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Veterinary Forum June 2007 (Vol 24, No 6)

Editor's Note: "Talk the talk, lose the weight"

by Marie Rosenthal

    My 4-year-old female weimeraner, Jane Eyre, recently lost 12 pounds. Although she is a very active dog, she was pretty portly at 96 pounds. I was determined to help her lose weight.

    It wasn't easy, though; Janie loves to eat. In fact, her first words were "cheese ball," because I had to give her medication when she was a pup. To this day, if I yell, "Cheese ball!" she comes running from any room in the house looking for a tasty morsel.

    Getting her on a diet took will power — not for her but for my husband and me. The hardest part was reducing the amount of people food we give her. Please, don't groan. I cannot look at those gorgeous, pleading eyes and not share my food.

    Dr. Dunbar Gram nailed it right on the head when we spoke recently: "There is a reason why dogs were domesticated — they are so good at their jobs [obtaining food]. Who can resist those sad eyes?"

    Not me, and certainly not my husband.

    So, how did we do it? We gave her less food. We switched to a low-calorie dog food, table scraps now contain more lean chicken, less fat and fewer carbs, and we cut the snacks to a little taste, rather than her own dishful. In addition, my husband is taking her on longer walks so she can burn off more energy.

    As a result, she lost the 12 pounds, and I was pretty pleased with myself when I took her for her annual checkup. I expected my veterinarian to congratulate me, but he didn't. He told me she was still overweight and was at risk for ≥ well, you know the list.

    My veterinarian is a good guy, and my animals get great care, so I'm not going to name names here, but I could have used a little more encouragement. If I were someone else, I might have been discouraged.

    Weight can be a difficult subject to discuss with owners, but your approach is most important, according to veterinary nutritionists. Show empathy with the owner and concern for the animal, they say.

    So, a word of advice from a pet owner: If the owner is committed to helping the animal lose weight, encourage any change. Honey goes a lot further than vinegar (and it's tastier, too.)

    NEXT: FDA approves new drug for CHF in dogs