Killing with kindness (Stampede)


How do you tell a 400-pound owner that his or her dog is too fat?

It seems like we humans just can't help it, we have a need to care for things. It is this deep seeded need that makes dogs fat. I'll bet three out of five little dogs that come into the clinic are overweight. It is an honest mistake, they are just trying to satisfy their pet.

Have you ever just stopped for a second in the dog food aisle and read the packaging descriptions:

Succulent beef and chicken

No byproducts

Tender morsels of bacon and cheese

Beef stew

Tasty pieces of real pork

Lamb and rice in hearty gravy

Hamburger patties.

No wonder we have so many fat dogs; they eat better than we do. But the fact is, it is not the dog food that makes 'em fat, it is the table food. Those tidbits and morsel that we just can't help picking them from the dinner table add up to major calories for our friends.

I am standing at the exam table looking at a 15-pound Chihuahua (should weigh 6 pounds) and discussing the health risks of having a fat dog.

This dog looks like a walking coffee table. The owner says the usual: "She doesn't eat much at all." I'm thinking that this would be the equivalent of me weighing about 400 pounds. You can't tell me that I'm getting up to 400 pounds without eating too much.

It takes some skilled questioning to get the truth, and it's a challenge, almost like being a detective. As the conversation proceeds, I find that the dog only eats a few morsels of dog food a day. When asked about table food, the reply is: "We don't give them anything from the table while we are eating." All right, does this dog get any other food besides the few morsels of dog food a day?

"Well, I fix it two strips of bacon and an egg every morning," is the low-volume reply that fills the air. Think about that; when you compare consumption by weight, this would be like me eating 40 strips of bacon and 20 eggs for breakfast every morning. What do you think, would this put a little more depth to my belly button?

Other people have strange conceptions of what food really is. I am standing at the table again looking at an obese poodle. I have asked questions from every angle that I can think of to determine what is causing this dog to be so fat. Even the trickiest questions find the owner still convinced that the dog has a problem with its hormones. She swears that the dog never eats scraps or human food of any type. I am just about convinced that there may be a problem other than table scraps; then, the dog starts retching. After a few heaves, a blob of substance flies out of its mouth and lands on the table. Further inspection reveals a few chocolate chips and some doughy material.

"I thought you said this rascal doesn't eat any human food," I said as I picked up the pile.

"That's cookie dough," she replied "The dog just loves it. It's not food until you cook it; is it?"

What do you think? Is raw cookie-dough food? Would you ever think that anyone considered things that were not cooked to be something other than food?

Other things make it very difficult to discuss obesity. Tell me this, how do you tell a 400-pound owner that his or her dog is too fat? Now that is a touchy subject. You certainly don't want to hurt his or her feelings, but dogs were not made to be fat. We humans can handle it much better than they can.

My favorite description of fat dogs is: "We are killing them with kindness." We don't mean to jeopardize their health, we just want them to be happy. So, the next time you learn that a client feeds his or her 10-pound dog a strip of bacon, remind him or her that it would be like eating 15 or 20 strips.

Dr. Brock owns the Brock Veterinary Clinic in Lamesa, Texas.

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