Dr Mc Blog

May 1, 2014

Would anyone be interested in starting a gym for dogs? Instead of tight shorts and weight lifting equipment we could sponsor sequined collars and encourage exercises like the “biscuit stretch”.

In todays’ world the working dog is almost a thing of the past – the majority of our pets have only to fight their way out of bed in the morning to get to the food bowl. For many of them, grateful to get a daily walk, the widely promoted high protein foods are not necessary. An incessant bombardment of dog jerky and canine biscuits, table scraps and cocktail peanuts “rounds out” many a pets daily diet….and doesn’t do much for their health.

They waddle in. Some of the smallest breeds can still be carried in. A few you expect to see float in, sort of doggie balloons propped above toothpick legs like the carnival mans’ balloon-on-a stick. The owner usually aw-shucks, Doc, we just love her (or him) so much.

You’re going to love them to death.

Yes, dogs have problems like high cholesterol, fatty liver disease, pancreatitis, heart disease and joint degeneration (arthritis) related to obesity. The rise of diabetes mellitus or sugar diabetes  in dogs and cats has alarmed veterinarians across the nation and is believed to be partly attributable to overweight conditions. Every pet that comes in for an exam is now recommended to receive a Body Condition Score (BCS), meant to sound an alarm if the pet is too heavy or, rarely, too thin.

So let’s discuss fat. Fat is looking at your dog and not seeing the curvy indentation in front of the rear legs and hips that we call a “waist”. Fat is groping over your dogs’ chest searching in vain for a rib. Fat is obvious. Deciding on the correct weight for your dog is less obvious. I recommend to take a few pounds off and look at your dog. It can be that simple. One guideline is the ability to feel the ribs easily, with a thin layer of fat covering them.

How to take the pounds off? The secret will disappoint you: less calories, more exercise. On a weight reduction program your dog can lose up to 1 pound a week. Toy breeds may set a goal of 1 pound weight loss per month. Your veterinarian can guide you safely in this area. It is true that some dogs can suffer from thyroid gland disorders that predispose towards obesity. Some medications can cause weight gain as a side effect. Older dogs may have health problems that preclude dieting. For these reasons dogs with severe weight problems or on medication should be examined first by their veterinarian.

One of my favorite success stories was watching a 45 pound dachshund reduce to a healthy 22 pounds. She did require the aid of a balanced prescription reducing diet, but she came through with flying colors! She acted years younger, cavorting around, full of pep and energy. Her family was wonderfully supportive, despite an embarrassing incident. At the height of her diet, the owners of Greta entertained their minister to a small luncheon. Conversation flowed, congeniality reigned. Suddenly the jaws of the Dieting Dachshund lept out, snatching the ministers’ sandwich from his very lips. Just as quickly she disappeared again. Shaken, the good man left soon after. Word has it that she never repented.

Christine B. McFadden, DVM


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