Pooches in Paradise

March 31st, 2015 by capeway

DSC07328                                  As a veterinarian schooled and practicing in North America, I never dreamed I would (or could!) operate on animals in an abandoned amusement park with limited equipment and medicine, but that’s exactly what I found myself doing last week when a chance search of the American Veterinary Medical Association’s website led me to an island in the West Indies called Nevis.

I was fortunate enough to join a wonderful organization called World Vets. World Vets is a non profit group that provides surgical and medical treatment to animals in developing nations across the globe, as part of a preventative program or for disaster relief. Volunteers range from veterinarians, to vet techs, to pre-vet students, to people who just have a love of animals and a desire to help. At any given time, a number of projects are underway, with the goal that improving the health and welfare of animals improves the health and welfare of the people who live with them.


My team in Nevis, the sister island to St. Kitts, consisted of 5 vets, 3 techs, 2 pre-vet students and a former Animal Control Officer. In any country World Vets goes to, they must coordinate with a local animal welfare group; our group was C.A.R.E Nevis Animal Society.  C.A.R.E is a powerful little force with a most impressive roster of local volunteers who didn’t hesitate to roll up their sleeves and get dirty, taking care of the animals before and after surgery, taking care of us before and after surgery!

I was told that our prime objective would be to spay and neuter stray and owned pets, with the occasional medical consult and non routine procedure. I was told the volume would be high. I was told the days would be long. I was told the conditions would not be “ideal”. What I was not told was how much fun I would have.

People either tied their dogs to the fence surrounding the amusement park with  notes, or checked in at the former ticket counter. We also had drivers roaming around the island picking up strays!

Once we got rolling, I didn’t move much from my surgical table. The 5 of us vets had tables set up in the open air cafeteria. The amazingly efficient technicians would induce anesthesia, prep the patients and bring them to our tables. When 1 surgery finished, there was a quick table sterilization, glove and instrument change, and the next patient was brought over. Post op patents were taken to recovery, make- shift pallets under the former beer garden tent!

I know it sounds like hard work but here’s the great part. Maybe because there was no paycheck associated with the work, maybe because we didn’t have the pressures of day to day clinic life, or maybe because everyone was working towards a common goal, I had a blast. Though we were constantly on the move, we had the tunes going and the jokes flowing. Volunteers generously brought us lunch and refreshments daily. Everyone pitched in to help everyone else. At the end of each day, we were exhausted but satisfied.

I feel so fortunate to have met everyone on my team, really laid back but hardworking people. And I can’t say enough positive about CARE and their volunteers. What I did in 1 week, they do on a day to day basis and my hat goes off to them and their tireless efforts. But I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the stars of the show, the island dogs! I have never met such well mannered, intelligent, docile sweeties. I already have future adoption plans in mind!

What started out as a 2015 bucket list objective for me will hopefully become an annual event. Though the point was to benefit the animals, I feel like I benefited the most.



It’s a Cruel Summer

August 12th, 2014 by capeway

imagesImagine sitting in your car, wearing a full length fur coat waiting for a friend to come out of Stop N Shop.  Imagine it being the middle of August. Your friend took the keys. The AC is off. The windows aren’t open. And everyone in the 12 items or less line has 13 items. Or more. How long could you stand it? Did you know that the temperature inside a car , even with the windows cracked, on an 85 degree day can reach 102 degrees within 10 minutes? Think about it, a car is basically a metal shell, a great absorber of heat. An oven. Your furry friend does not want to be in an oven.

Heat, and especially humidity, can be a dangerous, sometimes lethal combination , causing heat exhaustion or heat stroke in pets, mostly dogs. The risks increases if the dog is

a) overweight

b) has existing heart or lung problems

c) brachycephalic (i.e. smoosh faced dogs like Pugs and Bulldogs who have increased resistance to air flow through their already flattened nasal passages)

d)  elderly (airways aren’t as elastic to expand and contract smoothly)

e) overactive (increased muscle activity generates more heat)

Most people know that, unlike us, dogs can’t really sweat to cool down (except a little from their pads). Dogs release heat by panting.

We’ve been pretty lucky so far this summer, having had only one case of heat trauma in a black pit bull mix who was chasing the lawn mower back and forth. Her owners quickly recognized she was lethargic, was struggling to breathe, and brought her in right away. Their prompt action led to a successful outcome. Some clinical signs of heat exhaustion are dark pink or red gums, excessive panting with thick ropy drool, trembling muscles, a rapid heart rate, vomiting, diarrhea and a change in personality. Dog’s eyes can glaze, they can act confused, disorientated and dull. They may stumble when they walk, become weak and even collapse. As the core body temperature rises, the internal effect on organs is, well, like they are being baked. If the brain is affected, a dog may have seizures. The liver and kidneys can fail and basic clotting can be compromised.

If you recognize any of these signs in your dog at home, a rectal temperature may confirm heat exhaustion. A normal dog temperature is between 100 and 102.5. Temperatures between 104 and 106 degrees Fahrenheit are cause for concern and action. Cool the dog down. You can apply ice packs to less haired areas like the groin, armpits,  belly and head. Turning the garden hose on the dog is a good idea, just make sure you let the water run and check it is cool before turning it on him,  you don’t want to burn him with old water that has baked in rubber under the hot sun.  We usually immerse dogs in cool water baths (not ice cold, that can cause too rapid cooling and hypothermia ), start intravenous fluids to combat dehydration  and improve circulation to organs, and use drugs to combat any inflammation, infection or seizures. If the dog is having serious difficulty breathing, it may need to be sedated so we can intubate it and improve its oxygen intake.

Some practical tips to avoid disaster. Air conditioning is your friend. And your best friend’s friend. Your dog doesn’t want to go to Walmart or spend every minute with you. It wants to stay home, not in the Easy Bake Oven your car becomes within minutes of the AC being turned off.  I believe in exercise, just do it smart. Early morning and evenings are best. Watch your dog;  if he is lagging behind or hanging is head or panting a lot, stop.  Be careful of hot asphalt, it can burn pads. Carry fresh water everywhere. Look into cooling vests or mats. I know some dogs are outdoor dogs. Just remember, dog houses are not well ventilated and shade moves.

Give me shelter

June 25th, 2014 by capeway

dog-shelterMany years ago I tried to adopt a Golden Retriever from a local rescue organization. I was turned down because at the time I lived in an apartment and didn’t have a fenced in yard. I was a new veterinarian and didn’t play the “vet card”. I mostly forgot that incident, randomly bringing it up as a “can you believe they denied a vet a pet” anecdote. A few incidents have made me remember that rejection however.
Example 1 A rescue organization called to get a history on a client and her past pet. Our receptionist was specifically asked if the owner brought the pet in for vaccines. The answer was no. The call ended, and the owner was denied adoption, despite attempts to explain that the owner was new to our practice, we only met her and her senior pet late in the pets life when we sadly diagnosed a terminal illness. The organization did not want to hear how this owner pursued every diagnostic and treatment option available, and in the end nursed her friend with love and devotion during his last days.
Example 2 A rescue organization called to get a history on a client and her current pet. We were specifically asked if the owner gave heartworm preventative medication and how frequently. They were told yes, but only seasonally. The owner was denied. This owner brings her pet in every year for a physical exam and performs recommended tests. She has brought the pet in when it was sick. She has never missed a year.
Anyone who has a TV has seen the images of homeless pets in desperate need while Sarah McLaughlin sings mournfully in the background. Yet are the standards by which certain organizations grant or deny a person a pet too high? Should a person be denied a pet because they
a) live in an apartment ? (FYI, everyone in New York City lives in an apartment and it is one of the most dog friendly cities I have ever visited…everyone walks their dogs and everyone picks up after them)
b) have a pool that a cat or dog may fall into and drown?
c) choose to give heartworm preventative only in the warmer months in a non heart worm endemic area?
d) have a child, are divorced, are expecting a baby, live with elderly parents, have roommates, travel for work, make less than a certain income, don’t have a doggie door, plan on crating their dog (I have found these very questions on different applications)
Shouldn’t the goal of a rescue organization be to get more dogs and cats out of shelters and into loving homes?
Are rescue organizations private entities or are they funded through public donations and government grants? If they are charitable organizations, who decides the adoption criteria? Is a yay or nay an individual or a committee decision? Is that process made transparent to donors?
And what are the success rates of these organizations? How many pets are placed? How many are returned? How many still reside in the shelter or in foster, waiting for that perfect home?
I am the first to defend and champion those who work in the field of animal rescue. It is an overwhelming job done by dedicated folks operating on a shoe string budget. I have met many wonderful people over the years from various animal rescue organizations and have always been struck by their tirelessness, their hard work, their never ending compassion. I also know they see the worst of the worst…too many dogs tied to their front door, too many kittens left in garbage bags, too many post Christmas surrenders, too many returns because it just “wasn’t a good fit”, too many “I didn’t know he was going to get so big!” They want their decisions on adoption to be good and right and permanent.
But shouldn’t that compassion be tempered with reality? A lesson I have learned with age and experience is that life is not black and white, it really is grey. The recommendations I make as a vet and the standards I follow as a pet owner may not be possible for everyone. I understand that. It doesn’t make someone an unfit owner or unworthy of a pet.
There has to be a middle ground between giving a pet to anybody with a drivers license and $50 in his pocket and the 10 page long application that requires home photos, a home inspection, verification of income and more hoop jumping that getting into Harvard.

Traveling with Pets

May 14th, 2014 by capeway

imagesThis is the time of year that people start to make summer travel plans. As most pets are considered part of the family, it is not unusual for pets to accumulate frequent flier points along with their owners. Here are some pointers to keep the journey safe and enjoyable.

The Road Trip

How many times have you been driving along, only to glance at the car next to you and see a guy happily cruising with a dog in his lap? Is the dog steering? Does he use the dog as a GPS? I try to get as many car lengths away from that vehicle as possible! Pets should always be restrained in cars, they are just as likely to be injured in the event of an accident as you are.

If you have an SUV or station wagon, the cargo area can easily be blocked off from the rest of the vehicle with custom grates. If Pooch gets his own seat, remember to buckle him in as well! Many harnesses of varying sizes are available that attach to seat belts. If dogs should always be restrained in cars, the same goes double for cats. Cats should not be seen sunning themselves at the rear window next to a Beanie Baby collection! A carrier that can again be seat belted in is ideal for small journeys, larger journeys may require a larger carrier, preferably placed on the floor, with food, water and litterbox space.  Stop often to stretch, hydrate and refresh. Many rest areas have designated dog walk areas, drinking fountains and bowls….I’m sure cats on harnesses are accepted in these areas as well!

Interestingly many dogs get carsick. I used to recommend avoiding meals shortly before travel but now we can also offer a dog medication designed to prevent motion sickness called Cerenia, effective if given a few hours before traveling.

Gone too are the days of sneaking Butch into the last room at the end of Motel 8. There are many pet friendly hotels in most states, check out www.petswelcome.com or try www.AAA.com

For clients planning long road trips I often recommend mapping out emergency vet hospitals along the way, just in case.

A few words on camping…

Make sure the campground accepts pets…I know, seems like a no-brainer!

Make sure your pet likes camping and is healthy enough to withstand the great outdoors. A nervous Chihuahua who is afraid of noise and people may just want to stay home. An 8 year old English Bulldog probably should be inside in the AC and not at a campsite in August.

Make sure your pet is current on vaccines. Rabies is a legal requirement, but especially in this area you may want to discuss the pros and cons of vaccinating your dog against Lyme disease. Guard your pet against parasites by keeping them on a monthly broad spectrum dewormer, found in all heartworm preventatives, and using a flea/tick preventative as well.

First Aid Kit

You never know when minor injuries may happen on the road or at the campsite. Here is a brief list of what I would include in a first aid kit :

– a disinfectant like a mild antibacterial soap, cotton balls or clean hand towels

– bandage material – non stick Telfa pads, gauze, wrap, porous tape

-topical triple antibiotic cream

-Benadryl tablets – for minor allergic reactions, hives

– tweezers – for ticks as well as small splinters

 Adventures in the Air

If your little Yorkie weighs less than 15 lb, he may be able to stay in the cabin with you as your “carry-on”.  Unfortunately, if your Labrador Retriever is too big to fit under the seat, you are left with putting him in cargo. This requires him to be in a properly labelled (your name, address, phone number, his name on his collar/leash), airline approved crate. I also encourage all traveling pets to be microchipped. Always check with the airline on what paperwork they require for pets traveling in cargo. Most require a health certificate issued within the last 14 to 30 days indicating the pet is healthy and free of contagious diseases and proof of current rabies vaccination.  Some require the vet to state the pet is healthy enough to withstand a certain temperature range (cargo can get cold, the tarmac can get hot). Contact the airlines directly and do not just rely on websites. Talk to a person. Find out if anybody checks on pets in cargo, what the temperature and air pressure are kept at, how long the pet could be outside if there is a lay over.

As for specific requirements for entry of pets into different countries, I encourage people to check out   www.aphis.usda.gov

Itching to Scratch – How to Scratch your Pet’s Itch (Without Scratching!)

April 4th, 2014 by capeway

images-1Does this sound familiar? “Rufus stop licking your paws!”  Do you lose sleep at night listening to the sound of  Lucky’s tags jingling as he scratches his ears? Have you spent more money on shampoos and oils and creams than you do on groceries? Than you may be one of the millions of  owners whose pet has skin allergies. Allergies can be a very frustrating, time consuming and expensive veterinary medical issue.  There are of course other causes of itching besides allergies, but allergic dermatitis is the most common skin condition I encounter.  This is inflammation (itching, redness, swelling) of the skin caused by some offending allergen. Allergens can be broken down into 3 broad categories – 1) flea saliva (referred to as Flea  Allergy Dermatitis and probably the most common and easy to treat cause of itching) 2) environmental allergens (grass, trees, weeds, fungi, dust mites) and  3) food . Each category has its own clinical signs that usually increase my index of suspicion.

Flea Allergy Dermatitis

If Fluffy has hair loss, redness and scabbing near his tail base, I’m going to suspect a flea bite hypersensitivity, even in the face of adamant owner denial that their pet doesn’t go outside so it can’t have fleas! The allergic reaction in a hypersensitive pet doesn’t  require an infestation, a handful of fleas feeding away is all it takes. In these cases, the best defense is a good offense. Monthly flea prevention, given consistently without any breaks or delays , ALL YEAR ROUND, to all pets in the house, can “cure” Fluffy. We have many highly effective topical and oral flea preventatives today that have great safety and duration of action when used correctly.

Atopic Dermatitis

This is skin inflammation caused by environmental allergens. The same stuff outside that people are allergic to causes allergies in pets, but because these allergens are absorbed across the skin, inflammation and itching is what we see. Some clinical signs that tip me off are 1) recurrent ear infections – remember, skin lines the ears  2) dogs that incessantly lick or chew their feet, creating redness and swelling and often allowing sneaky bacteria and yeast to settle in and create a secondary infection…which in itself is very itchy, creating a vicious cycle  3) cats that obsessively groom the fur off their bellies or legs

In these pets, strengthening the skin barrier against allergens is helpful. This can be done with various topical sprays, medicated baths and leave on conditioners, as well as oral omega fatty acids.  Many pets can be managed with topicals alone, or in combination with antihistamines if their symptoms are mild. Some need antibiotics or anti-fungals to treat those pesky opportunistic infections. But some are so itchy, they need more potent medical treatment.  We can  allergy test dogs and cats and teach you how to administer injections or drops at home. Steroids are a tried and true class of anti-inflammatories. We also have newer drugs that alter the allergic pets immune reaction to allergens, or flat out stop the itch cycle.

Food allergies

Food allergies could be a topic by itself,  as there is a definite line between dietary intolerance and a true allergy, and food choices are often made based on opinion and not fact. Daily I meet owners who have put their allergic pet on a “grain free” diet. How grain became the scapegoat for allergic disease in dogs is beyond me. In truth, pets are most often sensitive to the protein or meat source in their diet, and secondarily to the carbohydrate or starch. A tip off is a pet with gut signs, so vomiting, soft stool, diarrhea, often with some skin inflammation (especially under the tail base). If Tank the Bulldog clears a room with his flatulence, he may have a dietary intolerance! Allergy testing is not precise to diagnose food allergies. Instead we really on hypoallergenic dietary trials i.e. put Tank on a diet with a new or “novel” protein/carbohydrate source EXCLUSIVELY  for 2 to 4 months and see what happens. That means no treats, table food, or Cheerios spilled from the highchair. If one trial doesn’t work, try another. There are many hypoallergenic diets out there, usually recognized by their label ” Whitefish and Potato”, ” Duck and Pea” , ” Venison and Rice”. I often reach for a hydrolyzed protein diet to avoid the trial and error of picking the right hypoallergenic diet. Hydrolyzed proteins are so small they cross the gut without being recognized by a hypersensitive immune system, so it doesn’t matter what the protein source is.

There are definite breed predilections for allergies as well, Labradors, Goldens and English Bulldogs coming to mind. So if Rufus’ feet are so raw he needs to wear socks, if you think a lampshade is the solution to constant ear scratching, or if you bought a Mr.  Jinks  not a Mr. Bigglesworth,  bring them in, we might be able to help.

Pet Food 101

February 14th, 2014 by capeway


I often have clients ask me “What’s the best food to feed Fluffy?”  Sometimes I have people tell me that the Big Name pet food companies produce inferior products with a lot of fillers. And every so often I get the opinionated few who inform me that certain pet foods contain beaks, fur, and hooves in their products!  I have found that opinions on pet food can be very strong, often like opinions on religion. So, it is not my goal to change anyone’s opinion, but to help people make better informed decisions. I recently had the privilege  of listening to an excellent  lecture given at The North American Veterinary Conference by an esteemed veterinary nutritionist from Tufts University, Dr. Lisa Freeman. Much of this blog is a summary of what I learned.


There is in fact no one best food for every pet because, as every pet owner knows, every pet is different and special. Decisions should be made on evaluation of the product, reputation of the manufacturing company, age and health of the pet, cost, and of course palatability. Too often, choices are made based on media, how attractive the label is, and negative ad campaigns (“would you feed your dog brand X food that contains corn?!”) Effective advertising sells, there is no getting around that (I myself am a Maxxinista), but what do Rachel Ray or Chef Michael know about dog food? Here are a few tips on how to read a label, without falling for the dog howling at the moon pretty picture on the front.

– The most important thing on a label is not the ingredient list, but the Nutritional Adequacy Statement. This tells you if a food is complete and balanced, as well as how they make that claim. The Gold Standard way to make the claim of nutritional adequacy is if the manufacturer states the food went through feeding trials (ie testing the food on actual animals), established by AAFCO. AAFCO is the Association of American Feed Control Officials, a regulatory body that oversees pet food labeling.

– The second most important thing on a label is the manufacturer. This is where the average person doesn’t do a lot of research, but if you really want to know if a company has a good reputation, don’t read 100 opinions on the internet,  ask a few questions. Does the company employ a full time nutritionist with credentials? ie a board certified veterinarian or a PhD. Does the company have a research and development department and if so, do they have any peer reviewed studies of their products to back up their claims? Can they list their quality control standards? (where do their ingredients come from, how is the quality of ingredients assessed, are ingredients and end products tested for toxins, how often are their manufacturing plants inspected)?

– What most people evaluate a pet food by, the ingredient list, is actually one of the least important things on a label. Ingredient lists can be misleading because ingredients are listed in decreasing order BY WEIGHT, which includes water weight. So meats and vegetables may be listed first because of their high water content, but actually contribute less nutritionally than a dry ingredient like corn meal listed further down. Ingredient lists also do not tell you the quality of those ingredients. And if something is at the end of the ingredient list, it is often in too small of an amount to actually provide any nutritional benefit. But it may make the product look appealing to a consumer.

A few words on marketing

– “grain free” – whole grains are actually digestible sources of protein, vitamins and minerals, and fibre. They seldom cause allergies, obesity or diabetes and are not fillers. If a food is labelled “grain-free” see what the grain has been replaced with. If it is tapioca or potato, it may actually be less nutritious.

– “human grade” “premium grade” “holistic” – there are no AAFCO definitions for these terms. Anyone can put these on a label as there are no standards to be met.

– “by-products” – these can be internal organs but do not include beaks, fur, nails or intestinal contents. They vary in quality, just like meat, and do not indicate an inferior product. In fact, people spend good money to eat goose liver…its called Foie Gras!

Information on regulations, labeling and other facts about pet food : www. petfood.aafco.org/

FAQ’s about pet foods : www.tufts.edu/vet/nutrition/faq/general_pet_nutrition.html

Pet Food Institute : Information on ingredient definitions, nutrition myths, labeling regulations –  www.petfoodreport.com

World Small Animal Veterinary Association Nutrition Toolkit – www.wsava.org

“Help, my dog ate…..!”

January 13th, 2014 by capeway

DSCF1832 (2)One of the most common calls we get at CVH is about pets who ingest potentially toxic substances. I’m still waiting for the day I get the “help! my dog ate my Viagra” call! Hasn’t happened yet… wonder why? Here’s a list of my 5 most common non-Viagra toxicology cases.


Especially around the holidays, chocolate toxicity calls are common. The good news is that it’s usually dark bakers chocolate that you need to watch out for, not  your secret stash of Snickers. That’s because the toxic ingredients in chocolate – methylxanthines which include caffeine – are highest in dark chocolate. Toxicity is also size and dose dependent. Great Dane and Hershey Kiss= good;  Chihuahua  and bag of Toll House chocolate chips = not so good. Clinical signs range from a mild intestinal upset (from small amounts of milk chocolate) to hyperactivity and rapid heart rate, to full blown seizures. Gives new meaning to the phrase “death by chocolate”.


We used to see more antifreeze toxicity cases, but thanks to the wider use of pet safe antifreeze, the numbers have declined. Outdoor kitties who like to shelter in garages or under cars are most affected; antifreeze is sweet and colorless. Ethylene Glycol is the toxic ingredient in antifreeze, and it is metabolized into crystals that damage kidneys. Unfortunately, by the time an animal is in kidney failure, the damage is done and the prognosis is poor. If you see your pet drinking from a highly suspicious puddle, bring them in right away. Supportive care with IV fluids, and the antidote (fomepizole or ethanol) can be started while waiting for the results of an antifreeze blood test.

Rat Poison

Again, seeing your pet eat rat poison is the best way to ensure a happy outcome. Rat poison contains anti-coagulants, substances that prevent blood from clotting. Rats are killed by bleeding to death. Any dog who presents pale and weak, with a bloody nose, bloody urine or difficulty breathing is a suspect when ingestion is not seen. The antidote is Vitamin K to re-establish normal clotting, but in severe cases a blood transfusion may be required.


Pets are not people. While many of the drugs we use in veterinary medicine are the same as used in human medicine, many are not. Advil or Ibuprofen can cause stomach ulcers and vomiting at very low doses, and will damage the kidneys at higher doses. Tylenol or acetaminophen requires a liver enzyme that dogs and especially cats lack to break it down. Pets can be depressed, vomit, have abdominal pain and dark brown blood and urine because of resulting liver damage. There is an antidote (acetylcysteine) for acetaminophen toxicity, but the prognosis is grave if clinical signs have developed.


My all time favorite.  That’s because it’s fairly easy to diagnose based on clinical signs, there is always a great deal of embarrassment/denial/finger pointing on behalf of the clients; and most importantly, the pet is usually OK with minor supportive treatment.  The typical Pot dog usually has dilated pupils and sways like he is drunk. He may tremor or twitch and often  falls asleep during the exam, only to startle awake. Some pets will have heart rate or blood pressure issues, but most are just inco-ordinated, with a change in behavior and personality.

With the toxins I’ve mentioned, the good news is recent ingestion (within a couple of hours) in an asymptomatic pet allows us to try to induce the pet to vomit and bring the bad stuff up . There is nothing more satisfying than seeing a big pile of green rat poison pellets or foil chocolate wrappers! Often times after making the pet vomit, we use activated charcoal to bind the remaining toxin so it can pass in the pets feces and prevent further absorption. IV fluids also help flush  the body of toxins.

The keys to successful toxicity cases are :

1) owner witnesses ingestion

2) owner seeks veterinary advise/care immediately

3) owner brings all information about the toxin with them – i.e. bag of chocolate, box of rat poison.

4) the patient is symptom free and vomiting is successful

The ASPCA has a great poison control section on their website www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control and  a fee for service number you can call for those late night instances when you just don’t know if 5 bags of Halloween Mini Mars Bars and a 20 lb Dachshund are a good combination or not (hint….probably not!)

Round is not a shape : The Pitfalls of Pudginess / Capeway Veterinary Hospital of Fairhaven

December 6th, 2013 by capeway

DSCF1549 The blank stares, the excuses, the flat out denials. I often wonder how physicians talk about obesity with their human patients without getting looks      that could kill or threats to find another doctor. Sometimes I think I have an easier time telling an owner their pet has cancer instead of their pet is  obese. Here’s a few reason why, in my humble opinion :

1) Criticizing a pets weight is often taken as a criticism of an owners’ love and dedication. It is NEVER meant to be. I’m happy you love and care enough        about your pet to bring him/her in to see us.

2) Obesity has become so much “the norm” that people just don’t see it.

3) Fat pets are cute.

4) and unfortunately, the dietary habits of some pets reflect those of their owners.

 Here are my top 5 list of excuses for fat Fidos :

5) Fluffinator only gets a handful/scoop/cup a day.

How big is your hand? How big is your cup? Is it a Big Gulp from 7-Eleven?

4) Chub-a-licious runs around the yard all day.

Ok, I have a yard and dogs. Let me tell you what they do. Run for 5 minutes from one end to the other, then lie on the deck for the next 55 minutes.

3) My husband/ father/ mother/ brother feeds Pudge-pie too many treats/ cookies/ table scraps. Note, the spouse or family member in question is NEVER present during the exam. I’ve had parents throw their 2 year olds under the proverbial bus ” he keeps throwing things from his highchair!”  What are you feeding the kid? Big Macs?

2) “Sir oinks-a- lot is big boned.”

1) And my all time favorite  ” Jabba is just REALLY picky”.

The facts

I’m not great with statistics but it is a fact that over 50% of pet cats and dogs in this country are overweight or obese. And here’s some more math. Weighing 15% over your ideal weight means you are overweight. Weighing 30% over your ideal weight means you are obese. For a 10 lb Chihuahua , 2 to 3 extra pounds makes a huge difference!

And where I come in 

– fat pets have a higher risk of insulin resistance and diabetes. Believe me, no one likes giving their pets injections daily!

– fat pets are more prone to arthritis and orthopedic problems. It’s not just Tom Brady who gets his ACL repaired. Knee surgery, often on both knees is no longer just for the athletic dogs who suffer injuries.

– fat pets have a harder time breathing. Extra weight presses on the diaphragm and compresses the lungs and airways.

– fat cats are unlucky enough to be at risk for hepatic lipidosis or fatty liver syndrome, which means the liver’s fat storage ability is overwhelmed and it fails. You can’t live without a liver.

Bottom line, lean pets live longer.


So what can the average person who works all day and has a family and busy life do?

– I believe in small steps. LITERALLY. Take a 15 minute walk with your dog everyday (not a stop and smell the roses mosey but a brisk walk). It will go by quick, I promise. Increase that by 10% each week as your pet builds aerobic stamina. That’s 4 songs on your iPod!

– substitute carrots and celery for high calorie cookies and treats. Food DOES NOT equal love. It is the reward/praise/attention pets crave. Fool Fido by even putting healthy snacks in the same cookie cabinet or container

– laser pointers and cats = FUN!

– try walking your cat on a harness. It might work and you will definitely make friends with your neighbors!

– and my least favorite : math. There is a reason that Weight Watchers works. Calories in have to be less than calories out. Weight loss diets or calorie restricted diets can help. Accurately measure food. Knowing your pets BCS or Body Condition Score and daily calorie requirement is important. Keep in mind, pet food companies often overestimate on their feeding guides because, well, they are in the market to sell pet food.

– Google pets on treadmills!

I look forward to seeing more of you out walking with your pets!