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Ask a Vet: Extra food leads to overweight pets
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“Your dog is fat. And it’s your fault.”

If I were a character in a movie and had somehow lost my ability to cushion the blow of medical advice, I’d say that all the time.

When we look at statistics, the most commonly diagnosed health issue in our pets is dental disease. But the heavy pet is my biggest aggravation, professionally speaking.

The dog (or cat, or human) body is similar to a machine that carries extra fuel for future needs. If you put extra fuel in your car, it overflows. If you put extra food in your dog — short of overfilling his belly and making him vomit — he’ll store it away. And with each extra pound of weight representing fat, the overall metabolism is slowed and fewer calories are needed per pound body weight on a daily basis to keep the system going. Thus, a slightly overweight dog can become truly overweight, then obese and ultimately morbidly obese.

The slippery slope is real.

So do you put your beagle on a juice cleanse? No. Fad diets and crash diets will give temporary results, but can cause negative changes in the body as well. The best means to keep your dog in good shape is to never allow him to get fat in the first place. For the large majority of owners, that’s a fork in the road long gone.

First, remember the machine analogy. Stop putting in extra fuel and begin encouraging the system to burn that fuel. This means a combination of dietary control/restriction and maintaining a healthy level of physical activity.

Staying in a slightly positive balance will continually allow your pet to store away extra energy in the form of fat. Staying in a slightly negative balance will begin to burn stored fuel, and thus your dog will “eat” the fat he’s stored away.

Your veterinarian can help you work out your pet’s dietary energy requirements and establish what amount of food you should be feeding for this dieting.

In the next few weeks, I’ll share more information on this subject, including diseases related to obesity.

Matthew Sisk is a practicing veterinarian from Habersham County. Have questions about your pet? He can be reached at

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