Maggie appeared to be a healthy, energetic dog, but despite exercising frequently, her weight caught up with her.
Edith Hoven and her husband, Donald, didnât think a few extra pounds was a big deal until they took Maggie to Village Veterinarian.
âShe kept gaining weight until she was up to 42 pounds, and they told me she was obese,â Hoven said.
Overweight pets are becoming more of the norm than the exception, according to a recent study. But Maggie and a couple of other recently slimmed-down, four-legged Villagers are proof that a healthier weight is within fetching distance if they get a bit of help from their humans.
With the guidance of a veterinarian, a healthier diet and more time frolicking at the five dog parks in The Villages, your canine can conquer the calorie contest, too.
Many Pets Now Obese
When the Hovens got their 5-year-old terrier mix rescue in 2014, she was 17 months old and weighed 27 pounds, a few pounds under her recommended 30. About a year later she had gotten up to 31, and she just kept going.
âShe looked OK then,â said Hoven, of the Village of Hadley. âWe gave her some table food and stuff like that, and she was eating too many treats.â
Lack of proper diet and too little exercise are the leading causes of pet obesity, according to a study released in April by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. Pet obesity has increased steadily in the U.S. over the last year, the group said. Survey results revealed about 60 percent of cats and 56 percent of dogs are affected.
An estimated 50.2 million dogs and 56.5 million cats are above healthy weight, resulting in more secondary conditions such as arthritis, high blood pressure, kidney disease and forms of cancer, along with reduced life quality and shorter life span.
The biggest challenge pet owners face is being too busy to provide enough exercise, followed by behavioral issues, lack of areas to exercise and physical limitations of the owner, the survey said.
Scrap the Table Scraps
Dr. Alan Krause, a veterinarian at Faithful Companion Veterinary Services in Lady Lake, estimates about half of the pets he sees are obese.
âItâs really a âtreatableâ disease in pets, because humans are the only ones feeding them â but of course people love to see their pets eat âŚ and then some petsâ finickiness factors in and they wonât eat the right things, so then table scraps play into the game,â Krause said via email.
Diet is the biggest factor, he said, and he recommends prescription weight-loss diets.
âTraditional weight-loss diets have mostly been more of higher-fiber type content that gives the pet a sense of satiety before itâs âfullâ of calories â but the new technology metabolic diet addresses more the petâs metabolism, trying to harness it by âturning onâ the genetic potential to burn calories,â Krause said.
He recommends exercise and eating less, including limiting the number of snacks between meals, which is something the Hovens have been doing with Maggie since their initial visit to the vet in March.
At her July visit, Maggie weighed 38 pounds. She has made progress but has a few more pounds to go, Hoven said.
Cutting back on treats and putting an end to table scraps was the biggest adjustment.
âShe loves her treats and that was so much a part of her training,â Hoven said. âWhen we came in from her walks, she would get her treats. We would give her table scraps for a while and the vet said, âNo, noâ on the table food.â
The Hovens also switched Maggieâs brand of dog food and the serving size. Maggie now eats Hillâs Prescription Diet and its brand of metabolic treats.
They also make sure to walk her frequently. Maggie goes on three to four walks each day, with a long walk in the morning and evening. She walks with Donald to the post office and community pool, and Edith tries to take her on shorter walks during the day.
âSheâs always been active, but I definitely see a little change in her energy,â Hoven said. âWhen she jumps up on things, she gets up easier. She launches herself in the car with more ease.â
Although it can be challenging to hold back on sharing their snacks when they see the look in her eyes, Hoven said they know it is worth it to ensure Maggie has a healthy life.
âWe want to see her have a long life,â she said. âAnd it wasnât a good idea for her to stay at that weight.â
Hot Dogs Hoagie and Phattie
Teresa Shelton had similar experiences on a weight-loss journey with two dachshunds, Hoagie and Phattie.
A receptionist at Village Veterinarian, Shelton took Hoagie in after he was abandoned because of his declining health. When he went to the veterinarian in late January, he weighed 23 pounds â 6 pounds above his recommended weight â which was causing nerve damage and spinal arthritis.
âHe couldnât walk at all,â Shelton said. âHe was dragging his back. He was literally dragging his legs (because) he was overweight.â
After three months of proper diet and laser therapy to Hoagieâs muscle and nerve damage, he was as good as new. He even had a wheeled cart made for him, but he didnât need it for long.
âFirst his tail started wagging, then he started moving his legs,â Shelton said.
The long-haired dog now weighs 17 pounds and is back to running around.
Phattie came to live with Shelton a few years prior â after her previous owners no longer could care for her. Phattie, petite and short-haired, weighed 18 pounds when Shelton got her.
âShe literally looked like a watermelon,â Shelton said.
Through diet and exercise, Phattie slimmed down to a healthy 11 pounds.
Shelton feeds both of them twice daily, but smaller portions.
âPeople donât realize how small of a portion a tiny dog needs,â Shelton said.
Kristi Schweitzer is a staff writer with The Villages Daily Sun. She can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5225, or firstname.lastname@example.org.