When People's Skinny Pet Anxiety Outweighs Fat Pet Fears

Dr. Patty Khuly's Dog Violet
Courtesy of Dr. Patty Khuly
People often assume Dr. Patty Khuly's 12-month-old Belgian Malinois is too skinny, but her growing pup is actually in great shape.

“Don’t you feed that dog?”

That’s how one of my colleagues at work addressed me after I’d come in on my day off to demonstrate how well my “puppy” was progressing with her training.

A 12-month-old Belgian Malinois, Violet is appropriately thin for her age. (Dogs of her breed tend toward the gangly during their adolescence.) Which is fine. After all, I’m still feeding her as much high-quality food as she currently cares to eat. I’ve imposed no caloric restrictions. Not yet, anyway.

And I get it. I’m not blind; I know she’s skinny. In fact, I’m willing to bet most veterinarians would do a double take were she to saunter into their exam rooms in all her spindly-legged teenage glory. They would even do well to ask about her calorie intake to be sure her activity level doesn’t demand more of them.

But the fact that Violet conforms to her breed’s body type (and is owned by a veterinarian my colleague knows well) didn’t keep him from offering his snark-riddled comment. Which is how it happened that I responded with one of my own:

“I bet you don’t offer your opinion so freely when your patients are fat.”

Everyone Has an Opinion

It’s true; people are quick to tell you when they think your pet is thin. They’re way less willing to tell you when your pet tips the scales. Whether you’re at the dog park, in a training class, or waiting in your veterinarian’s reception area, people are more than happy to remark on your pet’s “weight problem.” But only if she’s on the skinny side.

Since I don’t exactly advertise that I’m a veterinarian when I’m out in public, I’ve heard it all:

“What do you feed her that she doesn’t put on any weight?”

“Don’t you worry she might have worms?”

And the most entertaining of all: “You might want to ask a veterinarian about that!”

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