Posts Tagged ‘canine weight management’

Fletcher’s Story

Friday, June 6th, 2014

Fletcher’s Story

We had just lost our beloved 12 year old black lab Clark on April 25th and missed him dearly. We hadn’t decided what we were going to do as far as bringing another dog into our lives. I think everyone struggles with this decision. Are we ready? Is it too soon? Were we betraying Clark’s memory?

fletch1May 8, 2014 – A random post on a Facebook asked for help over the next weekend with picking up and housing a rescued black lab over the weekend. Rocky Mountain Lab Rescue would have a place for him in a few days but they needed help for him over the weekend. The house was quiet and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to help a dog in need. I inquired and they were still looking for help. The plan was to pick him up at the Erie Colorado airport on Saturday, May 10th at noon. We had a couple days to think about what this would mean and were mostly excited but also not sure what trauma this dog had been through and what he would need.

This is the sad little picture that we first saw of him. It really didn’t register that he was overweight. I arrived at the airport just before noon on Saturday, May 10th and waited anxiously. The weather/wind was a little challenging that day so it took a little longer for the arrival. I waited with Rachel Hurd, the Owner/CFO of Vector Air – Pilots n Paws, Monica Brisnehan, Golden Retriever Freedom Rescue Foster Coordinator and Diane Fox, the foster for Harley (the 6 year old ‘sister’ of the dog I was picking up). Rachel and her husband volunteer their time to transport dogs from other cities to their rescues and Rachel had posted the need for a weekend home for the dog.fletch_plane

Deb Uden in Grand Island, Nebraska was the hero that heard about “Fifty” (yes that was his given name) and stepped in to save him. The story was that he was the result of a divorce and the husband no longer wanted Fifty or his sister Harley.   As we waited for the plane to arrive, I heard more details from the recent vet check-up the day prior – 130 LBS! He had been an indoor/family dog but had been relegated to the garage for the last month. They found he had tape worms, likely the result of being allowed to run at large and living in the garage. I started to wonder what we were in for but knew it was only for a few days.

We had a few considerations for a dog that comes into our lives. As owners of Canine Rehabilitation and Conditioning Group (CRCG), we need to be able to take our dog to work and therefore he/she cannot be aggressive towards people or dogs and we also knew any separation anxiety would be an issue. Only three days, we thought, surely it would not be an issue.

Well, I saw that face and immediately fell in love. The big lug was a little loopy from being sedated for the flight and was probably wondering what he had awakened to but his wonderful demeanor came shining through. They lifted him down from the plane and the adventure started. Monica got some great photos of the arrival – . We thanked Rachel and her husband for the amazing generosity to help these dogs and when we were finished with introductions and pictures ‘Fifty’ jumped into the car for the start of his new adventure.fletch2

We were on our way to meet with Angelica, the rescue coordinator for Rocky Mountain Lab Rescue (RMLR). We headed over to a RMLR fundraising event to pick up his paperwork, deworming pill, and any other info we needed as the temporary foster. Over our first hours together, I observed a few things. He rode well in the car and he liked to look out the window. He was also not afraid of loud noises. He also took great interest in a Frisbee that went by so I could see he had a toy drive. We did know from information from Deb Uden that cats were not a good idea which was not a problem in our house. Before I left the meeting with Angelica I told her there was no need to place him in a kennel until a foster home could be found. This sweet boy didn’t need to be in a kennel. We had our paperwork and were on our way home. The weather was a little ominous and I didn’t know if it would hail or rain. We hit some pretty heavy rain and he wasn’t bothered in the least. Another good sign he would fit right in.

fletch3One of the first things we did was to rename the sweet guy. Tracy came up with Fletch (Fletcher) – yes, as in the movie—and the name stuck. Our new visitor would be Fletcher. We got home and he checked out the house. I am sure that he could smell Clark and I am sure that told him we were dog people. That first evening we took a couple short walks in the neighborhood and learned that he did very well on a leash. We were very careful to keep him away from other dogs and cats until we knew more about him. The other thing we had heard from his history is that he ran the neighborhood so we weren’t sure if he was a runner. We made sure he was on leash at all times to keep him safe.   We had seen many alerts on foster dogs that had run away and knew that it could happen if we weren’t careful. He hadn’t been micro chipped yet so another reason to be extra careful. All indications were that he wouldn’t leave our sides but we didn’t know him well enough yet.

That first evening as we prepared to retire for the night we wondered if he was used to sleeping with his humans or if he preferred a dog bed. It was immediately obvious that he is no stranger to being on the furniture as he stepped right up onto the bed and settled in for the evening. He is a very courteous bed partner and it was wonderful to have the presence again. Even his snore is adorable. The extra weightfletchandtracy probably contributes to his snoring so we won’t be sad if that dissipates.   He is the only lab I’ve ever known that has to be awakened for breakfast! For being so large, he definitely doesn’t exhibit any signs of the lab obsession for food. He is a delicate eater and takes his time. And he takes treats like a complete gentleman. We were learning about him and him about us.

First thing Monday morning, we called the Clear Creek Animal Hospital to get him scheduled for a thorough check up.  They got us in that afternoon. He wasn’t stressed at the vet and was the perfect patient with the blood draw, the exam and the microchip procedure. He officially weighed in at 125 lbs. He had a complete senior blood panel done to make sure he is healthy and to rule out a thyroid condition. He also has a large lipoma behind his right front leg that is benign.

We received a call on Monday confirming that the blood work was normal. That was great news. He wouldn’t have any issues with thyroid management for the rest of his life. The excessive weight was still a very serious issue and we started to plan his journey to a healthy weight. Fletcher is in the right home for a weight loss program with access to CRCG.

fletch4We are starting with:
1. Start slowly by limiting walks to 20 minutes for the first few weeks to build stamina slowly
2. Starting non-weight bearing exercise (swimming) to exercise with less stress on the joints
3. Setting his dietary intake at a healthy level.   See our CRCG weigh management blog post from Dr. Kris for more information on weight management. (address here)
4. A daily log of his activities, food intake and weigh-ins

As you can see he has no waistline. There is no way to know how he feels but we can assume that it isn’t great. He is a very happy guy and of course can’t tell us how he is really feeling. It is our job to look out for him and take care of him emotionally and physically.   We have started with a premium dog food. Deserving Dog.   More info on Deserving Dog at   They offer restaurant quality food for dogs and also custom diets for special conditions.

On Tuesday, May 13th it was time to see if he would swim. We took him to the pool at CRCG Englewood and I don’t think that I have ever seen a dog so comfortable with the pool at the first visit. He walked right down the ramp and swam to his toy fish. We were very proud and another sign that he belonged with us. Here’s video of his first swim:

fletchbypoolWe limit treats and have learned that he likes veggies so he gets sweet potatoes, carrots, bananas, broccoli, and continue to add to the list. As of May 31, 2014 he weighed in at 119 lbs and our goal is around 80 lbs.

Fletcher has some anxiety with being left alone so we are working with Carrie Bowlus –Wonder Dog, LLC to help him with this issue. Phase one is to not leave him alone for 4 weeks. By preventing him from going into a stress reaction we hope to deprogram the reaction to being left. We don’t know what he has been through. He isn’t destructive when he is left alone but gets overly worked up and barks constantly. This could lead to overheating, exhaustion and put his health at risk. We will continue to keep you posted on his progress.

ALL dogs are special and this is our new special boy. Stay tuned for the next update on Fletcher’s story.

The Importance of Weight Management

Friday, June 6th, 2014

The Importance of Weight Management

By: the CRCG Experts Richardson


Obesity rates in the United States continue to rise in children and adults. What is interesting and alarming is the parallel of increasing obesity in our furry companions. Approximately 52.5% of dogs and 58.3% of cats are overweight or obese in this country and the numbers appear to be rising. Carrying around this excess weight can have devastating effects on their health, longevity, functional mobility and pain.

Weight gain is serious enough in and of itself, but several other conditions can exacerbated or caused by weight gain. In dogs, osteoarthritis is one of the most common disorders seen with obesity. The increased stress on the soft tissues and joints predisposes to instability or inflammation which in turn can cause arthritis in patients. Other disorders seen include difficulty breathing , intolerance to exercise and heat, problems with anesthesia, skin disorders, increased fat/cholesterol in the blood stream, pancreatitis, renal disease and decreased life span. In cats, some cancers, diabetes, skin disorders, urinary tract disease, and mouth problems are linked to obesity.

As a veterinarian and animal rehabilitation therapist, I converse with clients about weight A LOT. One of the most concerning issues that I find is that a lot of owners do not recognize that their companion is overweight. That said, here is some to help identify obesity in your companions. Purina has a great set of body condition score charts to help you identify if your companion may be overweight:

Body Condition Article/Info

Cat Body Condition Info

If you still are not sure if your pet is overweight, check with your veterinarian. Weight on a scale is only 1 criteria in identifying obesity.

I also encounter clients who feel that a pet has had a hard life and should be allowed to eat whatever they want. I agree that those companions that have had a hard life need to be spoiled, but unfortunately if we give them whatever they want, we are increasing the stress on their bodies and not doing them any favors. Spoiling a pet can not only include food treats but all the love, cuddle time and play time they want. In essence, they want our attention. There are so many ways that we can give attention that don’t include food. Treats used judiciously and love given freely is the best way to spoil your companion and keep them healthy.

If you do discover that your furry friend is overweight or obese, you may be wondering what to do next. The first step is to talk with a veterinarian. Depending on factors such as your companion’s medical history, present body condition score and length of time they have been obese, a controlled weight loss plan will be developed with you to provide a healthy weight loss that will not cause harm to your friend. And BE PATIENT. Weight loss in companions is a process that occurs at its own pace. It is recommended you weigh your pet every 1-2 weeks and keep a food journal. I highly recommend the journal. In a family, there may be a lot of “treats” given that not everyone knows about.

Another part of a healthy weight loss plan is exercise. Sound familiar? Regular exercise every day is the key to increasing metabolic rates and building muscle mass, both of which help burn fat. Daily walks can be a great start to an exercise plan in an obese dog. These walks may start by just going to the mailbox or walking 3 laps around the yard, but as your friend loses weight they will be able to go further. Cats can also go on walks, but for those feline friends that are not up for a stroll, creativity is needed. Engage them in play that requires movement. In some cats, this can be very difficult, but keep at it. You can make a difference by encouraging exercise.

For those companions that are so overweight or have conditions where walking causes pain, there are other exercises that can help to lose weight. Swimming is a great exercise that does not put compressive stress on joints and can allow for freedom of movement. Like walks, short swims at first are needed, but can be increased as your pet’s endurance increases. Other exercises can be shown to you by a animal rehabilitation practitioner based on your pets needs.