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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Sorry, but your dog IS fat!

Today I saw the fattest chihuahua I've ever seen.  This happened in my chiropractor's parking lot.  He looked like an engorged tick sporting a red kerchief around a nondescript neck that led to a tiny head..  He left his beaming owner and trotted over to me, as friendly as can be.

"You're a cutie," I said to him with a chuckle.  "Looks like you eat real well too!"  My comment was meant for the owners to hear.  I didn't want to come out and say, "You're the fattest chihuahua I've ever seen."  People do take offense at stuff like that.  "He's a real chunk," I tried again, hoping to start a light-hearted dialogue about the dog's weight.

His owner just laughed and replied,  "Oh, he's actually not overweight.  He weighs 12 pounds.  The vet says he's just right.  All he eats is lean pork, every day."  And too much of it, I thought.  But I didn't comment further.  It was a lost cause.

People seem to be as blind about their dogs' weight as they are their kids'.  There are way too many FAT kids around these days, but people seem afraid to say it straight-out.  Instead, they say things like, "Oh, he's big-boned," or "Yup, he's a big guy, but he's solid," or "It's just baby fat."  Or the best yet:  "She's 'healthy.'"

"Fat" is becoming the new "f-word" or "n-word."  Pretty soon you probably won't be able to use it as an adjective anymore because it will be considered hate speech.  Yet it very succinctly defines a affecting way too many dogs (and people).  Like humans, overweight dogs are at higher risk for heart attacks, diabetes, strokes, and a multitude of other crippling, life-shortening maladies.

I'm not sure why so many vets seem to fib to their clients about their dogs' true weight conditions.  If you asked a vet how to determine weight condition without a scale, she'd tell you to run your hands lightly over the dog's sides.  You should be able to FEEL RIBS with a light caress.  If you can't, then there's a potentially deadly layer of fat entombing your dog's innards and impeding his ability to move, make his heart beat, and even breathe with ease.  The other way is of course to just LOOK at the subject.  Need I say more??  I suppose vets understand the sensitivity of the "overweight" issue and, like some human doctors, are too darn diplomatic to just come out and say you (or your dog) are overweight.  They'll instead say gently, "It wouldn't hurt to lose a few pounds" or "Try to get more exercise."  I do wish they'd all tell us their expert opinions.  After all, that's what we're paying them for.

Dogs don't get fat from eating two small meals a day! They get fat from treats under the table, treats for this and that, treats from strangers, and meal portions that are way larger than they need.  They pre-wash dishes and pans for the dishwasher.  They may also scarf treats from the cat's dish, or even journey to the neighbors for a daily handout.  They get it from rituals we all enjoy--popcorn tossing, "shredded cheese from heaven," licking the ice cream bowl.  Just remember that these calories count too...just like the calories in the "broken cookie" we may snitch for ourselves.

Next time you're tempted to do something really loving for your dog, take him for a walk or toss the ball a few times.  In addition to enjoying the moment, you'll be investing in a healthy future for him.

How we feed at the Manning house (the true story)
Dogs get up at 6am.  Lizzie the pit bull gets 3/4 cup of Flint River Ranch Trout & Sweet Potato kibble.  Angus the Lab gets about 1 1/2 cups of the same.

Throughout the day, the dogs get nothing, unless I'm doing some agility training with them.  In that case, they may get a total of a small handful of kibble.  I use Flint River Ranch Puppy & Adult Dog Kibble as treats, because the dogs love it so much.  Once in a while I'll grab a Flint River Ranch Lamb & Millet cookie and break that up into many small pieces.  I can make one cookie into at least 10 treat morsels.

While I'm making salad for dinner, I give the dogs the wilted lettuce leaves.  They love them.

Angus gets to lick my husband's ice cream bowl later in the evening.  Occasionally the dogs may get a small morsel of kibble to bribe them to go outside for final potty.

And that's it.

A couple weeks ago Angus went with Don to the trap club, where someone gave Angus several grocery-store-brand  dog biscuits.  He had diarrhea and gas for a day or so. Not a good thing!  I generally don't let my dogs accept treats from people unless they're the super high-quality stuff that we run into at agility trials and dog shows.  Even then, one morsel is the limit.

And oh yes...our dogs are happy and healthy, and they do know we love them!  We just show it other ways besides with food.

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