By Dr. Larry Siegler
One of the questions I always ask of new clients that come to see me is “Where does Fido/Fluffy sleep?” I typically ask this amongst a variety of other more health related questions about diet, supplements, exercise, etc. so the client is caught a bit off guard. I smile to myself when almost all of them sheepishly answer “In my bed with me.” Many new clients are hesitant at first to tell me how pampered their companions truly are, but once they get to know me, they begin to almost boast about it. I encourage the practice of “spoiling” companion animals – “healthy spoiling” that is.
Do you have an entire closet dedicated to cat or dog toys? Do you spend so much time at dog parks that it has become a major part of your social life? Do your friends raise their eyebrows when you mention that you have to pick your cat up at the groomer’s? Do you hide the receipts for your companion’s food before your mother comes over? Your Mother may not approve, but your veterinarian will! Play, exercise, proper grooming and top quality food are all good for any animal’s health and well-being. And believe it or not, you are in good company. “Spoiling” our animal companions has risen to new heights in recent years.
So what is healthy and what is… well, going overboard? If it’s good for the cat or dog, and doesn’t bust your budget or cause you stress, it’s probably healthy. If you find yourself annoyed by behaviors that have been encouraged by spoiling – like begging, then it’s probably not healthy.
One client recently confessed she spent over $600 installing a cat enclosure so her cats could go outside safely. Is this overboard? Well, that depends on what you can afford. For many cat lovers, a one time expense of this sort is an easy decision when they know they are improving their cats’ long term mental and physical well being by giving them access to fresh air and playful romps in the yard. Fresh air helps prevent respiratory illness and outdoor time gives cats hours of pleasure in watching the comings and goings of the birds, squirrels, and neighborhood dogs.
"If it’s good for the cat or dog, and doesn’t bust your budget or cause you stress, it’s probably healthy. If you find yourself annoyed by behaviors that have been encouraged by spoiling – like begging, then it’s probably not healthy."
Many people spend up to $200 per month (or more) on doggy daycare. Not too long ago there was typically one household member (usually Mom) home with the dog most of the day. Our society has changed and there are more single people with dogs and couples in which both members of the household work. That leaves the dog home alone – bored, lonely and with too little exercise – a perfect setup for “mischief.” Doggy daycare is not only healthy for the dog, it relieves all that heavy guilt from leaving your friend behind every day, so it’s good for you, too!
When it comes to treats for our dogs and cats we have a thousand different ways to spoil our companions. There are gourmet treats, hypoallergenic treats, designer health treats with herbs or joint support supplements added and, of course, cookbooks for home-made treats. I love feeding my “clients” treats. I keep biscuits handy for dogs and freeze-dried meats for the cats. I also recommend healthy leftovers from your own meals as treats or even part of the diet.
Healthy leftovers include lean meats or fish for both dogs and cats. In addition, dogs may enjoy steamed veggies, tofu, tempe and fruit. Many cats love cantaloupe. (Onions, grapes, raisins and chocolate are to be avoided.) Healthy leftovers are different from “table scraps” which usually include the fat trimmed from meat, poultry skin and the potatoes with gravy left on someone’s plate. Give them healthy, nutritious leftovers – not fatty scraps or lots of carbohydrates. Obesity is one of the worst problems our animal companions face. It is our responsibility to help our pets stay fit and healthy. When you give lots of treats or leftovers, cut back on their regular meal to compensate for the added calories. And to avoid the begging behavior, never feed your cat or dog from your plate or from the table. Wait until the meal is over and the dishes are done, then put the leftovers in your companion’s own dish for them to enjoy.
So go ahead – indulge your friend. A new leash, a fancy bowl, a cushy bed (for when he’s not sharing yours), gourmet treats – whatever fits your budget and makes you both happy! And if your Mom sees the receipt, tell her a veterinarian recommended it!
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