Pet Obesity - Part 4
As a veterinarian, my responsibility in practice, whether in the exam room, the medical ward or the O.R. is to be an advocate for my patients. And too often it can be a bit frustrating having to deal with owners of overweight or obese pets. I know that it may be hard to believe, but I really do not enjoy having these conversations, sometimes numerous times with the same owner regarding their pet's weight problem. So why do I take the time to have these discussions - because I care.
If you take this subject seriously and help your pet maintain a normal BCS (Body Condition Score), your pet can enjoy a longer life, suffering fewer health issues, thereby decreasing your pet health related expenses. In this article I will be sharing four of the most common excuses that pet owners respond with when we (veterinarians) discuss our concern over their pet's weight. Do you recognize any?
1) "I can't understand how she could be overweight, she hardly eats a thing." This is undoubtedly the most frequently heard comment. If the owner would just take a moment and think about what they are saying, they would see the fallacy in their statement, because whatever their pet is eating, it is obviously too much. In the majority of cases the pet has food available all day and nibbles a little at a time. By dinner time, the pet no longer has an appetite, so the owner starts to add "extras" such as high fat, calorie dense table food which not only creates the obesity problem, but also creates other problems noted below.
2) "What am I to do, he won't quit whimpering (or meowing) and giving me those sad eyes until I give him his treats." Over time the pet discovers that the more of a fuss it makes the more likely the owner will to reward them for their negative behavior. The owner out of frustration succumbs to the pet's demands and offers some food or treats to keep it quiet. In a short time this obviously "snowballs" to become a serious problem.
3) "But he's such a good pet and loves to eat - we don't want him to go hungry." In this situation, the owner equates love with food or treats, and when there are multiple family members that all secretly do the same thing; the pet is the one that suffers in the long run. We all experience a certain satisfaction with seeing our pets have a good appetite and enjoy a meal, but we need to balance this out with proper attention to other things such as grooming, dental care and exercise.
4) "I don't know what else we can do - she absolutely refuses to eat her own food." This pet has unfortunately been allowed to choose what it wants to eat and usually ends up eating high fat, poorly nutritious foods, the same things that children would pick if given the chance. This pet overeats not only because of the improper balance of nutrition, but because the endless variety of table food tastes so good, there is an immediate reward in eating.
We must face the fact that our pet's health and well-being depends on us; after all, we choose what, when and how much they eat.