Oops! Where're the Ribs?

Just last week, I received a "Friendly Reminders" notice from my holistic vet. The reminders included don't forget your heart worm prevention, "we are a home-visit practice," an "in case of emergency number" and, last but not least, a reminder that with the holidays coming up, "don't overfeed your pet".

They proceeded to remind us of the "make sure you can feel -- not see their ribs" rule of thumb. So after obediently reading the reminders, I threw out the notice and went on with my day. Later that evening, while I was putting Dixie's leash on, she broke into a vigorous itch. As all curious guardians would have done, I examined her to make sure there were no bugs or miscellaneous particles burrowed into her skin or fur. While I found no such scary surprises, I was in for a different surprise.  I was not finding those beautiful ribs of hers.  OOps! My dog had officially become overweight!

How in the world did that happen?  Being a retired dancer, I still have a lean-mean dancing machine mentality -- always watching my carbs, calories, and exercise levels. However, when it comes to Dixie I get distracted by her big fur, smile, and tail wags. Not to mention we are back in school where every third or fourth correct behavior ends with a treat.

While a little overweight is usually easy to remedy, obesity necessitates more proactive measures. As in humans, excessive weight in pets can shorten their lifespan. Obesity can be a contributing factor in liver disease, hypertension, diabetes, arthritis, breathing problems, tolerance to heat, constipation, and can increase risks while under anesthesia. None of these conditions should be taken lightly.

Before our best friends need a trip to the vet for medical intervention, there are a few tricks I have discovered to trim the fat.

1. While many of us think of a treat as a cookie -- complete with extra and unnecessary carbohydrates -- there are alternatives. Instead, try freeze-dried beef, chicken, or fish -- sort of a South Beach/Atkins approach to your pet's health.

2. Before the ground in certain parts of the planet is covered with three feet of snow, get outside and enjoy those one-hour power walks through the park.

3. Feed less grain-based food and more protein-vegetable concentrated mixes.

4. While trying to get your pet down to a healthier weight, don't take drastic measures. When cutting back on food amounts, don't cut down by more than a quarter. Of course, you should always consult your vet in this area as they know your pet best.

5. If you are (and I hope you are) supplementing your pet's food with people food, for every ounce of people food added make sure to remove an equal portion of pet food. Calories are calories no matter what the source.

Using a few of the above tips, I had Dixie back down to a healthy rib friendly size in less than a month. Enjoy the journey!