Yes, unfortunately, there are a LOT of fat dogs around. Even more unfortunately, there are a lot of people who think fat is a good thing. “Look at that poor abused dog!” they say, of a lithe, fit, athletic dog in peak condition. There are so many fat dogs around that some vets have so little experience with fit dogs that they think fat is the way it’s supposed to be.
Once upon a time my 11-year-old Giant Schnauzer ripped a cruciate ligament and needed a surgical repair. At the time, the vet college was the only place that did them, so my vet made us an appointment and off we went.
In the examining room at the college, the resident examined her while the supervising surgeon leaned on the wall in the corner watching. “Yes indeed, this dog has a torn CL and needs surgery” said the resident, “but of course we can’t do it today!”
Say what? We had an appointment for surgery this morning. I drove 4 hours this morning, the dog is NPO, what’s the problem?
“This dog is not fit for surgery” he told us. “She’s EMACIATED!”
Gobsmacked at the idea that the lead dog on my racing sled team, my still-competing agility dog was too thin for surgery, I turned to the surgeon. With a smile he pushed himself off the wall, turned to the resident, and said “You’ve never seen an athlete before, have you!” Yes, she had the surgery that morning.
Telling someone with an obese dog that he’s not allowed to use my jumps because it isn’t safe for him, I’m frequently told “He just saw the vet! And the vet said he’s in GREAT shape!” I don’t like contradicting vets. They’re mostly good people and they’re mostly smart and useful and I LOVE my vets. That said, a fat dog isn’t a well-kept or safe dog.
And there’s an easy way to tell. (Note this method talks about how much weight a dog is carrying, but says nothing about what condition that dog is in).
If your dog’s ribs feel like this part of your hand, honey, your dog is fat. Goldilocks wouldn’t sleep here!
If your dog’s ribs feel like your knuckles, your dog is thin. Goldilocks wouldn’t be comfortable here either.
If your dog’s ribs feel like this part of your hand, congratulations, she’s Just Right!
We’re beginning March as I write this. One of my dogs is Just Right, but not in any kind of condition as she’s mostly been sitting around all winter or doing easy mental training. When I start getting her out and doing distance and weights with her in the spring, she’s going to go from Just Right to Don’t You Ever Feed Her? as she builds muscle. I’m going to have to feed her a lot more to keep her weight good as she gets fit.
My other dog is a bit chubby right now, and as I start working him in the spring, he’ll slim down to a beautiful fit, hunky body. Since he’s been getting a bit too much food for the work he’s doing right now, I may or may not have to give him more food as he starts working out. We’ll see.