A Dog is a Man's Best Friend and Finest Training Buddy

A few days ago an overweight tabby cat called Teddy Bear caused a massive police hunt in Essex. Someone from afar saw the cat basking in the sun, and mistook her for a lion. Soon afterwards another person made matters far worse why claiming to have heard the animal roar, which turned a simple visual error into an auditory hallucination. The imaginations of both informants had no

doubt been primed to make this mistake, because the night before a horrifying TV documentary had been shown about an American man who’d kept a private zoo filled will dozens of wild cats. In a moment of madness, he’d set them free to the terror of the local neighbourhood before finally shooting himself. This was an exceptional event, for fat pets are generally a far greater danger to themselves that they are to the community at large. In Britain, the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals estimates that a third of dogs are overweight or obese. Yet 85 per cent of the owners they sampled thought that their pets were a healthy weight. This can easily be tested. All that’s needed is to place a hand on the animal’s rib cage. If it feels as nobbly as the back of a human hand it’s fit. If it’s flabby, the animal is carrying excess flab. Like our hunter-gatherer forebears, animals in the wild don’t get fat. It’s only an indoor, sedentary lifestyle that makes for obesity in human beings and their household pets. The owner of a border collie, called Cassie, fed it on the fast foods that he chose to eat himself. By the age of seven the dog was three times its recommended weight. It could barely walk, was too fat to stand up, and

developed bed sores from lying down throughout the day. When his owner died, Cassie was taken into a dog care centre where it was put on a progressive fitness routine, which gradually restored its health. .

America is now witnessing the growth of a new profession, known as veterinary nutrition. This recognises that the twin epidemics of human and pet obesity are closely intertwined and can be treated in tandem. Tufts University, in Massachusetts, has now set up a clinic to help people get themselves and their pets in good shape. It offers a standard care package of $250 for an extensive initial session and six check-ups, followed by advisory phone calls and emails as needed. The main problem the Tuft team finds is that 90 per cent of dog owners are continually giving their pets calorie-rich treats. They believe they’re showing them love, when what they’re really doing is killing them with kindness. There’s good news on the horizon, however, supplied by another veterinary nutritionist, Dr Robert F Kushner of Northwestern University. In his book Fitness Unleashed: A Dog and Owners Guide to Losing Weight Together, he notes that people with overweight dogs tend to be overweight themselves, which provides an excellent chance for both to get fit together. He has found that owners are far more likely to get fit themselves if they think they’re doing it to help their pet. What’s more, a dog is a far more reliable training buddy that a human being, who is often otherwise engaged. So, if you lack the will power to adopt a healthy life style for your personal benefit, do the humane thing and show your love for your dog – not by showering it with sweeties and high-calorie tit-bits – but by taking it walkies.

© www.donaldnorfolk.co.uk

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