Whole Dog Journal's Blog June 28, 2012

Feeding Them Fat: It’s Not Fair

Posted at 12:02AM - Comments: (7)

Every so often we get a super fat dog surrendered to the shelter. I always feel sorrier for these dogs than for the thin ones; we can get a skeletal dog looking pretty healthy in a month’s time, but it takes months and months to get the super obese ones at a healthy weight. Plus, few people want the panting, exercise-intolerant couch potato-looking dogs; they end up lingering in our adoption kennels for a long time. And few of them have ever experienced anything like what must feel, in comparison to their former soft lives, like total deprivation – hard time – in the shelter environment.

We had one come through recently. This dog (seen posing with Otto) is only four years old. She’s shorter than Otto, who weighs just a hair under 70 pounds soaking wet. She weighs 110.5 pounds. She needs to be spayed before she can be adopted, and we can’t even think about scheduling the surgery until she loses 20 or so pounds; surgery on such an obese dog takes a long time – the fat just floods into the incision and obscures the tissues that need to be cut and sutured – and is considered high risk.

The dog had been surrendered by her owner, who was going into long-term care and didn’t have any friends or relatives who could take her. She had basically spent her whole life keeping this older man company on the coach, presumably eating fast food and chips and drinking beer! She was understandably heartbroken, confused, and depressed at finding herself in a hard “cell.” I fostered her for a few weeks until we found a rescue group who would take her for the long-term rehabilitation she was going to need to get healthy.

I know that some dogs become obese as a result of a thyroid condition. I suspect that in this dog’s case, and in the case of many of the fat dogs we get at the shelter, it’s simple overfeeding and lack of exercise – the super-long, sharp toenails tell us that.

The bottom line: Obesity of this degree reduces the length and quality of the dog’s life. If your dog is fat, please take steps to reduce his or her weight. Ask your veterinarian’s receptionist for a long appointment, and ask your vet for a thorough exam and discussion about what can be done. And see our past articles on low-fat diets and weight loss:

Helping Your Dog Lose Weight

Healthy Low-Fat Diets For Dogs With Special Dietary Needs

Homemade Low-Fat Dog Food Diets

Comments (7)

Dogs like your golden retriever pictured above and others, such as labs, LOVE to eat. Many dogs are not overly food motivated, but these guys often are. If they are free fed, they will eat and eat. Just because they are fat does not mean that their owners don't care and feed them everything - it just might mean they feel their dog would be unhappy if they couldn't eat all day long (and the dogs back this up :) We need to educate people that a fat dog IS an unhappy dog, and that much like children, they don't know what is best for them.

Posted by: C Ruth | September 17, 2012 2:23 PM    Report this comment

My Mom adopted a Corgi dog from the shelter that was really overweight. He had trouble walking and we felt so bad for him, and he was only six! On recommendation from our vet, she did two walks a day with him and put him on a reduced calorie Ultra dog food made by Natural Balance, and today he looks like a different dog. It doesn't take a lot of effort or cash to help these poor overweight pups, and it's cheaper to get him a high-quality low cal food than have him get diabetes and pay for meds, etc.

Posted by: sarahbarah987 | August 16, 2012 12:55 PM    Report this comment

Many years ago I adopted an 8 year old American Eskimo bitch from my friend whose husband rescued her from certain euthanasia. He was the gardener for an elderly lady who had to retire to a nursing home and relinquish her beloved "Prissy" to whom she had fed table scraps for 8 years and obviously never exercised. Prissy should have weighed about 25lb. When I received her she weighed about 40lb and could barely walk. The elderly lady's family did not want the dog and said she had an "attitude", whatever that meant. My friend and her husband started getting Prissy into some kind of healthier state and since they already had their own animal family (and I didn't)...enter me into the picture. I loved her at first sight, an obese, waddling, sad-looking soul. We started out slowly with short walks (house to curb, house to corner, around the block and eventually joyous runs in the nearby park.) I switched her diet to a high-grade kibble supplemented with pureed pumpkin to fill it out. Oh, and we changed her name to Zippy. Somewhat ironic, but with the hope of a healthier and more exuberant life made it was inspiring to both of us. Zippy thrived and it was a joy to watch her come back to life as she shed the extra pounds and regained her energy. Her eyes brightened, her coat began to glisten (although she stank terribly at first as she released toxins from her fat body) and she became a great and sweet companion.
I am always saddened by the sight of an overweight animal. They do not have the choice of diet and exercise. We control that. They must rely on us and I believe we have the responsibility to make their lives as healthy and happy as possible. I thank Zippy for teaching me so much about love and trust.

Posted by: Becky and Buddy | July 3, 2012 8:01 PM    Report this comment

I adopted a 10 year old 106 pound dog with lots of other health issues caused by the excess weight. It took 9 months to get her down to a healthy 65 pounds and quite a bit longer to get the rest of her body to heal and her coat to come back. No one wanted her when I got her - she was huge and we had had to shave off her matted coat. After I'd had her for a while everyone wanted her - she appeared in several fund raising rescue calendar pictures. When she died, she was the beautiful dog she should always have been.

I become very angry with people who abuse their critters with excess weight. I understand sometimes there are underlying health issues but most of the time it's just over indulgent, lazy owners!

Posted by: ThrpyDogTeam | July 3, 2012 10:13 AM    Report this comment

Great piece. I have a dog who is very overweight . I was fostering him an decided to adopt due to his age and condition. The vet never said anything about a "condition" so I thought I could get his weight under control with proper diet and a bit of exercise. Shortly after adopting him we decided there was something else going on. However, my husband lost his job and we cannot afford the vet care he needs. This is not an isolated problem. Many people face this problem. I have called many clinics and no one is willing to provide us with help. I continue to monitor his diet and keep him moving as much as possible. I do fear, however, that his life will be shortened as a result.
Thanks for informing people so they can get help before it is too late.

Posted by: Unknown | July 3, 2012 9:59 AM    Report this comment

Great piece. I have a dog who is very overweight . I was fostering him an decided to adopt due to his age and condition. The vet never said anything about a "condition" so I thought I could get his weight under control with proper diet and a bit of exercise. Shortly after adopting him we decided there was something else going on. However, my husband lost his job and we cannot afford the vet care he needs. This is not an isolated problem. Many people face this problem. I have called many clinics and no one is willing to provide us with help. I continue to monitor his diet and keep him moving as much as possible. I do fear, however, that his life will be shortened as a result.
Thanks for informing people so they can get help before it is too late.

Posted by: Unknown | July 3, 2012 9:59 AM    Report this comment

Great piece. I have a dog who is very overweight . I was fostering him an decided to adopt due to his age and condition. The vet never said anything about a "condition" so I thought I could get his weight under control with proper diet and a bit of exercise. Shortly after adopting him we decided there was something else going on. However, my husband lost his job and we cannot afford the vet care he needs. This is not an isolated problem. Many people face this problem. I have called many clinics and no one is willing to provide us with help. I continue to monitor his diet and keep him moving as much as possible. I do fear, however, that his life will be shortened as a result.
Thanks for informing people so they can get help before it is too late.

Posted by: Unknown | July 3, 2012 9:59 AM    Report this comment

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