Saturday, March 17, 2012

My Second Biggest Loser Contestant, Duke the Black Lab

The second fat dog of last Tuesday's appointments was Duke.

He is a 106 pound black Labrador Retriever.

He is a long story. OK, deep breathe and start talking.

He is the man of the house on a farm in the rural part of the county. He lives on a beautiful horse farm that is also next to his garandparents and aunt's house. His mom is surrounded by her family and they are a very close knit bunch of strong, proud, animal loving women. He is a reserved amiciable soul who loves everyone. He is the quintessential Lab and the picture of what many Labs that I see are. He is loving, devoted, and lazy.

I guess I should clarify that statement.
It seems that Labs fall into one of two categories.
The first category is the Duke type. Big wagging happy-go-lucky guys, and the
second are the crazy, high energy, and almost unmanageable in the examination room guys.

Category 1 lives inside, (usually on the couch) and is rarely interested in anything except the sound of kibble in the bowl. These are the sweet, gentle, obedient, fat Labs.
Category number 2 spends almost all day outside, running, playing, working, is energetic, lean and muscular. Food is not a priority in their lives, but being outside and play are.

Let's take a minute and review the breed standard. The following is from the AKC website dog breed guide.

I have shortened some of the information but the entire article can be found at

The gentle, intelligent and family-friendly Labrador Retriever from Canada continues to be the most popular breed in the United States, according to AKC® registration statistics. This versatile hunting breed comes in three colors – yellow, black and chocolate – and because of his aptitude to please his master they excel as guide dogs for the blind, as part of search-and-rescue teams or in narcotics detection with law enforcement.

The Labrador Retriever is a strongly built, medium-sized, short-coupled, dog possessing a sound, athletic, well-balanced conformation that enables it to function as a retrieving gun dog; the substance and soundness to hunt waterfowl or upland game for long hours under difficult conditions; the character and quality to win in the show ring; and the temperament to be a family companion. Physical features and mental characteristics should denote a dog bred to perform as an efficient Retriever of game with a stable temperament suitable for a variety of pursuits beyond the hunting environment.

The most distinguishing characteristics of the Labrador Retriever are its short, dense, weather resistant coat; an "otter" tail; a clean-cut head with broad back skull and moderate stop; powerful jaws; and its "kind," friendly eyes, expressing character, intelligence and good temperament.

Above all, a Labrador Retriever must be well balanced, enabling it to move in the show ring or work in the field with little or no effort. The typical Labrador possesses style and quality without over refinement, and substance without lumber or cloddiness. The Labrador is bred primarily as a working gun dog; structure and soundness are of great importance.

Size--The height at the withers for a dog is 22½ to 24½ inches; for a bitch is 21½ to 23½ inches. Any variance greater than ½ inch above or below these heights is a disqualification. Approximate weight of dogs and bitches in working condition: dogs 65 to 80 pounds; bitches 55 to 70 pounds.

Proportion--Short-coupled;  Substance--Substance and bone proportionate to the overall dog. Light, "weedy" individuals are definitely incorrect; equally objectionable are cloddy lumbering specimens. Labrador Retrievers shall be shown in working condition well-muscled and without excess fat.

Movement of the Labrador Retriever should be free and effortless.

True Labrador Retriever temperament is as much a hallmark of the breed as the "otter" tail. The ideal disposition is one of a kindly, outgoing, tractable nature; eager to please and non-aggressive towards man or animal. The Labrador has much that appeals to people; his gentle ways, intelligence and adaptability make him an ideal dog. Aggressiveness towards humans or other animals, or any evidence of shyness in an adult should be severely penalized.

I am not one to judge a "good" dog based on breed standards. I judge "good" on disposition and demeanor and whether or not their needed components are functional, so I am not trying to undermine over critisize the AKCin their standards guidelines by I do want to take a minute to address soemthing I see everyday. I see big overweight labs.

The breed standard is 65-80 pounds. NOT 100-120 pounds!

I also see enormous Lab puppies. I know that these clients have gone out and spent hundreds of dollars to get a "Lab." But this country has an obsession (detrimentally so for the Labs) of bigger is better.

I think that wanting and going out to get a 100 pound plus Lab is silly. They aren't supposed to be that big. And they are not healthy that big.

Of further concern is that in my opinion every Lab is born with bad hips. We have done an absolutley terrible job of trying to breed out this deformity. I don't know of any Lab breeders that wait until the parents are 2 years old, have both of the parents independently certified by either the OFA or Penn-Hip organizations, and then breed only the "excellent" dogs.

I tell  my Lab clients to "expect that if their Lab lives long enough that there may likely be hip probelms down the road. We can't undue the genetics but we can do everything else possible to minimze the stress on those hips and keep these dogs lean and muscular their whole lives. This means feed a great food, exercise (low impact, i.e. no agility) and lots of swimming, which is what many of these guys love to do anyway. I also think that joint supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin help too. (Oh, I also love omega 3 fatty acids)."

Now the problem is that we have breed the biggest of the biggest Labs, because people want them, and we have done a poor job of not breeding out the guys with bad hips. Add to that the propensity for these labs to be "laid back" and beggers, and we have Duke.

Too big, too lazy, and too fat. And he is 9 years old.   (DEEP SIGH, even metabolism is working against us). Duke has also been obese the last 5 years (another obstacle).

Duke's biggest challenges are that he lacks any motivation.
He is in a household with women from every genberation. Daughter is away at college, mom works long days and is tired at the end of the day, and grandma who lives close has a farm and Duke would rather stay home than go over to visit.

My suggestion was to;
1. Start a prescription reduced calorie food. I told her how much to feed and set a target weight at 85 pounds. She has this food to feed only, and a measuring cup for accuracy.
2. We also plan for them to return in 2 weeks for a weigh in.
3. They are going to do their best to start a daily exercise plan.
Because Duke is so big, and she can't pick him up when he gives up on the exercising, I told her to put half of his food allowance in her pocket and bribe him to walk up and down the driveway.

Food is a great motivator for most of these guys and if you have to use that as the reason to keep them moving, well it works for all of us.

Good Luck Duke and family!

Here is a picture to hang on the fridge for motivation.
This isn't Duke, but this is what ideal body condition looks like.

Here is a story about a 187 pound Black Lab in Australia;

Here is an article about body condition scoring in pets of all sizes;

Here is Eukanuba's answer to breed specif problems, breed specific diets;

Update: Duke sadly was unable to get to his target weight. His family understood the risks associated with his obesity, and the difficulty of changing a lifestyle. 

No comments:

Post a Comment