It sucks to hear your dog is overweight.
I first got the bad news when Nala was a little over a year old. We went through too many changes in diet and exercise to count over the next few years but were stuck on a yo-yo of ups and downs. I was worried about my large dog’s health (will she get arthritis? will it strike early? what else will happen because of these stupid, stubborn pounds?) and had no idea what to do.
Things came to a head about a year ago. Nala’s weight had gone up yet again, more quickly than usual, and when I increased her exercise, she grew short of breath easily. There was no good reason for a 3-year-old dog to be tired after walking just one mile. A few days later, we were at the vet’s office.
Our excellent vet took one look at Nala and knew that the recent weight gain was not just extra pounds but also fluid retention. Three days of tests later, we had a diagnosis of liver cirrhosis. The vet put Nala on a diuretic to eliminate the extra fluid, prescribed some low-protein food her struggling liver could process, and gave me the number of a veterinary nutritionist who could create a custom diet for Nala’s liver and allergy issues.
Fast forward a couple weeks. Nala no longer was retaining fluid, had lost almost 10 pounds, and had energy higher than we’d seen in a couple years. I took her in to the vet to check her weight. One of the techs gushed over Nala as we walked in. “You look so good!” she exclaimed. I asked her about Nala’s weight loss. Was it too much? Should we be worried? Did I need to make another appointment?
“No,” she said, “she’s got a waist now. That’s what we like to see. An hourglass figure.”
“Really?” I asked. “Like Marilyn Monroe?” The tech laughed and said yes.
This is my shocking, embarrassing confession: I didn’t recognize a healthy waist on my own dog when I saw it.
Too many dogs are overweight. Too many people don’t know how to tell if a dog is overweight or underweight just by looking at them. Well, ladies and gentlemen, here is what my dog’s healthy waist looks like now:
She is lean, with a waist from the top and an upwards curve along her belly. With the increased energy, we can do more strenuous activity, and she’s become more muscular as a result. Her weight loss has been a snowball of improvement and I couldn’t be happier. She’s happier, too: The dog who could barely manage a one-mile walk a year ago is now a complete pro at jumping over benches at the park, thrilled by hikes, and excited to jump rocks and boulders.
A year ago, she never would have made it to the top of that mountain.
Too often, we focus on obesity rather than health. I’m guilty of it myself. It’s time we start talking about what we want for our pets, rather than what we should avoid. Make it plainly obvious what the goal looks like so we can see the difference, if it exists, and recognize when the goal is met. Teach dog owners so they don’t get concerned, like I did, when their dog is the picture of health. Our friend Jana has a great graphic to tell if your dog is fit, overweight, or underweight.
If you liked this, you may also like:
Raised Dog Bowls For Large Dogs - Helps tall dogs eat in a more natural, comfortable position.
Why Do Dogs Howl? - 4 reasons why dogs howl and tips for putting an end to it.
How Long Are Dogs In Heat? - How long, how often, and if it's necessary before spaying.