Is your pet pudgy? Because obesity can kill him.
When I was a teenager, I came home from school one day to find L.C., my family’s beagle, lying on the bottom shelf of our refrigerator. She was nearly comatose and shaped like a loaf of bread. We knew L.C. had food issues: She yowled in agony when people ate. She once swiped a Thanksgiving turkey, dragged it out the dog door, and devoured it. She studied us every time we opened the refrigerator. So in retrospect, it’s no surprise she ended up inside it.
The problem behind obese dogs, even dogs like L.C., isn’t canine eating disorders; it’s people with feeding disorders.
There’s an epidemic of canine and feline obesity, just like there’s an epidemic of human obesity. Recent studies found that 35 to 60% of pets in the United States are overweight. This is no coincidence: People don’t exercise, so their dogs don’t exercise. When people eat, they feed their pets, who gain weight right along with their owners. And given the ingredients of many pet foods, you might as well let them chow down on fast food every day. By feeding their pets junk, breeding them in overcrowded kennels where they have to fight for scraps, or abandoning them as strays who need to scrounge or die, humans have turned the natural feeding instincts of animals into dangerous food obsessions.
We control what our pets eat. I recently found a starved stray on the interstate. I took her home and fed her. And fed her. And fed her. She ate a heaping cup of dry food in 28 seconds (I timed her). Three months later, I realized she’d gone from emaciated to pudgy. I didn’t put her on drugs; I just gave her 1/3 cup less food at each meal. Three weeks later, she wasn’t pudgy anymore.
During my years as a veterinary technician, I saw many dogs die from obesity or become paralyzed when their spines gave out. So when I see an obese dog on the street, I want to ask its owner, “You love your dog, right? Then why are you killing it?” I usually restrain myself. But the other day, I sat in my vet’s waiting room with my 17-year-old dog, whose shoulder had just started aching from arthritis. An enormously fat malamute waddled in with a large-bellied man holding his leash. The man plopped next to me as his dog painfully lowered himself to the floor.
“How old is he?” I asked.
“Four,” the man said.
I cringed. He told me he’d spent thousands treating his dog’s arthritis and replacing his hips when they gave out. “We’ve tried everything,” he said, stroking the dog’s head.
“Oh?” I said. “Have you tried putting him on a diet?”
YOUR PET ON A DIET
There are plenty of ways to satisfy her food lust without making her fat:
· Talk with your vet about how much to feed your pet to keep her healthy. You can’t always rely on pet-food labels. How much she needs depends on her frame, activity level, and the type of food she’s given.
· Never give her people food, or she’ll obsess about getting somewhenever you eat.