My Dog is Fat
January 3, 2011 1 Comment
Moses is fat. How embarrassing.
At least he has a good personality.
Actually, we always used to have trouble keeping the pounds on him, and he historically has been on the slim side. Moses has never been overly food motivated and often skipped meals by choice – even after the switch to a 100% raw diet. If he wasn’t in the mood for chicken, we’d just try again in the morning. If we tried to increase quantity at meal times to put some weight on him, he’d just skip more meals. In the spring, when he had more interest in… well, the ladies, he’d go a day or two without any interest in food. He had better things to worry about.
In November 2010 when we weighed him, he registered in at 163 pounds, which was close to his usual 165-170 pounds – our healthy ideal range for him.
But we were looking at him the other day and noticed a little extra girth through the midsection. We did a home assessment, checking to see how well we could feel his ribs, and noticed that they did seem to be buried a bit deeper than usual. (For a great article on how you can use this technique to assess your dog’s weight, go here. Your dog’s ribs should feel akin to the way the bones just under your knuckles do when you make a fist.)
Undying curiosity took me to use the scale at our neighbourhood vet today and the big guy clocked in at 176 pounds – a lifetime record high! That means he gained 13 pounds over about 2 months, increasing his weight by almost 8%.
While Moses is a large breed dog, and is on the big side when compared to the Newfoundland breed in general, we’re going to slim him down, with our ideal weight for him being close to or just under 170 pounds. More exercise and less food are on the agenda, and it will be easy enough to reduce meal sizes or even impose a skipped meal now and again to achieve this
Although 6 pounds may not seem like a large concern, even a few extra pounds can have an impact in your dog’s wellbeing, with respect to both joint health (especially in the giant breeds) and lifespan in general. Just like with people, a few extra pounds on your dog can increase the risks of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, damage to bones and joints, and decrease their stamina, liver function, and resistance to viruses and bacteria, not to mention a decreased quality of life in general.
After putting a plan in place, I became very curious as to how Moses gained the weight in the first place. I mean, the cause obviously stems from us, the owners, since we alone determine his feeding and exercise schedules. It’s not like he secretly binges on Doritos in the middle of the night when we’re not looking …right?
So what have we done? What changed?
Looking at his feeding schedule, it doesn’t seem to be that. His usual feeding regimen has been maintained, and he doesn’t get extras in the form of table scraps regardless of the time of year. Moses has been fed five pounds of raw food per day (provided he eats it) for months, and until now there has been no real weight gain or loss, aside from usual 2-4 pound fluctuations.
What about exercise? Well, that could certainly be a factor. Moses always gets his 60 minutes of walking every day – without exception – but when the temperature hits or exceeds the -20°C mark, it’s rarely more than that. It’s been a relatively cold winter in the Great White North, so regardless of how well suited Moses himself is to sustain several quality hours outside when it’s -30°C, we still call it a day after about an hour. Well, I suppose with my new resolution (which is going swimmingly, by the way), it’s now a 65-minute minimum, but that’s not likely to be an adequate change to shed some serious weight.
Then I had a thought: one other thing has changed in Moses’ routine lately. He was neutered in mid-November. Could that have played a role in the weight gain?
According to the Dog Whisperer’s website, no. The argument there is that often the diet doesn’t change and weight gain ensues, but not because the dog was fixed; it is actually because you are feeding an adult dog puppy proportions. This may be true for folks who neuter their dog at a younger age, but I am skeptical about this argument in our situation since we didn’t get Moses neutered until he was 2 years and 8 months old, and already on his “adult diet”.
Most other sources out there suggest that the change in testosterone production post-neuter can actually play a role in weight gain after surgery, due to the effects on the dog’s metabolism. The hormonal changes after castration often result in increased appetite and slowing metabolism.
Based on our experience, Moses’ appetite has certainly increased since he was neutered. His previous habit of skipping the occasional meal has since ceased, and he seems much more food motivated generally. So while we’ve always fed him 5 pounds of food per day, after taking into account skipped meals, he probably was getting 30 pounds per week or less, instead of the intended 35. Nowadays, it’s always the full 35.
So there you have it. Without even really realizing it, we actually have increased the amount we have been feeding him. Taking into account the seasonal exercise decrease, I would say the weight gain is officially accounted for. Mystery solved. Lesson learned.