Helping A Dog Go From Fat To Fit

I’ve never had a fat dog.

In fact, my friends from Slim Doggy had to point out to me that Honey was actually getting too skinny.

But our new foster dog is a corpulent canine, a dense dog, a bulging beagle. Blanche is enormous.

Beagles should weigh less than 30 pounds. Blanche weighs about 46 pounds, just 4 pounds less than my golden retriever, Honey.

And she’s making me sad.

Blanche the beagle is panting.

Whoa, those stairs are quite a workout. I think I need a little snack.

When Being Fat Hurts

Blanche is a lovely dog.

She enjoys being outside and sniffing the scents. She likes being with people. She’s curious. And sweet.

But her weight makes it hard for her to get around.

Our house is cool but she pants easily just walking around indoors. She has to take the stairs diagonally to make it to the top. And her leg seems to be bothering her.

Unfortunately, she’s also recovering from hernia surgery and is not ready for hard exercise. The vet instructions advise me to give her 2 to 3 short, slow walks each day.

Ultimately, it will be up to Blanche’s new family to help her lose weight at a reasonable pace. But is there something we can do to start her off in the two weeks she’ll be with us?

Blanche the beagle sniffs.

Please notice Blanche’s perfect beagle posture–nose down, tail up.

Getting Fit A Little At A Time

First of all, Blanche is getting those short walks every day. We’ll be talking to the vet today to make sure we’re on the right track and not over or under doing it.

I’m also taking advantage of Blanche’s sweet nature (I don’t call her Sweetie for nothing). She loves people and enjoys their attention. To get her to come to me, I only have to crouch down and she’ll waddle over to have her ears scratched.

We’re lucky to have a small, fenced back yard. I’ve discovered that when Blanche whines after waking up from a nap, she doesn’t really need a pee break. She needs to sniff around the yard to see what has happened since the last time she was out. And her circuit of the yard is gentle exercise.

Finally, I’ve made careful use of the stairs.

I don’t let Blanche follow me up and down all day like Honey would. She slips on the wood and I’m afraid she’s going to take a tumble if I’m not careful.

But when we do go up and down the stairs, I stand by to support her while she makes the effort herself.

I’m hoping that the effort builds up her muscles and ultimately helps her slim down.

Honey the golden retriever naps.

Blanche was wondering how I stay so thin. Here’s my favorite workout.

Listening To A Dog’s Body

It’s hard enough to listen to our own bodies much less figure out what a dog’s body is trying to tell us. But watching Blanche struggle with her body as she tries to get her nose around to smell all the amazing smells tells quite a tale.

I once read that the Marine Corps standard of fitness was to be able to do everything required of you each day plus have enough to give that extra push when needed. For a Marine, that may be rappelling up a building followed by a run across rooftops in heavy gear.

For me, being fit means bringing six stuffed bags of groceries home on the bike with enough gas in my tank to pull out into traffic on a hill without being splatted by cars for going too slow.

And for Blanche, it means feeling fit enough that she can follow her nose and her heart to what she loves most.

Fit Dog Friday badgeYour Turn: Any suggestions for gentle ways to exercise a dog while she’s recovering ?

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  1. Hey there! I sent you an email as you won in my birthday giveaway, but I haven’t heard back yet. Can you email me so I can get your mailing address? Thanks!

  2. You’ve got the right idea – short slow walks for an older, and obese pet is great. Swimming is also good since it won’t stress her joints. Don’t forget the importance of what you are feeding her – good nutrition is half the battle in a weight loss program. Good luck Blanche, we’ll be cheering for you over here at SlimDoggy! We may even reward you with some SlimDoggy swag for motivation…keep us posted.

    • The vet was very pleased with Blanche’s recovery. Which means she’ll probably only be with us for a week.

      It looks like her new family will have to be committed to helping her get fit. But I’ll do what I can for the time she’s with us. And maybe I can get the great suggestions from these comment to her new family to start them off on the right track.

  3. First, has her thyroid been checked? We older ladies have a tendency to be low in that area. I cut the amount of kibble in half for a while, and boost the amount with frozen green beans that I put in a colander and run hot water over till thawed, or canned pumpkin puree, or both.

    • Blanche got a full vet work up when she came into the shelter so hopefully they would have found any levels being off.

      I suspect she got lost from a person who loved her very much but thought people food was a good way to show love.

      I will definitely try the frozen green beans as a snack. I bet she’ll love the crunchy things. Thanks for the idea.

  4. For one, watch what she eats. There are excellent diet foods out there that make us dogs feel full with not eating much. Until she is well enough to exercise more, maybe some core work and brain work with low cal rewards or use part of her meals as rewards.

    • I don’t have too much control over Blanche’s diet since the shelter sends food with her that she’ll be getting when she returns there and when she’s adopted. But I will take your advice on brain work.

      We’ll try to get her to use that awesome sniffer to burn some calories.

  5. I always feel so bad for fat dogs when I see them. Like you said, they must feel awful. I’m sure her new family will continue what you are doing to help her out.

    • She’s a game little pup but I do think her joints bother her. I suspect that when she loses the weight she’ll be a whole new dog.

  6. It really does make me sad to see overweight dogs. It’s worse when the owners don’t even realize it or don’t care enough to do anything. Their quality of life is diminished when they have to carry that extra weight around : /

    • Because Blanche was brought in as a stray, we don’t know anything about her back story. But given how loving and attentive she is to people (except when out on a walk), I suspect she was very, very loved.

      Unfortunately, not everyone shows love the right way. And this poor girl is in some pain for it. She’s already lost two pounds so hopefully she’ll start to feel better soon.

  7. So sad to see an over weight dog, there are just so many ways to prevent it.

  8. You can add canned no salt green beans as a replacement for a portion of food or for a low cal snack treat.

    • Steamed or canned carrots work well too. The veggies add fiber and help the dog feel full while cutting out some of the calories. We did this for Roxy (GSD), replacing half of her evening meal with veggies. It took a 6-7 months, but she safely lost that extra 10 pounds.

    • Blanche wasn’t eating at the shelter so my first goal was to have her on regular meals. But I’ll give it a try and see how she takes to vegetables. Thanks for the suggestion.

  9. Well we switched food and increased our exercise, but with her limitations at this point, I know you have to take it easy. We give the dogs carrots for treats and they love them, we also used green beans (ground up) as filler when we were hard core dieting them. Once she gets the okay to exercise, I think you’ll see some changes. Will that be a requirement with the new family?

    • Blanche wasn’t eating at the shelter and avoided kibble. The shelter staff thought she might have had sensitive gums after having her teeth cleaned in surgery. But I’ll start trying crunchy vegetables and see how she likes them.

      I know the shelter will advise her new family to help her lose weight. But after that, it’s hard to tell. Some people find fat beagles cute, unfortunately.

      One family who came to visit an earlier beagle I fostered didn’t like her because she was too skinny.

  10. We had an overweight foster dog too. He was about a pound overweight which is quite a bit on a five pound dog. We were strict about measuring out his food (I didn’t feed him low calorie food or anything like that). He ate out of food puzzles half the time so he wouldn’t gulp his food down. And playing with Mr. N is a workout in itself!

    • Your foster was lucky to have you (and Mr. N) taking such good care of him.

      I sometimes think one problem people have in thinking about dog weight is forgetting how small they are (well, except for giant dogs) compared to humans. But I suspect that Blanche the beagle being 25-30 pounds overweight is comparable to a medium-framed woman weighing 300 pounds).

      I can see lots of people failing to notice a tiny dog being a pound over weight. But yes, as you said, it’s 20% of his body weight. And that’s a lot.

  11. It’s sad to see a dog so heavy for their size. I’m sure you’re on the right track with short walks and, as she recovers, those can become more frequent.

  12. awww, I love this post! I do hope Blanche’s new family is as committed to her health as you are. Frozen green beans are a great snack, as mentioned above. And, hopefully her new family with consult with their vet on the best diet and exercise for Blanche. I met a Beagle who was in rehab at U. of Tenn. for being overweight and they exercised her on an underwater treadmill — easy on her joints.

  13. My sister has an overweight beagle with arthritis, so they’re having a tough time too getting her to lose some weight. They try to do several short walks a day when they can. If a dog likes vegetables, we find those to be good lo cal treats. But our beagle won’t eat many veggies, though her brother used to, and Luke loves just about every fruit and vegetable there is! Hopefully Blanche will like some. What a cutie she is! I imagine you will at least get her off to a good start before she goes to her permanent home.

  14. Veggies make great snacks for dogs, Theo did really well losing nearly 9 pounds over a year. We were able to help him with walks, less food and more playtime until he reached a certain point, then we switched him to a special food.

  15. Looks like you’ve been given some great tips

  16. Blanche does look like a sweetheart. When it’s raining out we play a lot of nose work games indoors; I don’t know if Blanche would be enthusiastic to find toys hidden around the house rather than food though. Since she’s recovering it’s just going to take a bit, you’re going to do a great job with her.

  17. Blanche is so lovely. When will people realise that over feeding a dog is cruelty the same way under feeding is. OK maybe it isn’t done as deliberately, but unlike ourselves who really only have ourselves to blame for putting on a bit too much weight, for a dog it all falls on the owner.

    I am sure you are already doing this but cutting down food is a great way to help loose weight and also it might be worth getting a treat ball. Put her food into the ball and then she has to push the ball around until the food falls out, meaning she is gently exercising while she is eating.

    You’re doing a great job – keep it up!

  18. Toys! Gentle playing with gentle toys-it’s not a big calorie burner, but, a little gentle playing with toys will probably make for safe exercise.

  19. Being overweight is not good for human or pet. It’s tough once you gain the weight and try to loose it.