Series on Pet Obesity – Step 1: Recognizing You Have a Problem

A few weeks ago, I posted in the weekly newsletter that I would be on a mission to save two of my dogs, Buster and Percy. Some may think that the word “save” is a bit dramatic, given they were already saved once when I rescued them and that they live in a home where they are loved and safe. But I think it is very appropriate, because if I don’t do something – and soon – something very bad might happen.

The evidence to support that feeling is clear. Last week, I spoke with veterinarian Dr. Nancy Turner, an Associate Veterinarian at Bent Tree Animal Hospital in Dallas.  “Obesity can have serious effects on a pet’s health, including joint issues, recurring skin infections, difficulty breathing, bronchitis, diabetes…just to name a few.”  Even more alarming, studies have shown that pet obesity can shorten your pet’s life by at least two years.  Keeping your pet at a healthy weight means you avoid these preventable issues and their long-term effects on your pet, as well as reducing the time (and money) spent at your veterinarian’s office.

I asked about how many pets that she sees that could be considered overweight, and she said that it was easily 60% of her patients.

Dr. Turner and I discussed the sensitive nature of speaking about this topic as well. I confess, I often feel like I am more likely to be judged when people see my pets and they are obviously overweight. As a pet professional, I should know better. I spend many, many hours with dogs that are not my  own, and I feel as though I’m the worst pet parent ever when my dogs have problems – whether health or behavioral – that I could have prevented.

In addition, much like the parents of human children, people can become very defensive if someone uses the “F word” when describing their dogs. It is the fear of hearing that word used by a doctor that can stop people from seeking help. However, Dr. Turner assured me that any veterinarian would be happy that a pet parent was coming in to address their dog’s weight issues, rather than ignoring them or trying to handle them on their own for too long without results.

Buster is the most overweight of the two, so we are starting with him. Earlier this week, he went in to his vet for what I like to refer to as “routine maintenance” and we took care of the first step – the weigh-in. I was shocked to discover that Buster – a Chihuahua mix – is a whopping 29 pounds. He should probably weigh about 14 pounds. At this point, I realized he would need to lose 15  pounds, maybe more, and felt panicked. Even I have been having trouble losing 15 pounds, and for Buster, that’s over half his body weight.

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Buster in 2009 – Age 2

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Buster in 2012 – Age 5

We scheduled his appointment for a complete physical, including blood work, so that we can start this whole process under a veterinarian’s supervision, something that Dr. Turner recommends.

“In some cases, like yours, an owner has tried the standard methods for weight loss and is not seeing the desired results. This is where a vet can help you with additional options, like prescription weight-loss food, diagnosis of metabolism, and possibly physical therapy.” I was excited to learn that Dallas is home to the North Texas Animal Rehabilitation centers, which have equipment for strength therapy like underwater treadmills, that could be easier on Buster’s already painful joints.

Our conversation covered a variety of topics related to weight-loss, and I will be covering many more issues related to pet obesity in coming posts. In the meantime, those who are interested in this topic can learn more at a website recommended by Dr. Turner:  petobesityprevention.com. I used the website to get an accurate idea of how obese Buster really is:

weightlosssbuster

Basically, that chart says if I were in Buster’s position, I would weigh 307 pounds. Did someone say reality-check?

Stay tuned for the next segment of our series on Pet Obesity!

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