Q: My friend says my dog is too chubby, but I think she is fine. How can you tell if your pet is the right body weight?
A: As we have seen an increase in humans weight, we are also seeing an increase in our pet's weights, too. For dogs, veterinarians tend to judge the ideal body weight by sight. We like to see the first one to two ribs on the dog and be able to easily feel the rest without a thick layer of fat. When you look at your dog from above, you should see a waist after the ribcage -- your dog should not look like a barrel. All dogs should be kept on the thin side to take weight off their joints and try and slow the progression of joint disease and arthritis. It is even more important that larger-breed dogs be thin as they tend to be at a greater risk of degenerative joint disease as they age. If you feel that your dog is overweight, then decreasing calories and increasing exercise are important in helping them achieve their ideal body weight. This can be hard to do when the weather outside is cold; however, it might just extend your dog's life.
Q: When my family gets together for the holidays, there is food everywhere. What foods should I be careful of that might be potentially harmful for my pet during the holidays?
A: This is a very typical scenario in most homes around the holidays, and knowing which ones can be harmful is very important. Chocolate in any quantity can be dangerous, and the darker the chocolate, the worse the effect. Onions, garlic, grapes and raisins are always to be kept away from dogs as they can cause a number of life-threatening conditions. Most greasy foods or foods that are high in fat can cause some severe stomach and GI upset and may lead to pancreatitis, which can be a life-threatening disease. Any type of bone that can shatter when chewed is strictly off limits. If you have any question about the side effects of what your pet has ingested, it is always important to contact your veterinarian. And don't forget the kitty. Most older cats are very finicky about what they eat and are not likely to eat something that will hurt them. However, there are many plants that are toxic to both cats and dogs if eaten. Kittens are nothing if not inquisitive, so watch out for foods that might be left out and ornaments or tree lights that can be very attractive to a young cat or kitten.
Dr. Miller can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.