The other day I took my dogs to the vet for a checkup and saw a woman with her morbidly obese dog waiting to fill her prescription for Slentrol — the first obesity drug for dogs — which made me feel the need to resurrect this post below, which I wrote the day the FDA announced they’d approved the drug for use in dogs:
The FDA just announced that they’ve just approved the first-ever obesity drug for dogs, which really makes me cringe. Why? Because dogs don’t have eating disorders — their owners have feeding disorders.
summer, I adopted a new dog after she ran in front of my car on an
interstate. She was starved, so I took her home and fed her. And fed
her. And fed her. She weighed 20 pounds and could eat a heaping cup of
food in 28 seconds (yes, I timed her). But that was fine, because she
needed all the extra calories she could get. Then, about three months
later, during a good wrestling match, I realized I couldn’t feel her
ribs anymore. Suddenly, she’d gone from being emaciated to being pudgy.
So I did exactly what everyone else with a pudgy dog should do: I
started feeding her less. Instead of getting a heaping cup at each
meal, she got 2/3 of a cup. Three weeks later, she wasn’t pudgy
anymore. That’s the amazing thing about dogs and weight: Humans control
their calorie intake, and there’s nothing dogs can do about it. If your
dog needs to lose weight, you feed it less food.
It’s true that
there’s an epidemic of canine (and feline) obesity right now, just like
there’s an epidemic of human obesity. Which is no coincidence: People
don’t exercise, which means their dogs don’t exercise. When people eat,
they feed their dogs scraps, so the dogs gain weight right along with
their owners. And don’t even get me started on the ingredients in dog
But there are other less obvious problems: Owners often
have no idea how much they should feed their dogs, and if they follow
the guidelines on most dog food bags, they’re probably going to have
obese dogs, because pet food companies encourage overfeeding. I had a
125 pound dog who lived to be 16 and was never an ounce over or under
weight. If I’d followed the guidelines for his food, he’d have eaten 2 1/2 times what I actually fed him, and surely become obese. My very healthy 17 year old dog Bonny eats 1/4 the recommended amount, always has.
my years as a veterinary technician, I saw many dogs die or become
paralyzed from obesity. Today, when I see an obese dog on the street, I
want to walk up to its owner and say, You love your dog, right? Then
why are you killing it?
If it’s come down to this, and people
are unable to control themselves when it comes to feeding their dogs,
I’d rather see dogs medicated than dead. But I hope vets who prescribe
this stuff paste a sticker on every bottle that says, Dogs
don’t need obesity drugs. They need owners who will feed them the right
amount, cut back when necessary, and make sure they get exercise. (Perhaps the FDA should consider a self-control drug for humans with dog feeding disorders.)
Update: Due to the many questions I got in response to this post, I’ve decided to start a (brief) series of follow-up posts that address the most common questions and offer tips. The first post: How to Prevent Obesity in Your Pet — also see the comments thread for some good stories about the crazy things we do to keep our pets from gorging themselves. I hope others will join in with stories of their own.