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Issue: 43 - Jul 16, 2012
Why my patients can’t, won’t, don’t shed the pounds they desperately need to ...
By: Patty Khuly VMD MBA
Patty Khuly VMD MBA

This afternoon I heard the same thing from three different pet owners: “But I only feed [her] this much!” (Picture a thumb and index finger held a mere half-inch apart to more fully appreciate the impact of these words upon your veterinary soul.)

This ubiquitous utterance was offered with respect to the three fat pets who’d just waddled out my door. All dogs, all belonging to the category of patient we would all recognize as “obesity-prone” (spayed/neutered and hailing from a chunkalicious breed of dog –– or mix thereof). And all, of course, belonging to an owner very much in denial.

Sigh ...

It’s times like these I feel more like a struggling salmon flip-flopping her way upstream than a veterinarian. Because this won’t be the first time [this week!] I discuss a pug’s impressive respiratory compromise in tandem with her obesity ...

Nor will the beagle’s body weight-challenged cruciate repair be a novel subject in light of her post-surgical weight gain.

And the bulldog with the tail fold pyoderma? It’s nigh-time for surgery, seeing as my plan for weight reduction has failed ... miserably.

Though I do enjoy some success with weight loss in about a third of my patients, there’s a significant majority that seems to inevitably suffer the relentless slide into plumpitude in spite of my [very best and truly heartfelt] ministrations on their behalf.

I know I’m hampered by my clientele’s heavy Hispanic construct here in Miami (heavy happens to swing both ways in this context), but the truth is far more universal than my local cultural influences. People just have excuses. Here are ones you’re doubtless familiar with:

#1 She only eats “this” much!

“So who cares how much she eats,”  you want to say. She’s a porker!

#2 But she’s hungry!

Then haw can you complain she doesn’t like her therapeutic diet?

#3 But food is the only thing that makes him happy.

Yeah, because there’s something bizarre about what you consider "happy." Or because you’re not so good at offering her an enriching environment.

 #4 She’ll starve.

Really? Let’s conduct an experiment ...

#5 I can’t sleep knowing she’s hungry.

That’s a really honest remark we’ve all heard lots of times. None of us want our pets to suffer the same deprivations we’re either unwillling to endure ourselves or foist onto others. There’s no arguing with this point of view. That is, unless the animal in question is a specimen who’s suffering ... as all three of today’s patients doubtless are.

So what to do? More of the same broken-record stuff, creatively offered and patiently delivered ... along with a heaping dose of compassion fatigue. Double-sigh ...