Drake – A Weight Loss Success Story
Human weight loss and fitness are a multi-billion dollar industry. The extra weight creeps up on us – a few pounds here, a few pounds there. We’re tired, our joints ache, and we don’t feel at our best. A few extra pounds can add up to a lot of extra risk. It’s hard to detect a 1 pound difference by your eye, but a few years of 1 lb weight gain will lead to big problems. Pets develop many of the same weight-related diseases that people do; heart disease, diabetes, and degenerative joint disease – leading to an overall shorter life span and decreased quality of life. Gaining weight is a simple matter of too many calories eaten and not enough calories burned. It is a common misconception that spaying or neutering a pet causes them to become fat. What does happen is that they are not burning calories by seeking mates or marking territories and we continue to feed them as if they were. There are some medical conditions such as hypothyroidism that can cause weight gain and these need to be ruled out with simple blood tests before embarking on a fitness program.
Our pets make it so hard to say no! They cock their heads and look longingly at the cupboard where the treats are kept. They pace, they beg, they whine. They do everything except get up on the counter and make themselves a sandwich. They are master manipulators and we need to be savvy to their ways! Unfortunately, they have no concept of calories and body condition. It is our responsibility as owners to make sure that they eat a healthy, balanced diet and get enough exercise. Every time you give a treat (when your pet is begging) is teaching your pet to beg again, as you rewarded this behavior.
Drake is a 7-year-old retriever cross. His weight gain was slow and steady. In the spring of 2006, his weight had reached an astonishing 117 pounds. Grandma had been showing her love through hot dogs and cheese. Mom and Dad were working a lot and slacking on the dog walking. Drake didn’t want to walk or play. He tired easily and slept most of the time. He had no visible waist, we could not feel his ribs or spine and he had a fat pad at the base of his tail – all telltale signs of an overweight dog.
First we needed to set a goal and decide on a plan to reach it. Drake’s target weight was 95 pounds. We would change his diet, cut out the treats and increase his physical activity. Weight loss requires a full commitment by everyone in the family. Grandma required education to convince her that she was harming Drake with too many treats. Mom and Dad both needed to step up the exercise and stick to a feeding schedule and measured amounts of food.
Drake was switched to the Medi-Cal Dental Formula. It is low-calorie and also helps to take care of his teeth. We calculated his daily requirement to be 4 cups of food, split over 2 feedings. After a few frustrating weeks of little progress, we determined that Drake had continued to manipulate us! He had been begging breakfast from Mom and then again from Dad. We quickly learned that we needed to better communicate when Drake had been fed.
Drake had spoiled us by using the backyard as his toilet. On cold or rainy days, we didn’t walk anywhere. We were often busy and the first chore to be neglected was walking the dog. It became easy to ignore because he was overweight and not enjoying his walks. We needed to pretend that we didn’t have a yard at all and get back to walking! Drake now walks for 20 to 30 minutes in the morning and again in the evening. On nice days we walk for 45 minutes or more at a time.
The reward has been that over the last 6 months Drake has made significant strides towards his goal weight. We re-check his weight monthly and determine if he needs more exercise. He has more energy. He gets excited about going for a walk and has a bounce in his step. We can feel evidence of ribs! He is not stiff when he gets up from a nap. The addition of a little Schnauzer sister means that Drake needs to do a lot more playing to entertain her and he rises to the occasion – gently playing tug of war and racing around the house. As a pleasant side-effect, Mom has also lost 14 pounds! It has been a lot of work but every cold rainy walk has been worth it to see Drake happy again and know that we have helped to increase his chances of leading a long, healthy life.
DRAKE UPDATE: September 2009 – Drake is down to 90.8lbs – 0.8lbs away from his goal!!!!!!! His Mom reports that he is much more active – leaping on and off the bed, running regularly and bringing out his toys for Elsie and him to play with together. Keep up the great work!