“Mom, can I give Blackie a bone?”
“No bones for Blackie, ever. They will kill him.”
The conversation may have gone like this. I was six, seven, maybe eight years old. Our Blackie was a miniature poodle. He was a companion, a watcher, somebody to play fetch with. And when he became an elderly dog, one that at times I lovingly washed when he had accidents. It was a job I took.
My mom made it very clear that the dog could have no bones, ever. It did not matter what they were, or what critter they came from. The rule was enforced. Of course, hilarity ensued when Blackie stole the roast one day. What to serve guests? And…that roast had bones.
We were very worried, but fortunately, the dog did not get any bone splinters. I have no idea how that dinner was salvaged.
He did end up returning some of that, and for the next three days, he was not happy. These days I know he likely had issues digesting that much human food. I don’t remember too many details. Just know that we were worried.
He was a family member, and he was spoiled. He also lived before the era of dog food. So he had rice and meat with some carrots, or other boiled vegetables every day…for seventeen years. There was no puppy food or senior food. And when he was offered dog food at fifteen, he went on a food strike. The human food we snuck on him…ok, mom said was ok, were carrots, cucumbers, jicama, apples. He loved jicama, Incidentally.
Fast forward a few decades, and three parrots. My husband and I adopted Dexter at the Humane Society almost five weeks ago. We knew a young parrot would likely outlive us, and an older rescue was difficult due to the rules from the organizations.
Dexter is a special needs dog. I had never heard of dermatitis in dogs, but then again cancer was unheard of when I was growing up. And given my lack of recent experience with dogs…I joined a chihuahua group on Facebook. There are many, so truly the first one that popped up was it.
It was fun. But then I started seeing a pattern. It truly crystalized Christmas morning. Many of the photos showed dogs that were balls of fat with small legs. Think of people who are morbidly obese. And then I posted about dog health and keeping them fit and trim. One person took it personally. Apparently me feeding the dog calories to keep him fit and trim, but not more, and going out for walks was too strict. And don’t get me started on brushing his teeth. (Incidentally brushing Blackie’s teeth was a non-conversation, and he got teeth cleaning later in life. I have no idea if he lost teeth, Dexter had eleven extracted after we adopted him. We knew he had advanced dental disease.)
For many of these pet parents feeding on demand is a sign of love. Most dogs do not self regulate. And Dexter has some issues around food anxiety because shelter and other trauma. This is somewhat bizarre because vets talk to pet parents regularly about this. But we live in a nation where most people are anywhere from overweight to obese so not realizing their pet is would not be too shocking. And if people are obese, and do not walk, why would they take fluffy out for a walk? Gasp, making the dog be on a diet might be horrible as well. Incidentally, losing weight with dogs is far slower than humans. And we are responsible for what they eat.
As we looked at dogs at the humane society we also noticed that many dogs were quite chubby. We already had made our minds that an overweight dog would have to go on a diet, under the guidance of a vet. Why? Small breeds have a higher chance of developing cancer, diabetes, congestive heart failure, and luxating patellas; this is a fancy term for a knee that keeps coming out of place. When serious enough, the dog needs surgery. Small breeds tend to have this issue, but extra weight does not help. Of course, many dogs also develop osteoarthritis.
Then the final piece of the puzzle came that morning. Somebody posted an “adorable” photo of their dog eating a full turkey leg. So going over to the internets one can find just how many calories a drumstick has. It comes to a whopping 542 calories.
Incidentally, when I buy a turkey drumstick or a thigh, two humans share one in my house, and it is more than enough. This was a full drumstick for a tiny dog that should not have more than 250 calories in a full day. Dexter is tall (for a chihuahua), and he needs more calories. But that chihuahua looked tiny. I follow the guidance in his food for how much he should eat. We take into account snacks as well. But here is a table to give you an idea of calorie needs.
And that was a full drumstick. In other words, it had the bones still in it. Did I mention the skin? And I was hardly the only person sounding like my mother. You’d think the moderators would add to our warnings. Apparently removing the bone after the dog consumed that was enough. Free clue, it isn’t.
The worst bone you can offer your dog or cat is any fowl bone that has been cooked. Turkey also has a thin tendon that can shatter, and go into the throat of the pet, or worst, the digestive tract. There it can puncture the intestine and kill your dog. It’s not a painless way to go either.
Instead of adding to the warning, the mods started telling people that they could face discipline. So I showed the door to myself, and let the moderator know why. Endangering a pet is not cute; it is not adorable, and chiefly, it is not okay.
It took me three tries to find a group for sun conure owners that I felt comfortable with. (Not that I needed help, Connie was 17 going on 18, and I felt I could give some advice.) a few of the group rules included pet safety and a warning. If you post anything unsafe it will be deleted. This photo should have been treated in the same exact way. Or pinned to the top as something not to do.
And if you wonder if I am exaggerating, here:
Cooked bones should always be off-limits. They become brittle and easily break into sharp shards that can do a lot of damage when they pass through the gastrointestinal tract. Never feed your dog cooked bones. This includes those that originate in your kitchen and those that can be purchased. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports that between Nov. 1, 2010 and Sept. 12, 2017, it received accounts of 90 dogs who became sick after eating commercially-available smoked or baked bone treats. Fifteen of the dogs died.
Raw bones are generally safer than cooked, but again, the devil is in the details. If you want to give your dog a bone because chewing provides mental stimulation and can help keep the teeth clean, Dr. Karen Becker recommends picking a raw bone that is approximately the size of your dog’s head. Bones of this size will allow your dog to gnaw while helping to reduce the chances that your dog will break off and swallow a chunk of bone that can cause health problems.
Do we spoil Dexter? Yes.
Does he have clothes? Yes, but not because they are cute. With his skin issues, he needs them. So we got him clothes made of good quality materials, mostly cotton blends. Some are branded, but Marvel Studios will not let cheap crap into the wild with their logo. I hope they will last him some years…now to find a mini hamper for his dirty clothes.
Does spoiling mean giving in to his begging? Nope. And to some pet owners and internet groups, this is being mean to the dog. To these owners, a spoiled dog is an unhealthy dog that will develop medical conditions that will diminish their quality of life. How is that good and loving for the pet is a mystery to me. Incidentally, we had to work to keep Connie fit and trim as well. Of the three parrots, she at times gained more weight so she walked. She died from a reaction to a medication, not because she had any chronic diseases related to being overweight or obese.
We have a dog who has special needs. He is loving. He sleeps on the bed. He gets baths often, on doctors' orders. He is safe now. But we do not need to add obesity to his health issues. And definitely mom was right…no bones for the dog.