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News - Rubrieke
Wednesday, 27 May 2015 08:03
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Dr Liesel van der Merwe is a small animal medicine specialist. Send her your questions: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Dr Liesel van der Merwe

Dogs are scavengers. As much as we hate to admit it, most of them will eat just about anything. Injudicious eating behaviour has risks and here the owner and the dogs are at fault. 

Our and their oesophagus is not a fine delicate structure; it has quite a thick multi-layered lining, similar to skin, and two layers of muscle underneath. It is not going to tear like tissue paper if your dog eats a sharp bone.

But, if that bone gets wedged in and stuck there, those areas will be damaged and start to die off. After a few days it will leave a very weak area, which will tear and cause infection in the chest cavity.

Feeding bones is not without risk. The smaller breeds, such as Yorkies and Chihuahuas, seem to have an increased risk of obstruction. These bones can be pushed through or pulled out if they are not too sharp or too wedged in or not too long-standing.

If there is any risk of tearing the oesophagus, we rather recommend surgery either into the chest or into the stomach. Both of these procedures will be costly.

So, think carefully before you give your dog a bone. If you decide you still want to feed bones, do not feed them to puppies. They are greedy, gulp down their food and their teeth cannot break up bones into smaller pieces.

Competition among your pets for bones will also cause greedy eating and may lead to fights. Feed animals separately. Additionally, large frozen bones are less brittle than cooked bones and large shin bones, which can be chewed on but not chewed up, may be the best idea.

Bones also get stuck in the mouth between the back teeth and against the soft palate. I have seen bones stick in the windpipe and suffocate dogs.

Certain diseases and medications increase your dogs’ appetite and give them the munchies. Certain breeds are also just really bad scavengers. Beagles come to mind here. These animals will constantly be scrounging for food.

Drugs which can cause an increase in appetite are cortisone pills and anti-epileptic medication, such as phenobarbitone tablets. Even if fed more, these dogs will still be hungry and will just gain weight.

The ideal would be to place them on prescription diet food, which manages satiety either by using bulk or glucose and to feed them smaller meals more often. Additionally, bins should be treated as prime sources of goodies and should be closed tightly.

Then we get the dogs with the sad eyes that just say “feed me” all the time. Many animals which come into the clinic, especially the smaller dogs, are more than 30% overweight. This places incredible stress on their joints, lungs and heart.

Then, when I comment on the chubbiness of beloved Lulu, I get told that they only feed her a little, and who knows why she is so fat? My response to this is to suggest that this must really be a special dog which can open fridges and cupboards and use a tin-opener.

If your dog is fat, it is because the dog is eating too much and you, the owner, are putting that food in the bowl and often directly into the mouth, with all the snacks.

I also have a small dog, Gemma, and I can see after a few weeks if her weight is going up. Just feeding 10 pellets less a day will make a difference after a few weeks. Little dogs really don’t need much food, especially if we are using the premium brands.

Gemma generally finishes her pellets before I have even finished feeding the rest of the pack. And then she looks at me expectantly for more. I soothe myself with the thought, and mention to her that if she was in the wild she would be lucky to get a meal every second or third day.

As owners we have to take responsibility for what goes into our animals’ mouths. It has far-reaching health consequence for them and unfortunately sometimes also for our pockets.


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