From my relaxing perch at Peet's Coffee in Studio City, it appears that August is busting out all over. Fine, intelligent, handsome locals, like myself, are puffing out of their shorts in pop-n'-fresh obesity. It's—ahem—a growing development, and I'm a victim of the same inflation. It's enough to cause a depression.
I'm hyper-conscious of the trend, because I'm currently six months off all forms of soda (already bringing me pounds of weight loss and a move from pre-diabetes to normal on Kaiser's blood sugar test).
But, no matter how empathetically I see my fellow middle-aged Studio Citizens, I feel a little indignant about their pudgy companions led by their leash as well as by their diet plans. Pets rely on us for meals, treats, and limits. If a dog is twenty, thirty, (or in case of the exhausted hound dog nearby) fifty or more pounds overweight, we are to blame.
Veterinarian Dr. James Isaacs, with offices in Encino and Calabasas, and many Studio City clients, has noticed weight gains in Valley pets (and pet owners) and offers some suggestions and caveats.
PATCH: Is pet obesity really a big problem? And is it increasing?
DR. ISAACS: It's a rising epidemic that parallels the overweight problem seen in the human population.
PATCH: What is up with our weight gain and our pets' obesity?
DR. ISAACS: Our pets increasingly suffer from diets promoting storage of fat by the body, and a lack of regular quality exercise—the same factors causing obesity in their owners.
PATCH: Break it down for us. What is the problem and what is the best solution?
DR. ISAACS: On the diet side of the equation, there's an overabundance of cereal grains that is the culprit in the diets of pets and their owners. Many commercial cat and dog foods utilize soy and wheat as the carbohydrate source.
PATCH: So, the problem is carbs. Why is soy a particular problem?
DR. ISAACS: The majority of soy in the United States is GMO—
PATCH: —GMO is genetically modified foods?
DR. ISAACS: Genetically Modified Organisms, yes, which tend to be unhealthy for pets and people, and also have hormonal analogues in them which disrupt the endocrine (glandular) system.
PATCH: Which means...?
DR. ISAACS: Disrupting the endocrine system promotes weight gain.
PATCH: And the problem with wheat?
DR. ISAACS: Wheat is the grain highest in gluten, and few if any of the foods use whole wheat, which has more nutrients and fiber.
PATCH: So, whole wheat would be better?
DR. ISAACS: Yes. But, since most pet foods are not made with whole wheat, it's the equivalent to a person eating white bread with every meal.
PATCH: What about corn?
DR. ISAACS: Pet foods with corn may or may not be acceptable. If the corn is the GMO variety, I wholeheartedly recommend staying away from that product.
PATCH: No soy? No wheat? No corn? What’s left?
DR. ISAACS: The optimal carbohydrate for your pet is either potato or green pea. These are gluten-free, and, so far, are not GMO.
PATCH: What about meats?
DR. ISAACS: I favor poultry-based foods. Humans wouldn’t eat red meat every day, neither should pets.
PATCH: Most people seem to agree that humans shouldn't eat red meat so much. But some breeders and animal experts disagree about pets eating red meats.
DR. ISAACS: Over-consumption of red meats has been proved to correlate to cancer and obesity in animals and humans.
PATCH: What do you think about raw diets for pets? Will that help with obesity and health?
DR. ISAACS: As for raw diets, in theory, I'm all for them. Animals were originally meant to eat raw foods. However, it's actually easier for animals to digest cooked vegetables. And, with meats, there are complications with processing.
PATCH: It’s the law of the land that all meat for pet and human consumption has to be processed in a USDA approved slaughterhouse. Doesn't that help standards to be higher and meats to be safer?
DR. ISAACS: In the meat processing plant, the meat is exposed to antibiotic resistant bacteria and filth. That's the reality. No pet should eat those meats raw. Look at the chicken in packages in your local supermarket. On the label it states to wash your hands and cutting boards thoroughly after handling raw poultry.
PATCH: Why does it say that?
DR. ISAACS: Because it can have Salmonella or other pathogens on the meat. If this is the cleanest meat we humans have today, can you imagine what might be going into the raw diets marketed for pets?
PATCH: Are there exceptions to the meat problem?
DR. ISAACS: If you were able to grow your own chicken or beef, and use it without having it processed in a slaughterhouse, I would be in favor of raw diets for pets.
PATCH: Okay. Now, what about vegetables?
DR. ISAACS: I say give your pets veggies daily. Broccoli, cauliflower, green beans and leafy vegetables are all good. Like I said, cooked is better.
PATCH: What about fruits?
DR. ISAACS: I recommend melon balls, cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon, and anything with the word "berry" in it: strawberry, blueberry, blackberry, raspberry, and onward. When you cut the tops off of your strawberries or weed out the mushed berries in the little basket they come in, give those to your pet. They are full of antioxidants, which I believe are cancer-fighters.
PATCH: How common is pet cancer nowadays?
DR. ISAACS: Cancer is the leading cause of death in my practice in pets over 10 years old.
PATCH: Does diet and exercise help to prevent or cure it?
DR. ISAACS: A lifetime of healthy fruits and vegetables, I believe, will pay off big for preventing this disease. If I told you to eat only canned or bagged (processed) food for the rest of your life, and never consume anything fresh, would you be okay with that? I doubt it. That same thinking applies to your pets.
PATCH: As a trainer, I tell owners to keep pets away from the table, or in watch mode, during meals. Humans eat first, pets eat after, no snacking during the meal. Would that, in your opinion, help with the obesity problem?
DR. ISAACS: Yes. I suggest giving leftovers to your pets after the humans have finished eating, so that you don't get begging at the table. Many veterinarians warn pet-owners never to feed table food to their pets. I disagree, as long as that food isn't junk food.
PATCH: What are the best treats?
DR. ISAACS: Lean cuts of meat, rice, veggies, and the above-mentioned foods are fine, in moderation, to give to your pets.
PATCH: Parting shots? Any final warnings?
DR. ISAACS: Remember, don't give pets grapes, raisins, chocolate or macadamia nuts, as they can be toxic. Being mindful of the amount of food your pet eats—and limiting their diets to quality foods—will move them from obesity and disease to health and vitality.