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(Almost) Killing Kaya With Kindness

Posted September 20, 2013 in A Vet's Life

Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a mobile, board-certified surgeon in Allentown, PA. Find him online at He is the co-author of “Walk a Hound, Lose a Pound” (

Kelly Serfas, a Certified Veterinary Technician in Bethlehem, PA, contributed to this article.

We removed a cancerous thyroid mass in a very sweet 12 year-old Golden Retriever about 1 year ago. Let's call her Kaya. Three months later, Kaya came back for follow-up chest X-rays to make sure the tumor hadn't spread to her lungs. It hadn't, and the tumor hadn't come back in the thyroid area. So everybody is happy, right? Well, all humans involved are. But Kaya went from 60 lbs. at the time of the surgery, to 76 lbs. In other words, she gained about 25% of her body weight in 3 months. This is a huge amount. Think of the equivalent in a person - in 3 months!

How did this happen? It is very likely that the owners felt bad for Kaya's cancer and overfed her. Actually, this is a classic observation. Interestingly, the owners noticed that ever since the surgery, she has more and more difficulty getting up. The owners thought it was because of the cancer, or the anesthesia, or the surgery, or maybe arthritis. So they switched Kaya to a diet enriched in glucosamine, to help what they believed were aching joints, in addition to countless treats. And some people food, just to make sure she didn't feel neglected.

What these well-meaning owners didn't realize is that they were “killing her with love.” I believe they understand now. They had the best intentions in mind. They truly love their dog and are obviously very dedicated. But they were overfeeding her. I strongly suggested a weight-reducing diet from their referring veterinarian.

Without going into a long and boring controversy, a "light" diet from the local store is not likely to help with serious weight loss. Eventually, however, it can help maintain a healthy weight. I see the living proof of this fact daily. So for Kaya, it was no more treats, unless they were low calorie or taken from the measured amount of food she was allowed to eat that day.  No more people food, unless they were small pieces of veggies such as carrots. So mostly diet dog food, and she is now slowly losing weight. I am happy to report

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Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a board-certified veterinary surgeon and author. His traveling practice takes him all over Eastern Pennsylvania and Western New Jersey. You can visit his website at, and follow him at

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