Mealtime and treats are a huge source of warm plush for people and their pets, something vets should recognize and celebrate. But there is a danger lurking in the shadows: obesity, pancreatitis and other abuse issues.
There’s a reason we associate food with comfort. Eating or preparing a meal for someone can bring a sense of peace and connection and deepen a bond. It is no different for people and their pets.
The act of feeding can nourish the human-animal bond, but it is also possible to have too many good things.
Every vet has seen the dachshund hovering a little low to the ground or the plump cat still working on that summer body. The owners of these animals often bemoan the plumpness of their companions, but they are reluctant to say no to the plaintive meows or the soft, hopeful eyes of their four-legged friend. While pet owners are generally well-meaning, it can be too easy to let this bond get the better of it.
Deborah Linder, DVM, DACVN, head of the Tufts Obesity Clinic for Animals, has written extensively on the relationship between humans and their pets and how they connect to food – and how sometimes this link can reach a breaking point. Obesity is at epidemic proportions in pets, writes Dr. Linder, and can have a negative physical and emotional impact about animals. Even when counseled on responsible feeding and feeding control, many pet owners find it difficult to keep their pets on a tight leash nutritionally.
Tony Buffington, DVM, PhD, DACVN, Clinical Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine and Emeritus Professor of Veterinary Clinical Sciences at Ohio State University, says food is a important part of the human-animal bond, but it’s also not the only way pet owners can show their pets that they care about their pet.
“As we know, there are many ways to express love, including food in one. In my experience, owners may need help imagining other ways,” says Dr. Buffington, suggesting that vets give pet owners an easy and trustworthy guide. “A quick internet search for ‘showing love for animals’ yielded over 25,000 results. Firms can create a menu. reasonable options for pets, then providing recipes for whatever the client chooses.This approach supports the client’s perception of control, and he always knows more about his animal than I do.
For pet owners who want to provide foods their pet enjoys, Dr. Buffington recommends that they choose Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) approved diets that match their feeding beliefs, then d ‘buy options to offer their pets, allowing the animal to choose the one it prefers.
“I believe this approach improves both the owner’s and the animal’s preferences and perception of control,” says Dr. Buffington.
When it comes to feeding strategies, Dr Buffington says it’s up to the owner to make sure pets are able to eat in a safe, non-threatening environment without competition or distraction. On the same thread of quality over quantity, there are plenty of ways to keep things pet fun, he adds, without overdoing it.
Sometimes the fact that animals “work for food” using food puzzles can provide significant mental and physical stimulation, he says. The danger lies in focusing too much on food and creating behavioral problems.
“When it comes to food, allowing competition, begging or ‘waiting for something better’ can become problematic, as can the owner’s anxiety about his ability to provide for his pet,” explains the Dr Buffington. “We and our pets have survived evolution; As long as we stay within our animal’s adaptability when it comes to nutrition, our pets will do well.
Rachael Zimlich, RN, BSN, is a former dvm360 reporter. In addition to freelance writing, she works as a registered nurse at the Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio.