Is your pet fluffy?

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If you are lucky to have a veterinarian who mentions your dog’s weight to you, it is usually in the most politically correct, kindest way possible. Why? With an estimated 54% of the pet population overweight, he or she tells this sobering fact to many owners daily and explains all the problems that stem from obesity. It gets repetitious. It is the same for the human doctors, who have to talk about 65% of the American human population being overweight. People do not like to hear about their weight issues or their pet’s.

Touchy subject

It is not an enjoyable task for your veterinarian to have to speak about weight to a pet owner. Why? It may be a personal choice for them. If you as the veterinarian are overweight, how can you talk about someone else’s pet’s obesity? If you as the veterinarian have a chunky pet at home, how do you talk to a pet owner about their pet’s weight? As the veterinarians are expressing concern for the health and well-being of the pet, he or she is being personally judged by the pet owner as to how does he or she have the audacity to mention my pet’s weight.

Then there is the pet owner’s reaction. “You called my pet fat”? Even if your veterinarian does not say the word, that is what the pet owner hears.  Mentioning an overweight pet to the pet owner is like insulting their pet parenting skills and makes the owner very defensive and sometimes argumentative,  which is one good reason to avoid the pet weight issue during an exam. A pet’s weight record is part of the pet’s total overall examination and is included on all medical records.

Dog weight vs. human weight

But is your veterinarian who avoids talking about your pet’s weight doing you a disservice?  While they’re looking at the pet weight chart and looking at your 125lb Labrador, they’re wondering how to explain that this Labrador, big-boned or not, should top out at maybe 80 lbs. That is 40 lbs. overweight. Not bad in human pounds, eh? Well, since dogs are naturally smaller and their metabolism is different than ours, the conversion is usually 10-15 lbs. human weight for each pound of dog weight. So that 40 lbs. becomes hundreds of pounds. No wonder your dog is slow and doesn’t move around much, doesn’t run like it used to, looks at a ball that is thrown, and cannot get in the car like it used to.

Yes, your overweight Labrador may have thyroid issues or some other issue.  And a full examination will determine if that’s the case, and your veterinarian can begin a course of treatment.  But, did you also know that one cube chunk of cheese for the top of cracker, equals a cheeseburger for a dog?  Yes, the calories and calories per size of the animal make that a reality for you.  So giving your doggy a cheeseburger for a snack isn’t in its best interest. Stop the cookie treats, stop the feeding three times a day, and stop the bad feeding habits.

More weight means fewer years

Believe me, excess weight shortens a pet’s life by several years!  Purina studies and ongoing Hills studies have proven and are continuing to prove that dogs who maintain normal body weight for their breed live longer, have fewer disease issues, are less expensive to feed over the life of the dog, and the annual vet bills are subsequently lower.  Isn’t that what you want for your dog whether it is supposed to be a 2lb Yorkie or a 150lb Newfoundland?  Weight matters. Being overweight kills early. And being overweight is expensive.

Take control of your pet’s weight

“The cost of my veterinarian bills are going up and up!”  “I don’t have the money to keep paying the vet for my dogs care!”  Have  you mentioned these phrases?  Have you heard others mention these phrases?  Want to put a significant dent in your dog’s vet bills?  Feed a regular, high-quality diet to the point that you can feel your pup’s ribs with your hands (no, not pushing in through the layers of fat). But just rubbing your hand along the side of your dog’s chest should feel like rubbing your hands over the tops of your fingers.  Keep your dog at a normal weight and the studies show you will have your fur-kid around for an extra 2-3 years!  And your vet bills will be lower for the total life of your pet.  Weight induced conditions such as diabetes, arthritis, cancer- malignant fatty tumors,  and others are costly over the life of your pet.  Isn’t avoiding them a good idea?  And you have the control.

You are the pet-parent.  You control what your dog eats and drinks.  And yes, how your fur-kid appears is a reflection of how you feed and water your pet.  Almost of all the pets I see do not open the refrigerator themselves and feed themselves.  But, I do know of pet parents who use silo feeders so their pet can eat as much as they want.  Do you have any idea how much money you are spending in food and subsequent vet bills?  In this economy,  throw out the pet silo, feed your pet correctly, manage your pet’s weight, and put the money in a jar for yourself.  You will be surprised when you will have enough saved for you to do something really special for yourself and maybe something for your fur kid too.

Dr. Manda is a nationally-renowned doctor of veterinary medicine who has taken on many roles in the veterinary industry over the past 30 years. Dr. Manda possesses a unique mix of clinical skills in veterinary medicine, combined with an extensive background in business and marketing in the veterinary industry.

Dr. Manda has been an appointed member of the Management Committee for the American Animal Hospital Association, one of the charter members of the Institute for Laboratory Animal Management and Past-President and Charter Member of the American Veterinary Medical Law Association. He has made media appearances on the Leeza Gibbons show, had a successful talk radio show in the Philadelphia listening area entitled “Talking About Pets.”

Dr. Manda is currently a consultant to the global pet, pet food, veterinary and animal health industries and is a full time Emergency Medicine veterinarian in Pennsylvania.

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