Friday, March 16, 2012

The Weigh-Ins Begin

Tuesday I saw 3 dogs on appointments who all came in and were all overweight.

I thought that I would begin to introduce them to you.

My first fat dog of the night was Dazzle the Dachshund. She is a middle aged, spayed female short haired walking foot stool. She is so fat that her already stubby legs look to be half the length of what they should. Her dolichocephalic (long nosed face), looks like a little mouse, small pointy nose and ears that go straight out to the side because her face and neck are so fat. (To describe it more graphically her short streamlined body looks squat and stout, and she waddles.)

Her mom had brought her in specifically to address the weight issue.

I think that in my seven years practicing that this is maybe only the second dog that has walked in to see me for this reason. In most cases the owners try to slip by the fact that their dog is overweight. They hope that I won't notice, or that I ''have given up on them trying to correct it for the fourth year in a row."

For those owners that I actually can convince that there is a weight problem, I am happy to sit down and go through the very long conversation about every aspect of their pets life that has contributed to where the scale is now.

This conversation needs to be a 30 minute office visit.

We all need to sit down and discuss the entire home life. I am going to start with the basic questions of ;

1. What do you feed?

2. Do you measure how much you are feeding?

3. How many treats do you give?

4. What kind of treats do you give?

5. How much exercise does your dog get. (OK, pet peeve here is that putting your dog outside in your fenced in yard is not exercise. I almost guarantee that a fat dog is not exercising. Certainly not exercising enough. I want the exercise period to be interactive. I want you and your dog to be outside playing. Either you throwing the ball, or going for walks, or runs, or swims, etc). I want you to be able to tell me how long you are playing and at what intensity.

6. Who else lives in the household? Or who else is responsible for any of the pets care? Here's the concern here. I have many clients who have fat dogs because their kids are spilling their food, and/or offering lots of their own food to the begging, glued to their kids side or high chair, dogs. How do you tell a four year old to stop feeding the dog their vegetables? The other doomed weight loss scenario is the elderly retired and now living at home with their adult children grandparents with Alzheimer's. These poor owners are measuring their dogs food, exercising them, and have told their parents that they cannot feed the dog anymore! How do you tell your elderly parents who are home all day with the begging dog not to feed them? Or worse yet, these parents don't even remember they were told not to feed, or forgot that they did feed. That one is a toughy.

For these owners with the difficult challenges at home monitoring and mandating the feeding I do the following; I recommend that they put the daily food allowance in a Tupperware container on the counter and then lock up the rest of the food. Once the container is empty that's all the dog gets.

For the families with small kids, you have to put the dog in a separate area at feeding times.

I love the use of a calendar to help manage the pets flea & tick, heart worm preventative and even feeding and exercise schedules. Have everyone participate in keeping a calendar of your duties. When you give your monthly dose it gets crossed off of the calendar. When you go for your morning walk it gets crossed off the calendar. At the end of the month see how you did, and see what your weight looks like. All of this information is really helpful in helping us adjust the diet for your pets weight loss plan.

After I went through all of this with Dazzle's mom I learned the following :
Dazzle has always been fat. She lives with another Dachshund who is skinny. The skinny dachshund never finishes her food, so Dazzle does this for her.
OK, Dazzle is eating too much, and Skinny sister is being offered too much. Lucky for Skinny sister that she can self regulate her feeding, (we should all be so lucky) but clearly Dazzle cannot. When Skinny sister leaves her bowl the rest is tossed. DON'T leave it out for Dazzle, because of course she is going to eat it.

Dazzle is a couch potato. Skinny sister is a very active dog. (Not too hard to figure that that's why Skinny is skinny and Dazzle is not). Dazzle needs to be more active.

Dachshunds are a breed that tends to have weight issues. And of all the breeds of dogs these are  one of the breeds of dogs that need to be kept thin, (that and brachycephalics (smooshy-nosed dogs). Dachshunds are also very susceptible to intervertebral disc disease and this is seen more commonly in the overweight Dachschunds than the physically fit Dachshunds.

Dazzles starting weight is 26 pounds . My target weight for her is 22 pounds.

I always try to give a target weight but I always also give a time frame for target weight and a request that we check it monthly together and adjust as we go. I don't want a dog to be going on a crash starvation diet because this is not safe, healthy, or effective long term. I want the dog and owners

The quick fixes in life rarely last. My goal is to restore long term health and happiness.

The hope is also that if there is any underlying medical condition we can discover it earlier vs later. Maybe at the first re-check. I have been shocked to find some very under active thyroids in many of these overweight dogs. Don't overlook the medical conditions!

The amount you feed will likely vary with the season and the activity level.

Keep an eye on the scale and start to also keep an eye on your pups waist line. Ask your vet care professional to start training your eye to recognize body condition score.

In reality I don't care what the number on the scale is. I care what your dog looks like. There should be a taper at the waist when looking from above and a tuck in the abdomen when looking from the side. I am also using my hands to feel the weight and muscle mass of dogs, especially those dogs with heavy dense furry coats. And to my own Beagles defense he may not have a tucked narrow waist (he is built kind of blocky). But that boy has some massive quadriceps, and he can, and does, run like the wind. He is solid muscle! and there isn't an ounce of fat, even though he is short and stocky, on him. (But he is still soo cute!)

OK, let me know what questions you have about weight loss, obesity, etc. It's springtime, time to get ready for our bikini's, and get out there and exercise!

Update: 2013 Dazzle's reflection in the scale teetered a few pounds up and down for about five months. Our best attempts to help her elderly dad exercise with her daily were foiled by his own health challenges. I believe that he saw her greatest happiness on the other end of a biscuit, and in the end that tail wag from the short term bliss of a snack meant a bigger "I love you" than a walk and a boring bland diet that neither one of them really wanted to participate in.

For many of us it is very difficult to convince you of the long term gains when you are living exclusively in the moment. 

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