Pet obesity is back in the news. Apparently our pets are getting fatter faster than ever. We all know the health issues related to this and a bit of the psychology.
We know, as owners, we sometimes compensate for being busy and spending time away from our pets by giving treats. This always makes me recall a special client.
The dog was a middle-aged collie called Harvey. On the chunky side. Sweet boy. We saw him occasionally with bouts of colitis. Usually, he would be fine with outpatient treatment, but, sometimes, he needed admitting for fluids and some more intensive medication.
The vet had already confided she had suspicions about the owner’s feeding habits. His insurance would pay for a prescription diet since his diagnosis with gastrointestinal issues, but, as the insurer only paid 50%, the owners never bought quite enough to feed him properly – although we had explained it was cheaper, with the discount, than pretty much every tinned dog food.
I was delegated to discharge him after a short hospital stay. His “mum” came to pick him up and she had brought her son with her – a very grown-up son.
I went through the usual information regarding his hospitalisation and was chatting generally with the clients. Although we had spoken on the phone and I had cared to him several times, we had never met. Mum was very pleased to meet me.
The whole truth…
The three of us sat in a triangle. Cosy and comfortable. Harvey sat between us, legs splayed, belly touching the floor. As we went through his feeding regime for going home, I asked what was his normal feeding regime. As mum went to answer, her son piped up: “You had better tell her the truth.”
I knew I needed my nursing face; the one where I am wearing a slight, non-committal smile, head tilted to the right. An open face that won’t be shocked by anything I hear. I won’t express what I am hearing is horrific, or I am dying with laughter inside. I will remain professional to the last.
As I took up my impenetrable stance, mum began the regime: “In the morning, he gets half a tin of Waitrose game flavour. That gets left down as he doesn’t always eat it.”
My smile remains the same.
“At elevenses, he gets a slice of ham. He always eats that.”
I beam compassion.
“Then, in the afternoon, another half of Waitrose game flavour. In the evening, if he doesn’t eat that food, he gets half a tin of that stuff. The one from here. You know it, the purpley tin.
“He also eats a bit of cat food sometimes, from next door. There’s a hole in the fence you see. And sometimes he might get cat poo from there too.”
Far from Werthy
So far, I’m coping. We’ve obviously found he gets an upset stomach on days where he eats all the Waitrose food, the cat food and poo helping. But the best is yet to come.
Mum leans forward as if to confide. I can’t recall how she introduces the topic, but she asks me if Harvey should be eating Werther’s Original sweets. While she does this, she does an amazing impression of just how he gets his old man’s toffee.
Wiggling in her chair and making a lot of tongue movements, she explains he gets the toffee by scooting his bum across the floor and putting his tongue in her husband’s mouth – getting the toffee second hand.
My slight smile is still there. The son looks relieved she’s been honest. I answer honestly.
“No, no, he shouldn’t be eating toffees or sweets of any kind.” I decide to not comment on the route of toffee administration.
Discharge appoint then carries on as normal. While my professional veneer has won again – I know I will never forget the image of mum’s impression of Harvey.
Still, my chat with Harvey’s family has pleased the vet. As I told her the eating habits, she told me she had waited two years to get a proper idea of what he was eating.
My suffering was not in vain – we’d got to the truth about his obesity.