We’ve all heard the expression “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” But what about “man’s best friend?” A patient of mine, Lola, lives with a loving family who shares everything with their darling girl – including their table scraps. So, is sharing caring? Not necessarily – especially when it comes to our pets’ diets.
Lola is a four-year-old Beagle/Terrier mix who I have cared for since she was eight-weeks-old. Her pet parents are a sweet mother and teenage daughter duo, and Lola is clearly a cherished member of their family. A year ago, when I saw Lola for her wellness check up, I was dismayed when I walked into the exam room. Lola had gone from a little bit on the plump side the year before, to grossly obese. As I entered the room, she struggled to her feet and waddled over to me, breathing heavily.
I think I let out an audible gasp, “Oh! She’s gotten so fat!” Tactful? No. But I was upset to see this young dog struggling to move around the room. Mother and daughter looked anxious, and I had a heart-to-heart discussion with them about weight loss and exercise. They both cited Dad as the source of a never-ending supply of table food and promised to set him straight. Lola’s obesity was so remarkable that I ran some bloodwork to make sure nothing else was amiss. Obesity in pets is a major contributor to health problems. It has been implicated in orthopedic disease, pulmonary disease, and diabetes among others.
Six months ago, I saw Lola again for a vaccine booster and was disappointed to see that she had gained two more pounds. This time I was stern with her owners. I told them that her quality of life was being diminished by her obesity. At her age, Lola should be in her prime, chasing squirrels and playing ball, not waddling and wheezing her way across the floor for another nap. I challenged them to get the weight off of her. For the second time we discussed diet options and exercise programs. Dad came up again as the source of extra calories and I gave them the task of laying down the law for NO MORE TABLE FOOD. I told them to quote me. They left my office with fire in their eyes. I watched them leave with Lola waddling after them. Honestly, I wasn’t feeling too hopeful this time.
I saw Lola last week. I opened the door to the exam room and a bouncy slim version of Lola ran over to me and jumped up on me. Once again I gasped in surprise. The owners were beaming at me. Mom and daughter rushed to tell me about extra walks and diet food, and that Dad was cooperating and not feeding Lola from the table. Here was Lola, almost 20 pounds lighter, acting ten years younger. I beamed back at the owners with tears in my eyes. I actually hugged them (to their surprise). They bragged about her speed and ball playing and I told them how proud I was of them, because no matter how well I do my job, it is a pet’s family that really holds the key to their health.