OK, I admit it. I am a fitness freak, particularly when it comes to dogs. And when you see estimates that 40 percent of our canine population is overweight, it’s frightening.
A dog is considered overweight, according to veterinarians, if it is 5 per cent to 19 percent above its ideal weight. An obese dog is 20 percent or more over its ideal weight.
For the first time in a half century of dog ownership, I am caught in this battle of the bulge with a 7-year-old Pembroke Welsh Corgi rescue named Trudy that was a whopping 38 pounds when we adopted her – 10 to 13 pounds more than what the standard calls for.
Daily walks, small servings of low-calorie dry food the first several months produced very little weight loss. A complete physical exam following her adoption didn’t reflect anything abnormal other than a need to shed those unsightly pounds.
Trudy is a prime target for future respiratory, skin and coat, immune system, osteoarthritis and cruciate/intervertebral disk-rupture problems. No matter how you add that up, it comes up to a shorter life span.
Frustrated by my lack of success in reshaping Trudy, it was time for another conference with our veterinarian last summer. The result: We switched foods again, this time to a veterinary formula weight loss restricted- calorie dry product fed twice daily in small amounts.
Within two months, she dropped two pounds and I was feeling upbeat. But we’ve hit the proverbial wall since and she’s holding steady at 36 pounds. We will beat this I keep telling Trudy, who disdains my message while putting her nose down skimming the kitchen floor for table scraps from the last human meal. Sometimes I think her name should have been Hoover or Kirby, after the vacuum cleaners that suck up everything off the floor.
I know what you’re thinking: She must be getting some people-food handouts. Not from me – and I am assured by others they haven’t succumbed to her melting-heart pleas either. Her go-to-bed snack is a couple small rice-cake bites.
Her new restricted-calorie diet is supposed to help trim fat while maintaining muscle and promoting a gradual weight loss.
It is designed to help maintain steady blood-sugar levels with a carbohydrate blend of grain sorghum and barley.
It also contains beet pulp, which is the material remaining after sugar is extracted from sugar beets. It is an important source of fiber designed to help the dog maintain intestinal health and enhances its ability to absorb nutrients.
“Dogs should lose 1 to 2 percent of their initial body weight per week,” says Dr. Stephen Swoboda, an Iams technical-services veterinarian from Eagle, Idaho.
“Getting there is the hard part,” he explains. “You must work with your veterinarian to establish a diet and exercise program that begins in moderation and builds from there. On walks, start with 5 to 10 minutes out daily and increase that to 20 minutes two to three weeks later as your dog’s endurance and breathing pattern allows.”
Swoboda advises when checking weight-loss, restricted calorie label breakdowns, look for protein levels of 22-26 percent, fat 5-8 percent and fiber 3-4 percent.
So how does an owner determine if his/her dog is fit and healthy? Swoboda replies, “You should be able to feel its ribs without pressing hard; its stomach should not sag; and you should see a defined waist when standing directly over it and looking down.
Oh, Trudy, we have a ways to go!