DEAR DR. FOX: We have a small part-Chihuahua dog, age 7, and she loves to have sips of my husband’s home-brewed beer.
The other day she licked up some Diet Coke I accidentally spilled, and really liked it. Now she wants to drink some when I sit down with my husband, and I have my pop and he has his beer. She is not interested in the beer anymore. I know dogs like sweet things, and there’s no alcohol in the pop. Is that OK? Like me, she’s a bit overweight. -- H.W., Fargo, North Dakota
DEAR H.W.: Part of living with a dog is sharing treats, but ideally they should only be given as a reward for training purposes, and as a daily ritual (as we do with our dog when we come back from a walk). Once you start sharing while you are eating and drinking, you’ll have a dog who will always be pestering you and will be quite likely to get overweight with treat after treat.
I see nothing wrong giving your dog a teaspoon or so of beer when you and your husband are sitting back and having drinks together, but give it to her in her own saucer.
As for the soda: The sugar substitute aspartame, found in many diet sodas (check the ingredients in yours), is classified as a neuro-excitant. This excitotoxin is a brain nerve stimulant that may have addictive qualities for people. It can affect behavior, mood, sleep and judgment, and can increase appetite and impair metabolism, aggravating obesity and diabetes when consumed in significant daily amounts -- certain public officials being no exception.
My late mother-in-law, who had diabetes but craved sweets, used to put aspartame on much of what she ate, including tomatoes. She once phoned me to say that she felt she like was having seizures when she went to bed, and her doctor could not give her a reason. Knowing about her diet soda and artificial sweetener addictions, I advised her to switch to the herbal product Stevia. She immediately followed my advice, and her distressing neurological symptoms never recurred.
Aspartame was approved by the U.S. government (under protest from one expert panelist on the review board whom I knew well) as a safe substitute for saccharine, and is now in many manufactured foods and beverages, the absurdity of which borders on the insane.
Bake your own dog cookies as per the recipe on my website, drfoxvet.net, or get a good brand made only in the U.S. or Canada. The new freeze-dried meats are excellent options. All things in moderation. Many snack foods for humans are loaded with salt, sugar and other addictive flavorings, contributing to the obesity epidemic along with high-fructose sodas. Xylitol, found in candy, many diet cookies and other snacks, is poisonous for dogs.
OBESITY BIG ISSUE IN TODAY’S PETS
Twenty percent of the more than 1.4 million claims filed in 2016 with pet insurance carrier Nationwide involved conditions related to obesity, totaling more than $62 million in veterinary care. Obesity-related claims included care for arthritis, diabetes, bladder and urinary tract disease, liver disease and chronic kidney disease. -- San Jose Mercury News, Jan. 12
DEAR DR. FOX: I read your column in our local paper religiously. I am incredulous that you would defend the likes of pit bulls, who frequently kill their owners and others for little or no reason. I have never heard of a dog like a shih tzu guilty of such behavior. I would be very pleased if you would explain your position and defense of such behavior. -- J.G., Palm Beach, Florida
DEAR J.G.: Many of those reports of “killer” pit bulls are generally more a reflection of who raised and cared for these dogs, and how they were socialized and trained, rather than on the particular breed or mixed variety thereof. Animal shelters and local humane societies have a tremendous public responsibility in this regard, but it would be ethically unacceptable to disallow the adoption of, and instead euthanize, dogs who are assessed behaviorally, socialized, and found to have stable temperaments.
The crux of the matter is deciding to whom such dogs should be adopted out. But without adequate staff to do home checks and unannounced visits, killing them humanely is a regrettable but understandable solution -- especially considering demographic realities in some areas, where these dogs are deployed for protection and for illegal dogfighting events.
All of this I see as a sad reflection of the dystopia of modern day “civilization,” and it is tragic that some dogs are being blamed. Basically, these dogs are a product and consequence of violent families and communities across the U.S., and their unconditional persecution and execution is no solution.
(Send all mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox’s website at DrFoxVet.net.)