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.
Yay for Koa! 🙂 Good luck!
I’ve always been really aware of dog’s weights because I remember my aunt’s dogs were always “big boned.” Cookie came to me severely underweight but she’s been a nice weight for the last five years.
Lisa W says
Can’t wait to hear how Koa does – and how she likes the food. Sophie doesn’t eat that much and she gets a fair amount of exercise, but she’s definitely heading toward looking “big-boned” and I want to arrest that while she’s still young.
Go Koa Go Koa!!!!! Pom poms in the air and doing the splits for her. 🙂
( Well, pretending to do the splits in my mind LOLOLOLOL ) She will be one svelt pup after all this . Cant wait to see how it goes Yeah!!!!!
Go Koa ! You’re gong to be even more beautiful than you already are!!!
YEAH KOA! And Dr. V!!! 🙂
I can’t wait to see the slimmer version of Koa emerge!
She’s such a cutie pie already…
And thank goodness that poor beagle lost the weight–i can’t even picture it in my mind…
I love the disclaimer, because without it we would all be wondering when your free trip to Hawaii would be coming lol 😀 Good luck, Koa!
You go, Koa & Dr. V. When we adopted our adult dog, she was about 20% over her preferred weight. Luckily, she was mad for fetch, and once we mastered the Chuck-It, the pounds fell off, even though, in her non-fetching mode she is a total chow scrounger. They’ve stayed off, too, even though 8 years later, Miss Pup does not do the fetching thing any longer. Do Brody and Koa wrestle, chase, etc.? I would guess having a playmate would help with the excercise.
Go Koa! I’ll be eager to see the results. We had the opposite problem here – getting Argos (Greyhound) up to a healthy weight post-adoption, but obesity in pets is much more common and it will be good to have another healthy/viable weight loss diet plan to recommend.
My vet’s office has that chart on the wall of every exam room, with the one for cats right beside it.
Our oldest cat Tommy is underweight, but he’s also 18. He eats as much as he wants, and there isn’t much else we can do aside from that. He gets treats with metacam every day, he has arthritis.
The second oldest is about 12, his name’s Yoshi. He’s obese, but he doesn’t take to not being fed very kindly. He was a homeless stray most of his life, was skin and bones when we got him. He still scarfs his food down, but he seems to have realized that we’re not going to take his food away. It’s always going to be there for him, and he doesn’t have to worry that he won’t eat for a few days. He’s lost a bit of weight, he likes to chase butterflies in the back yard, but he seems really happy to just sit in the house most days.
Kitteh is an ideal weight, he brought me home a perfectly intact dragonfly as a present from the yard earlier this week. How proud he was. He’s very fast. He’s also the youngest at just 7 years old. We feed them a couple different kinds of food that we rotate out every few weeks, they like the change in flavour.
Chewy is 96 lbs, trim and lean and strong as a bulldozer. She’s the perfect shape for her size. Her second birthday is in November, I’m gonna make her a cake like you did for Brody. She walks 3 to 4 miles each night, and she spends the rest of the day either playing with Q, or cleaning every inch of herself. Her and Q eat the same food, Mushers Mix and Legacy.
Q’s 4 months old now, and just over 40 lbs. She eats like a horse, gets this rotund little belly, and then 30 minute she’s skinny as a damn toothpick again and wants more food. She eats almost twice what Chewy does, puppies grow so fast!
I am very interested in pet nutrition. As a vet tech I see LOTS of overweight pets – including one very obese cat brought in because he couldn’t walk. The owner thought maybe he injured himself jumping down from something (which is possible because he weighed more than 25 lbs). He was diagnosed with diabetes and put on a diet. It took months to regulate the insulin and we all cheered him on every week as the weight came off (slowly) and he got his feet under him.
These situations should never happen. As a veterinary professional, I do my best to talk about nutrition and healthy body condition at every check-up.
It’s going to be neat to see Koa’s progress. I’m excited!
A lot of my friends and family tell me that Pru is too skinny; she needs more weight on her, you starve her, poor baby have some bacon, etc. It’s rather irritating because A) Her vet says she’s at the perfect weight, B) All the nagging makes me feel like a bad mother, and C) The majority of the people telling me this have overweight pets. Yes I do indulge Pru sometimes, but I always make sure it balances out with how much lunch and dinner she gets (i.e. if she gets a hot dog, I will feed her less of her mealtime food).
Jana Rade says
Were you reading my mind? Just wrote my article on the subject last night!
Quote: “Between poor food choices, under-exercise, and simple overfeeding … ” You could be talking about humans, not their pets! And really, is it any surprise that pets are overweight when their owners don’t know how to regulate their own diet!
I’ll be very interested to see how Koa progresses!
I’d love to see a column on why so many vets don’t discuss the pet’s weight with the client.
With my own dog, it’s only come up twice in any real way, both with my prodding.
The first time, I knew she had gained weight, but I was literally shocked when I saw how much. My dog who had always ranged between 42-45 pounds was 52 pounds! I almost fell over!
Even worse, I had to raise this with the vet at least 4 times during the visit before she finally gave me some advice. I was incredibly frustrated by this conversation, in which I had to repeatedly say that I was very upset about her weight and beg for advice on what to do about it. Basically, I was told not to feed her so much (well, duh!) but got no help in how quickly to take it off or how much to reduce the food or how much to increase the exercise, etc. I was just told that this was a large increase and certainly not something we’d want to see year over year. Yeah, I GOT THAT! YOU AREN’T HELPING ME!
I immediately called my petsitter and told her I was quite surprised to find that my dog had gained 7-8 pounds over the last year and wasn’t sure how this happened as I measure food and treats. She immediately copped to giving not only abundant treats, but also to feeding my dog more than my instructions indicated because ‘She always looks hungry”. Uh-huh, she’s a dog-they do that!
So I fired the petsitter, reduced my dog’s food intake about 15% and upped her exercise by adding an additional half hour walk a day. We got her back to 42 pounds in fairly quick order. (And I now pre-measure and pre-bag any food, including treats, that any petsitter is allowed to offer my dog. )
So here we go for the next 5 years with the dog at 42 pounds on the nose, new vet.
I had to go back to the old vet on the new vet’s day off. He asks me three times if her current weight of 41.4 pds is correct, as she was 52 pounds the last time we visited and he had to dispense a medication for her today. I assured him it was indeed correct and we may have been the only clients in history to actually get the weight off the dog! I got a small smile and then was told to take 3 more pounds off her. Which I am doing.
But again, I am very frustrated, as the other vet always says her weight is perfect and I do ask on every visit. Why does the other vet think she is great at 42 and this one says she should be 38-39? (She has a knee problem so I am fine with keeping her on the light side.)
My feeling, accurate or not, is that vets find that discussing pet weight with clients is uncomfortable and usually doesn’t result in any changes, so they avoid it. I hope I am wrong in that feeling, but as a client who has BEGGED for weight advice and rarely received it, I’m really confused and frustrated with my vets’ behavior on this issue. Thanks for letting me vent! And if you have anything to say about why vets seem to be reluctant to discuss weight in pets, I’d love to hear them!
My mom’s feeling (breeder/exhibitor) is that since my dog is within 10% of her correct weight at 42, my regular vet probably didn’t think it was worth a possible argument as she’s been consistently at that weight her entire adult life excepting the one year blip.
I will be cheering Koa on! What an interesting concept all the way around. I wish I had been able to use this program years ago when I was trying to help Shaq lose a few pounds. We reached our goal, but that’s never easy with an always-hungry, give-me-more-food Lab! I’m lucky that Clyde came to us at a perfect weight, and we are making sure he stays that way!
Go Koa! Sorry – I just saw this post now as I’ve been out of town and away from my computer.
I just want to put my two cents in here and say it is much, much harder to diet a cat (an indoor/outdoor cat) than a dog – my boy (cat) is a former stray. When he came to me he was a sack of skin and bones at about 4kg (he is very long/tall/large for a cat). He is now overweight at 7.1kg. His ideal weight would be around 5.5kg. He has been on prescription diet food and been in a pet slimmers club but he is a scavenger, and a thief and I can’t stop him eating his food, the food of other cats in a ten mile radius, garbage, etc! So I’m at a loss now really. Anyway i swear i’m not a terrible pet parent, I’m so embarrased at the vets like i’m some kind of cat abuser….but cats are tricky little things!