Saturday, January 06, 2007

Do We Really Need a Drug for Overweight Dogs?

Warning: rant ahead.

Apparently the obesity epidemic is not limited to the human species. Current statistics say 20-30% of America's dogs are considered overweight, and the drug companies are stepping up to help. Yesterday's headlines included the announcement of a new drug, approved by the FDA, that is supposed to help obese dogs lose weight. Called Slentrol, the drug supposedly reduces the amount of fat a dog's body absorbs from food.

Ok, so let's get this straight. Humans will pay a veterinarian (and a drug company) who knows how much for a drug to help their dog shed pounds, when that same person could do the same thing by just NOT FEEDING THEIR DOG SO MUCH. Yes, I'm yelling. With a few exceptions for metabolic disorders, dogs do not get fat by themselves. We feed them. We control their food. It's not like Fido is sneaking off in the middle of the day to gorge himself on Big Macs when we're not looking. (Although some of them might be better off if they did that than eating what their humans feed to them.)

Why do people literally kill their dogs with kindness? "Oh, when Fluffy looks up at me with those big, brown eyes, I just can't help myself," they say, as if it would be somehow cruel to deprive their pet of that half a peanut butter cookie or the wee bit of breakfast doughnut he's so sweetly begging for. Nevermind that a good 50% of Fluffy's "fluff" is that roll of fat around the middle that makes him waddle across the room to beg.

Is it that we feel guilty for not sharing what we have? If that were the case, we wouldn't have so many starving people in the world. Humans could do with a little more sharing. Perhaps our lack of interest in sharing our abundance with other humans is a matter of proximity to the ones in need. When the need is far away, we can easily look away. The dogs have the advantage of being here with us and they're not shy about asking for what they want.

Or is it that we somehow feel like we need to buy the dog's love? I've known quite a few people who act like the only way to get their dog's love is through food. And few self-respecting canines would turn down an opportunity to eat from the Alpha's table. Sure, the dogs look happy after we've given them food. I look pretty happy when someone gives me a piece of chocolate. But that doesn't mean I love them any more. (I do, however, see them as a source to stick close to...). And, after all, food was one of the things that initially brought humans and dogs together. But just the fact that we feed them breakfast and dinner is enough to keep the dog around. And getting the love and companionship from us is a reward in and of itself, even without biscuits. Do our children only love us because we feed them? I hope not. Same for dogs.

Or maybe we just want our dogs to share in everything that we do, for better or worse. If we're fat, the dog is fat. And somehow that makes us feel better. It's no coincidence that the growing human obesity problem and the canine obesity problem are linked. We're eating more (and more of the wrong things) and we're exercising less (thus so are the dogs). We're driving everywhere. We're working longer hours and leaving the pups at home alone, then returning to shower our companions with love and biscuits. Stress makes fat happen, and I don't doubt the same is true for dogs.

Ok, I understand that we humans sometimes don't have control over our own appetites. It's wintertime and all I can think about on a cold, dark day is comfort food (where's that person with the chocolate?). And I usually put on a few pounds each winter as a result. But the way a dog begs for food knows no season. They pretty much always want treats.

We absolutely must take accountability for the fat of our dogs. We are their caretakers and they trust us to take good care of them. If we love our dogs, how can we betray that trust by making them fat and unhealthy?

1 comment:

KM said...

I think there should be a law! Any one caught overfeeding their helpless, victimized pet should be forced to walk said pet a half hour twice a day in perpetuity. No walking, no pet.