Below is the continuation of the weight loss journey of Wolfgang The Beagle. For anyone out there with a morbidly obese dog, Wolfie is proof change can and WILL happen. Put time and effort in, and you too can make a difference in your dog’s health. Your beloved four-legged family member will be forever grateful and it’s never too late to start. Please do your part to keep your dog alive and healthy for as long as possible. He will thank you with lots of hugs and kisses! And now, Part Two of Wolfgang’s powerful story. Here, Wolfie’s Mom Erin talks about how to start your dog’s life changing weight loss journey and her tips on how to succeed (tip: just like dog running, it’s about consistency!).
We are so proud of what you have done, and spreading awareness about extreme canine obesity is so important. What advice would you have for a dog owner who feels their dog is severely obese and not know where to start?
We feel really passionate about trying to show people that morbid obesity in pets is a form of abuse, it is just not a form of abuse that is seen or talked about often. A morbidly obese dog is likely in joint pain (and in Jamie’s case suffered two torn knees), and could be in imminent danger of heart failure (like how Wolfgang was when he first came to live here). However, we recognize (thankfully) that most cases will not be as extreme as Wolfgang’s situation. I struggle sometimes calling morbid obesity abuse (although I personally believe in Arizona, it meets the legal definition of animal cruelty) because I don’t want to deter people from getting help. However, I also believe that unless we call it what it is (abuse), people may not realize what it is doing to the dog. My goal is just to try to help limit the number of morbidly obese dogs.
However, we also feel passionate about just helping or bringing awareness to obesity or overweight issues in dogs (even if not as extreme as Wolfgang’s situation) because we know that a dog being overweight (even if it doesn’t reach the level of abuse) can put stress on its joints and lead to other health issues. For example, if a 40 pound dog needs to lose 10 pounds, that dog needs to lose 25% of its weight, which is still a significant amount.
Regardless of whether someone is dealing with a morbidly obese dog or a dog that just has weight to lose, I would suggest the following:
- Talk with a Veterinarian first to rule out any underlying health issues and to get a calorie count for a healthy weight loss as losing too much weight too quickly is also not healthy for the dog (not all dog food has a calorie count on the bag, but it is usually available on-line). When we started helping obese dogs I was quite surprised to learn how little our dog needed to eat; we have only had one obese dog that always acted hungry which is hard to watch. In her case, we bought huge containers of green beans (and rinsed them to help remove sodium) and starting supplementing her food with green beans, because it was high fiber and low calorie so it helped keep her full.
- Take into consideration the calorie count in the dog’s treats, as that will start to add up. I was surprised to learn how many calories are in some treats. There are some low calorie treats out there but a lot of times (in my experience) the dog just wants a treat and doesn’t care as much what the treat is. We use carrot pieces sometimes as treats. Sometimes we also use freeze dried meat, as we know it is nutritious (even if a little higher in calories).
- Make sure everyone in the house is on board with the new plan. Obviously a dog will eat what you give it, so if a family member is sneaking the dog food, it will undermine your efforts.
- In terms of exercise, we recommend talking with your Vet first, but just start small. Wolfgang’s first walk was to the mailbox. However, it gets easier over time and when you start to see that your dog has more energy or is walking easier, it will likely encourage you to keep going. Small but consistent steps is all we think is needed to start, and you can build from there.
- If your dog has a lot of weight to lose, you will likely encounter rude people in public that have no issue telling you that your dog is fat, etc. (We have helped 5 obese dogs and we got comments on each one of the dogs. I would like to say I’ve always taken the high road when comments have been made, but that would not be accurate. It is hard to take the high road when someone is being mean to your best friend). However, please don’t let comments from others deter you from taking your dog on walks or otherwise taking your dog out on errands — the dog probably likes going, and the dog is getting more exercise just going on errands. While I know negative comments can be discouraging, I’d encourage people to remember that you are doing this for your dog/best friend, and not for the approval of random strangers. If your dog never leaves your house, it will make weight loss that much harder.
We can’t thank you enough, Erin and Chad, for your dedication to helping dogs in drastic need of help. We agree with all of your points here, and will make sure to refer this interview with anyone having questions on how and where to start their dog’s weight loss journey. You are a champion for all dogs, everywhere! To continue along on their goals of fostering these dogs, please follow Wolfgang and family on Instagram at @obese_beagle.