All About Marie

Animal Files columnist of the Orange County Register from 1992-2016; Emmy Award winning producer of Educational Television Programming; Host of "The Pet Place Radio Show" heard world-wide at; click the player below to listen. Producer/Director/Editor/Co-host of "The Pet Place TV Show" during the 19 years it ran on KDOC TV in Los Angeles and Orange Counties; Wife, Mother of five kids, Grandmother of two baby boys and one baby girl, and pet parent of two cats, one dog, many fish, and a cockatoo.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Obese Dog

Dear Marie,
I have what is supposed to be a small breed dog. He’s a Lhasa Apso named Kirby and he weighs 31 pounds. He looks like a giant throw pillow for my couch. My roommate and everyone who comes over thinks he is cute being so fat and they keep giving him treats, even when I tell them they shouldn't. I try to minimize what he eats, but it doesn’t seem like it is doing any good. He’s only 4 years old and he never plays. The only time he gets excited at all is if there is food available. My grandmother is the worst. When she comes to visit me at my apartment, she likes to cook dinner. Then she gives him all the leftovers. I try to explain that this isn’t good for him; but she tells me that he won’t eat more than he needs and I feel like I just can’t argue with her because she’s my grandmother and you don’t argue with grandmothers. Kirby has gained 3 pounds this year alone. At this rate, he’s going to pass 50 pounds before he’s 10 years old. I need to get him back to a healthy weight but I can’t do it alone. If you answer this letter, I’ll put it up on my fridge so everyone can read it. With you on my side, I think I can take on all my dog’s “enablers.”

Dear Stephanie,
First of all, let me just say that you and only you are responsible for your dog’s health and welfare. If people are doing things that endanger Kirby, you need to tell them in no uncertain terms that it is not OK and that’s all there is to it. Even if one of those people is your grandmother, you must be firm. Kirby’s life may depend on it.

Obesity leads to poor health and potentially death, especially morbid obesity, as is the case with your dog. A Lhasa Apso should weigh 12-15 pounds at the most. Beyond that, he may develop diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, liver problems, increased risk of cancer, and all the same problems you hear about with regards to human obesity. There is nothing “cute” about this.

Though it appears that your dog is getting fat as a result of eating too much, you should schedule a visit with your veterinarian to make sure there are no underlying causes for the weight gain. If he gets a clean bill of health from the doctor, then you must immediately start him on a special diet and exercise program. Your veterinarian will probably recommend various dog food products along with a maximum daily calorie intake recommendation. Do not stray from this regimen.

It is important that your dog lose weight slowly. Don’t expect results over night. I would suggest targeting nine months to a year to reach your goal.

In the meantime, Kirby will whine for food. He will look at you with big, begging, sad eyes. He will do what he does best to get you and your friends and relatives to sneak him little snacks. You must stay in control of the situation and not give in to Kirby’s or anyone else’s begging – because there will be a lot, and mostly from Kirby’s human allies.

Keep reminding yourself that every extra pound on your little dog’s body is causing him joint pain, discomfort from the heat, breathing difficulties, and all the potential health problems I’ve already discussed.

With that as your motivation, begin taking Kirby out for morning, afternoon and evening walks. Increase the distance of these walks by just a little bit each day. You will notice that as Kirby exercises more, he will have more energy. He will even begin to enjoy playing again.

Buy him a few new toys. Balls are great for getting dogs to run around and have a good time. But be creative – find some toys that both of you like playing with together. When the two of you are enjoying activity time, you will notice that Kirby enjoys his “workout” even more.

Once your dog is back to a healthy weight, don’t stop the good diet and exercise program that you will have developed. You can gradually switch him over to a maintenance diet, but keep the extra snacks and goodies out of the picture. Many dogs do not know when to stop eating so it’s your job to regulate Kirby’s intake. By taking these steps, as hard as they may be, you will be giving Kirby a much more comfortable and healthy life and I’m sure your family and friends will agree that this is best.

Good Luck.