions, but I have a new year’s goal for my Labrador retriever, Mia.
Hello, my name is Vivian Carroll. I am a veterinarian and I have a fat dog.
My friend Alex shamed me the other night at the onset of our NYE festivities. Upon entering my house he admonished me for daring to have an overweight pet, given my profession.
I recently switched all the dogs to Hills Natural Balance pet food. It’s their version of a nuts and berries human grade ingredients diet. I think it’s pretty calorie-laden as I noticed that Mia and Nixon (the puppy), subsequently to starting the diet, looked a bit plump. I noticed this and cut the amount they were eating, but forgot to communicate this to the other dog feeders in the family. Thus they continued to get their old quantity of food, plus, in Mia’s case, whatever she could steal off the counters or out of the trash and out the dog door to her secret hidey hole in the back yard.
Mia thinks the dog door is the greatest thing in the planet. Her food thievery has taken new heights. Prior to the institution of more stringent food security measures, she made off with a tub of Amish friendship bread starter, a loaf of bread, a package of moldy tortillas, and a box of English Toffee. (Raw bread dough, mold, and chocolate, for those keeping toxin score). She was medically totally fine, but her girlish figure was shot.
I bought the bag of diet dog food. I had resisted feeding it to her, because feeding multiple dog foods to multiple dogs is a pain in the neck. The food stayed in the back of my car while I put Mia on a “diet”, which consisted of reduced portions and curtailment of extracurricular food. Apparently my efforts were to little avail, in light of the shame wrought upon me by my friend. I fear I must institute extreme measures.
Thus, starting today, Mia will go on R/D reducing diet and institute an exercise plan. There’s no science to that, except that I must get off my keister and exercise her by walking her or throwing the ball for her every day.
We will keep this up until she gets a waist and some abdominal tuck (or stops looking like a barrel with fur).
Soapbox moment, attention clients with fat dogs: you are 100% to blame when your dog is overweight. You are providing the calories either consciously by overfeeding at meals or maybe subconsciously by overfeeding treats and snacks throughout the day. The calories add up. It’s amazing where the extra calories can come from (Licking dishes in the dishwasher, grandma surreptitiously sharing her cereal, stealing from the counter, etc.) The odds of a “glandular problem” are excruciatingly low. I don’t care if you are feeding him 5 morsels of diet dog food per day. The dog is getting the extra calories from somewhere. I promise he or she is not fat by magic. Nothing is more frustrating than the client that is obviously lying (or in complete denial) about their dogs food intake. (I’m purposefully not mentioning cats, because that is a whole different can of worms. For my thoughts on feline nutrition try this and this ).
Talking weight to clients about their pets is difficult; I can only imagine how hard it is for MD’s to discuss weight with their human clients. We vets can help, we have tools and advice to help your pet reach a weight goal that will help his joints, prevent or control diabetes and generally improve his or her well being and quality of life. You have to do the work though. It’s tough love when your dog acts like it’s dying of starvation because you didn’t share your waffle. I know those big brown eyes are hard to resist.
I promise, promise, promise your dog won’t starve to death. I also promise he or she will still love you if you stop sharing your dinner. Mia still seems happy to see me even though her food portion has been reduced by 30%, granted she’s weak with hunger so she moves more slowly (I’m kidding).
If the dog is forlorn due to lack of food, provide love in a different way: attention, belly rubs, walks, play with him or her, something besides tossing him a treat.
Here’s a body condition score chart from Hills (I’d score Mia as a 4). Score your dog, objectively and resolve to get him to ideal. Heck, start an exercise plan with the dog if you’ve got a few extra inches.
It’s a win-win for both of you.