When I was in my senior year of vet school, a beagle presented to the orthopedics service for a surgery consultation. The complaint: My dog can’t walk.
The door opened, and in walked a person, dragging a little red wagon behind her. Splayed out inside was the most obese pet I have seen in my life: a 68 pound beagle. His eyes, nearly buried in layers of fat, peeked out sadly as he huffed and puffed, pleading: help.
The surgeons rolled that dog right on out of the room and down the hall to the internal medicine service, where he was placed on a strict diet. 4 months later, at 45 pounds, he could walk. It was a miracle, the owner declared. The chief of the department was brilliant for making such an astute diagnosis!
Obesity is one of the biggest challenges facing pet owners. Between poor food choices, under-exercise, and simple overfeeding, it’s no exaggeration to say that more than 50% of the pets out there are overweight. The consequences are much like those we deal with ourselves: joint disease. Breathing difficulty. Diabetes. Shortened life.
Part of my physical examination on every pet is noting the pet’s body condition score. There are several scoring schematics; the one I use and like was designed by Purina. (They have one for cats as well.) It provides a relatively objective way to assess a pet’s condition, therefore getting around the many owners who say, “Oh, my 30 pound Jack Russell isn’t overweight, he’s big-boned.”
Brody, at a lanky 70 pounds, is a 5 out of 9: ideal body weight for his frame.
Koa arrived at our house looking like most older female labs: overweight. She has lost about 7 pounds since being here, but she still has a ways to go. She is, at 79 pounds, a 7 out of 9.
Our pets are at our mercy when it comes to their weight. They eat what we provide. In some ways that makes it much easier- they don’t have to deal with all the day-to-day choices we do. But in other respects, it’s much harder: if you just can’t get the food you are feeding to work, if you don’t know what changes to make, or as so often happens, you have another person in the house who insists nothing is wrong as they sneak the dieting pet some sirloin.
There are “lite” diets on the market that are, in my experience, marginally effective at getting weight off of pets. Prescription weight loss diets tend to be more effective. The problem is, many owners who are getting savvy about their pet’s diets do not want to feed their pets the ingredients that are in some of those diets, and I don’t blame them. In our house, Koa gets the same food that Brody gets- which is, I’m sure, a pretty paltry mouthful to her.
Koa and I were recently invited to participate in a 90 day weight loss campaign with a new food company on the market, Nulo. I’ve done my research and met with founder Michael Landa, and based on what I saw decided that yes, we would like to partake. The weight loss program and food fulfills two of my biggest requirements: no crummy fillers, and the ability to rotate protein sources. Not an easy find these days!
I didn’t accept this opportunity to score some free dog food- I wouldn’t have agreed to this if I didn’t think the food was a good choice for Kekoa. The weight loss program on the Nulo site (it’s like one of those online Spark People type programs, but for dogs!) tracks weight, the amounts of food fed, and exercise. It allows for treats, too. It might even kick my own butt into gear. I can’t let my lab show me up, after all.
I agreed to participate for one reason above all others: Koa deserves to be fit and happy. You will see me posting about her progress once a week or so over the next three months. In return*, Nulo is providing the food, the plan, AND a donation to the rescue of my choice (which, well, that’s a carrot I have a hard time resisting.)
So there you go: Koa’s hitting the gym! Watching her calories! And I will be letting you know for good or ill how this whole shebang works out for us.
*Disclosure: Nulo has generously provided free product and other benefits in exchange for our participation in the Nu Campaign to fight pet obesity. We are happy to be a part of this awareness campaign, however, all of the opinions about the product are mine and not dictated in any way by the company.