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Lifestyle // The Wild Side
Dr. John Kaya

Obesity Is Bad For Dogs, Cats Too

We live in a gluttonous society. I write this from personal experience as I sit tapping “abdominus maximus.”

This mentality of eating beyond our capacity and biological needs has somehow transferred to our pets. Every day I counsel clients on the proper way to feed their cuddly family member. I admit that I do not hold all the answers. Who does? But my recommendation comes from years of treating pets for various ailments, many of which stem from improper nutrition.

I’m not able to cover all types of pets in one article, but below I reveal answers to the common questions posed to me by clients who own dogs. I hope they help you help your pooch.

How much do I feed? It’s simple. If your dog looks overweight, then feed less food. If your dog looks too skinny, then feed more. Many times it’s not the twice-a-day meals that are the problem but the dog treats in between. If you plan to give your pet snacks, then reducing the amount of food during meals may be necessary.

Is being overweight a problem? Yes. A recent study found that dogs died on average two years earlier if they were obese. If you’re doing everything right and your pet is still overweight, then make an appointment to see your veterinarian since there may be an underlying problem.

What is the best commercial diet on the market? There are many companies that make dog food. Some are expensive while others are cheap. Some diets pride themselves in being organic, while others contain meat byproducts and preservatives. Always be cautious of the hype surrounding diets because it can be deceiving. Sift through the marketing and, if in doubt, seek the advice of your veterinarian. I tell owners to feed a diet that their pet enjoys eating and monitor fur quality, stool texture and appetite.

Can I feed table food to my dog? Coming out of veterinary school my answer would have been no. Now I freely recommend fresh foods to my clients. This revelation came to me many years ago as I helplessly watched my wife’s parents feed their dog Lani french fries and teriyaki chicken. Did I want to say something? Yes. Did I dare say anything? No. I happen to cherish the wonderful relationship I have with my in-laws. In retrospect I’m very glad that I held my tongue because Lani lived to the ripe old age of 21 years. If a person is motivated enough, then cooking a complete meal for their pet would be ideal. Many people can barely cook for themselves, let alone their dog, so this undertaking may be a bit overwhelming. Remember: If you cook for your pet, then the onus is on you to include all the nutrients necessary for a healthy diet.

What foods are bad for dogs? Grapes, raisins, onions, garlic, avocados, alcoholic drinks, coffee, chocolate, macadamia nuts, and foods high in fat or salt should be avoided. Also, dogs can also develop food allergies and so in theory anything can cause problems. In summary, feed your dog a high quality commercial dog food which contains all the essential nutrients for your pet and supplement with a variety of healthy fresh foods.

Monitor your pet’s weight and seek the advice of your veterinarian if you have any concerns.

Good luck and bon appetite.

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