Charlotte Peltz Living with Your Dog "Are You Killing Your Dog" brought to you by Joy Beckner Artist/ Bronze Sculptor

Living with Your Dog

Are You Killing Your Dog???

By Charlotte Peltz

Did you instantly respond -- "Of course not! I love my dog!" --? Well, let's look at the facts. Have you checked your dog's "waistline" lately? Can you actually see the ribs? If your dog has long hair can you feel the ribs with only the amount of pressure it would take to barely dent the flesh of an over ripe avocado? If you have trouble with these questions, then it could well be that your dog is fat -- even obese.

Dr. Edgardo Vasquez says that 70 percent of the dogs he sees are overweight -- 70 percent! "Obesity-related illnesses can kill, and when they don't, they reduce the quality of life." (Dog World, October 1998) Dr. Vasquez concurs that almost no part of the body escapes the stress of an overweight condition -- heart, kidneys, liver, pancreas, joints, etc. And, this "disease" is totally preventable.

It is true that some breeds, the Nordics and Labs, for example, seem to gain very easily, but a simple equation exists for all breeds -- feed no more than the dog requires to meet needs of growth and/or activity. There is evidence that in neutered animals the metabolic set point is lowered, but the above premise still holds true -- feed no more than the dog needs. Another aspect of weight gain in spayed/neutered animals is that the operation usually takes place at about the time that the animal has also slowed way down in their growth rate. Therefore they require less to eat, but the same amount is offered!

Over and over again, when I comment to clients that their dog is too heavy (read fat!) I get comments such as -- "Really? He hardly eats a thing." "My breed is supposed to be heavy." "But, he is always so hungry -- just look at that expression." And, when I ask exactly how much the dog eats, the answer is often -- "Well, about a half a bowl full." Or, "Just a few hands full." One of my favorites is "But she won't eat if I don't put (fill in the blank) on her food." This is said about a dog that is so fat it clearly doesn't even want to eat, and is being "forced" into doing so by a "loving" owner!

To get in charge of the situation, the first thing that is required is to know exactly how much the dog eats at each meal. That requires a specific measuring cup. No guessing. No free feeding! Decide just how much the dog has been getting, and reduce that amount by up to 25 percent. While there are low-calorie diet foods available, there is reason to believe that the dog will feel more hungry on those empty calories than on reduced intake -- which is what will be required ultimately anyhow!

Feed on schedule, offer no fatty table scraps, buy the best dog food available, if you are feeding kibble, -- do not buy supermarket brands! For training treats (You do train your dog, right?) you can mix some of the kibble with tiny bits of liver or hot dogs and let the flavors blend. Or -- better yet -- use at least half of the dog's daily ration as training treats! No work - no food.

No diet is complete without an exercise program, but if you have neglected this part of your buddy's life, begin very, very slowly to avoid stress on the heart and joints.

"One can measure the size and moral progress of a nation to how she treats her animals." Mahatma Gandhi.

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