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My nine year old dachshund has embraced healthy living!

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Maggie has gone from 20 pounds to 15.5 pounds.  I’m so proud and so relieved that we have gotten her to a healthy weight.  Did you know that dogs who are fed appropriate amounts – and are healthy weights – live nearly TWO YEARS longer than their heavier counterparts?  (Source)

 

But it was especially important to us that we got Maggie’s weight under control because heavy dachshund have more spinal cord issues.  Maggie is turning TEN this year, and I would like to keep her feeling young, fit, and fancy free as long as possible!

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When I decided to put Maggie on a weight-loss regimen (over the summer), we started off by talking to our vet and running the appropriate blood work.  He said that Maggie looked healthy, and her only issue was her weight.  He shared some suggestions for helping her lose the pounds, and I’m sharing his advice below!

 

Stop Free Feeding – The vet said it’s better to feed the dogs in regular intervals (he suggested two or three times a day) instead of leaving a big bowl of kibble out all the time.  We already did this, but we did leave Pippa the cat’s food out all day, so we stopped that because Pippa was heavy, too (rest in peace, Pippa – miss you still!).

 

Start Measuring – The vet said that we absolutely need to use a scooper to measure out Maggie’s food. Basically – portion control.  Up until this point, I was just dumping food into their bowls and eyeballin’ it.  I didn’t even know what a serving of dog food was supposed to look like. 

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The back of the dogs’ food said that a doggie Maggie’s size needed about a cup and a half a day to maintain her weight.  Our vet said that she’d need to burn more calories than she was eating to lose weight (hey, sounds familiar…). He said we could do this by cutting back her portions and/or walking her more regularly.

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I found this slightly complicated formula to determine Maggie’s calories needs (photo above).  It’s not an exact science, but the formula is a good guide for the range of calories considered appropriate (RER to MER).  According to the chart, Maggie needed about 450 calories a day to lose weight.  Our vet said that, generally speaking, a cup of dog kibble is give or take equal to 400 calories (and this chart backs that up).  I couldn’t figure out the calorie count of our dog food, but so the vet said to give her around a cup a day plus snacks.  And that leads me to my next tip…

 

Veggies for Snacks – We totally stopped offering ‘dog treats’ and chew sticks and replaced all of the dogs’ treats with veggies like carrots, zucchini, and apple slices.  I love giving the dogs treats, so I didn’t want to stop the practice entirely.  Now that we give them veggies, I feel better about their snacks – they are healthy and low calorie!  I still occasionally give them potato chips (I know, I know…), but it’s much less than it was before.

 

And last, but not least…

 

Removed Wet Food – Our vet said there is nothing wrong with wet food.  In fact, wet food is actually less calorie dense (because it contains water), and dogs may feel fuller when they eat wet food (due to the volume). Wet food can also be good for older dogs with teeth problems.  We cut out wet food NOT for weight loss reasons but for financial reasons.  Wet food is so expensive!  The side effect of removing wet food, however, was a further reduction in the dogs’ total calories.  Our vet said it’s fine for them just to have kibble, so it’s a win-win.  Less money, fewer calories, more doggie weight loss.

 

So – that’s how Maggie lost about 20% of her body weight in half a year!

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Wait, wait.  What about EXERCISE?  Here’s the thing – we didn’t really change much.  Maggie still goes on her daily stroll (slow and short) and still plays chase with James and Henry, but that’s the extent of her exercise.  She’s just a lazy creature… as I write this, she’s snoring in my lap!

 

I knew that we really just needed to watch Maggie’s food intake.  After all, it’s hard to counteract heavy overeating with exercise… you end up having to do a LOT of exercise, which Maggie isn’t really up for. 

 

And what about James?

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Our efforts made the biggest difference with Maggie, not James.  James dropped a pound or two, but nothing as amazing as Maggie’s  progress.  I think we’re still slightly overfeeding him – he gets a lot more snacks off the table (and out of Henry’s hands).  I hope that with a few more dietary tweaks, we can get his weight to a healthier level, too.  I want our doggies to be with us as long as possible!

 

Any other doggie or kitty weight loss success stories?

{ 43 comments }

 

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  • Aishah @ Coffee, Love, Health February 10, 2014, 2:01 pm

    Aww, Caitlin I’ve been reading since you started and I know how much you love your fur babies. I’m happy Maggie is at a healthier weight :) You are a great Mama to both Henry and your pets :)

    Reply
  • Erin February 10, 2014, 2:24 pm

    We have two dachshunds, both around eight years old. Our male, Riley has a weight problem. We knew it, but after reading this post I realize we need to do better at helping him get his weight off. Thank you!

    Dachshunds are such fun little dogs.

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  • Dukebdc February 10, 2014, 2:28 pm

    Our lab mix weighed in at his checkup in 2012 at 83 pounds. The vet said his maximum acceptable weight was 80 pounds, so we had a little work to do. It was tough for us to accept at first, because we adopted him as an underweight adult dog (55 lbs) and knew that even with a few extra pounds he was in much better shape than when we brought him home from the shelter. What our vet told us is that the feeding instructions on the back of dog food bags are meant for very active dogs, and even with his 2 walks a day and playtime our pup didn’t didn’t need that much food. He went from three cups a day, to two and a quarter total (split into two feedings.)

    We took him last month for his annual checkup and he lost 11 pounds in the last year! He was down to 72, which is solidly in the healthy range for a large breed like him. We did have a blood panel run because of his age (8) and the amount of weight loss, but everything came out perfect and he is in great health. We’ll be weighing him again every 3 months to make sure his weight has stabilized – if he keeps losing we’ll increase his food by a bit.

    My takeaway was that you can’t treat a dog like a human when it comes to food. Dogs don’t need to snack throughout the day, and most cannot self-regulate on free-feeding. Dogs also do not need a lot of variety in their food choices to live healthy lives. But just like humans, dogs thrive on exercise and activity, even if it’s a short walk every day.

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  • Whitney @ Yoga All the Time February 10, 2014, 2:29 pm

    My Laverne lost a few pounds but unfortunately gained most of it back when I was on vacation last week. We feed her the same amount of food but her activity level has dropped off significantly as she has aged. She’s almost 12 now and spends most of her day sleeping. I think the best tip is to measure her food. In the past we would give her heaping scoops of food but now we’re back to perfectly level scoops. Kudos to Maggie for the weight-loss. Hopefully Laverne can follow her pawprints!

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  • Kaitlyn February 10, 2014, 2:40 pm

    Awwww this is such a cute post! Maggie looks wonderful! When I was younger, we had a dog that was definitely obese, but we all got soooo offended when people would tell us she was overweight! When my family and I look at old pictures, we die laughing, because she was seriously huge.

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  • Adrienne February 10, 2014, 2:43 pm

    I don’t have a weight loss story but I wanted to say THANK YOU for talking about this issue. I work at a Vet and by far the biggest issue I see there is obesity in our pets. From being overweight they can blow out their knees, have back problems, heart issues, skins issues, the list goes on! One day I hope to start a non-profit to spread the word. I’m SO proud of you for helping Maggie! I know how tough it is to resist a dog who wants more food and also to get over the guilt comes along with not giving them what they want.

    Great job! You’re the coolest. :)
    - Adrienne (from your Fat Talkin’ Men post years ago!)

    Reply
  • Sara @ LovingOnTheRun February 10, 2014, 2:47 pm

    This is so true. I have this problem with my cats I used to just leave out the food and they started getting overweight. Then I started measuring out what they SHOULD Be eating and I got them on a much more regular feeding and they have lost weight. It’s amazing what happens when you think about how much I was giving them before!

    Reply
    • Jennifer February 11, 2014, 10:14 am

      Hi, Sara! Just catching up on HTP this week. I have a cat who will eat me out of house and home if I let him. He actually comes to find me if he sees his food bowl is empty and “MEOWS” like crazy until I feed him. Did your cats harass you if their bowl is empty? My kitty is an indoor/outdoor cat and will leave birds, rabbits, etc outside my door so I know he is getting food outside as well. He needs a serious diet overhaul. Thanks for any advice.

      Reply
      • Stacey February 11, 2014, 2:58 pm

        Hi Jennifer!
        I don’t have cats, but 2 dogs. My suggestion to the meowing over his empty bowl would be to put it in the cupboard once his food is gone. When our dogs finish their meals, we put their bowls out of sight as an indicator meal time’s over and that’s all they’re getting.
        Hope this helps!

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  • Brittany (Healthy Slice of Life) February 10, 2014, 2:50 pm

    Yay Maggie!

    Koda is on a weight-loss path right now, too. Our vet suggested subbing half her food with canned, no salt added green beans. This way she still gets the volume to fill her up, but with less calories.

    We are only a few weeks in, but I’m anxious to see how the progress is in a month or so!

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  • Catherine @ foodiecology February 10, 2014, 2:50 pm

    Your Maggie looks so much like my piebald, Iggy (Ignatius). Iggy’s a mini, but he’s on the tall (well, “talk” relative to other doxies, ha!) & big-boned end of mini & could stand to lose maybe a pound. We always give him baby carrots, blueberries, & green beans for treats, though he loves the occasional potato chip or bite of chicken (even steak, oops!) as well.
    Congrats to Maggie on her weight loss! She’s looking good.

    Reply
  • Sara February 10, 2014, 2:56 pm

    Wow! Our Labradoodle and Standard Poodle eat two cups a day–Maggie was eating a good bit for a little doggie! Our dogs (mainly the Poodle) are horrible at eating things they’re not supposed to eat. Trash, socks, bananas (whole!) so we have to watch them like a hawk! They need more exercise for sure and I think that would help. Our Poodle is a bit on the heavier side since our baby was born. Two of our three cats are overweight as well. They LOVE to eat. We’re working on it…

    Reply
  • Jennifer February 10, 2014, 3:05 pm

    I don’t know if we can post URLs in the comments… but I wrote about my cat’s amazing weight loss journey a few months ago here:

    http://despitemypancreas.com/2013/10/11/this-has-absolutely-nothing-to-do-with-diabetes-or-running-or/

    I’m glad the diet is working for Maggie!

    Reply
    • Caitlin February 10, 2014, 3:19 pm

      hahaha omg, your cat is awesome with the remote and beer.

      Reply
  • Amanda February 10, 2014, 3:30 pm

    This sounds familiar to our pups! We were feeding them larger portions than we should have been due to lack of knowledge and their weight was creeping up. We try to walk them as often as we can, but it’s hard with 2 full time jobs and winter weather. I read an article that mentioned cutting back on the dog food a little and replacing with something healthy (canned green beans, pumpkin, etc). We have been including a scoop of pumpkin at each meal and our dogs love it and have dropped some weight, too!!

    Reply
  • Suzie Culhane February 10, 2014, 3:32 pm

    Thanks for posting the equations for puppy calories! I’m a pediatric dietitian and we refer to our equations every day. I have a 2 year old lab mix and he’s a very picky eater. He gets 2 cups of food per day and will eat it throughout the day. We give him a lot of table scraps and he refuses to eat any vegetables. Even raw carrots! Hopefully we do not need to put him on a weight loss plan anytime soon.

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  • Michelle @ A Healthy Mrs February 10, 2014, 3:39 pm

    Aww, I’m so happy to hear about Maggie’s weight loss! As a fellow dachshund owner, I know how easy it can be to overfeed them — my pup would gladly eat all day long if we let her! So I’ve always been super conscious of her weight — I don’t want to cause her any back problems down the road!

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  • Katie sB February 10, 2014, 4:06 pm

    Great post. Go Maggie, she looks great! My pug loves to eat baby carrots for treats and I make sure he gets lots of walks.

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  • Amanda- The Nutritionist Reviews February 10, 2014, 4:20 pm

    I love her!!! She looks great. Congrats Maggie! My one dachshund gained some weight awhile back and I got nervous like you about back problems, etc. I gave her less food and we exercise more. Now, she looks great.

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  • Katie Meier February 10, 2014, 4:36 pm

    Ugh, I feel your pain. I have two English bulldogs who are a notorious breed for both laziness and fatness. The problem is their fat rolls are what make them adorable (to me, at least!). Their weight is also a problem because they are two totally different dogs! One is small-framed, the other is…not. One likes healthy treats (carrots, bananas, etc.) while the other one shoots them out of her mouth like darts if I dare try to feed them to her. What’s worked for me is dry food, portion-controlled food, small treats (in size), playtime and forced walks. It’s ridiculously hard in the winter (we’re in Central PA) but we try to get out as much as possible.

    Reply
  • Alicia February 10, 2014, 4:46 pm

    Maggie looks great
    ! I, however, believe in raw diets for dogs. My English Bulldog has been on a raw diet since she was 10 weeks old, and at 5 years old, has exceptional bloodwork and still looks like a puppy! Yes, it is expensive, but worth every penny. Even high quality dry foods(Evo, Orijen) can be difficult for dogs to digest. It can also be too much protein for some breeds. The high water content in a raw diet also supplies the dog with much needed hydration. Obviously, dry food takes water to rehydrate, and therefore the dog must drink even more water to meet hydration needs. Just a little bit of info. Your local natural pet food store can educate you further. For good health and longevity, raw is best! We feed Primal and Stella&Chewy’s.

    Reply
    • Sharon February 10, 2014, 6:57 pm

      This works for cats, too! Ours, at 17, has done great on a raw meat diet for the last 4 years. :)

      Reply
  • Caitlin February 10, 2014, 4:59 pm

    Seriously one of my favorite posts ever. I have ALWAYS been a Maggie fan- she just cracks me up and those two photos at the top are hilarious. Glad she got back to her bikini body!

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  • Rebecca February 10, 2014, 5:17 pm

    We watched a pom mix last year (I still miss her sometimes and wish we’d kept her) and she lost a few pounds because we took her for more walks than her original family did. Now she’s with another family and my mom saw pictures of her and talked to her new owners a little bit a few weeks ago and she’s lost a little bit more weight. So that’s good! I think it was mostly the exercising that got her down in weight, because we didn’t change her food, and I don’t know that the new family changed her food either.

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  • Liz February 10, 2014, 5:25 pm

    Congrats! We got our cat down from 26 pounds (I know, I know) to 16 pounds by doing actually the opposite – we totally removed dry food and switched to a can of wet food per day. He also had urinary problems, so the extra water was good for him too. Now we give him a little dry food snack before we go to bed but he’s still been able to maintain his weight loss!

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  • Christine @ BookishlyB February 10, 2014, 6:26 pm

    My chocolate lab clocked in at 108 pounds last summer- a bit too much, even though he’s a big dog. We ended up putting him on weight control food, since he was already not getting many treats (and no people food). Combined with 30-60 minutes of exercise a day he dropped down to 92 by late fall and has been maintaining. I hate using the food, since I’m sure it tastes like crap, but his cardiovascular and skeletal health come first!

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  • Sharon February 10, 2014, 6:54 pm

    At 13 years old, our cat was on special dry food for urinary problems. After switching to a holistic veterinarian and under direct supervision, we slowly switched his food to raw meat. I now make up a batch each week with 2 lbs of meat or organs and various other ingredients, store it in small containers, and freeze all but one that’s being used. Kind of like you do with baby food! After 1 year, he went from 21lbs to 16lbs. And, after 4 years on the diet, he’s never had another urinary issue (which were very frequent) and got a gold star from the vet at his 16 year old visit! :0)

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  • Cathy February 10, 2014, 8:11 pm

    Our golden retriever, Mandy, was pretty overweight and the vet had us substitute a can of green beans for one of her two meals. She loved them! I thought the low-sodium ones would be better for her, but she would have nothing to do with them.

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  • Katie @ Talk Less, Say More February 10, 2014, 8:39 pm

    Way to go, Maggie! ;)

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  • Ali February 10, 2014, 9:02 pm

    Wow, that’s a lot of math (and I do math everyday for a living). My cat used to be 12lbs and is now 8lbs (healthy weight, she’s tiny) and we just took the recommended feeding amount that was listed on the bag and decreased it just a small amount. Worked like a charm and my vet said it was the best way to go about reducing their weight (along with more frequent feedings – she’s now fed 3 times a day instead of 1-2 x’s). Every brand and food within each brand have different guidelines, so it’s important to look when switching foods!

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  • Diana Griffith February 10, 2014, 9:53 pm

    I’m so surprised that a serving size was supposed to be cup and half for Maggie. My dog is 75 pounds and she gets just over 2 cups of her food (a different brand, but still). She never seems hungry and if we feed her before it’s her time to eat she won’t eat it until it’s time (ie if we feed at 4pm because we’ll be gone in the evening she’ll wait until 7pm to eat it because that is when she normally eats). She’s also at a very healthy weight and pretty active.
    Now my cat–he’s overweight. He needs some help.

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  • Kris February 10, 2014, 10:26 pm

    We’ve had three dogs. All fed measured dry food twice per day with no snacks other than carrot sticks or green beans. When our first dog was 8 or so, we moved and I took her in to a new vet. He scolded me saying she was overweight. Before long we moved again, and I brought her weight up with the new vet. She checked her thyroid, and although it was just barely borderline, suggested meds since she also had skin problems. Lo and behold, no change in food or exercise and she lost the extra 3-4 lbs. she was carrying. So, it’s always good to check with the vet first to cover all the bases. Our little guy (Italian greyhound) gets 2/3 of a cup twice a day. If he creeps up a pound, I just increase his walks and give him a bit less at each feeding. He’s slim and trim.

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  • Kate @KateMovingForward February 10, 2014, 10:41 pm

    My mom also started only scooping out food twice a day with our “pup” and he’s now at a healthy weight too. My youngest brother also went off to college around the same time so I think he also stopped getting human munchie snacks from my bro. :)

    Reply
  • Mary Frank February 10, 2014, 11:25 pm

    I love dogs and everything about them. Thank you for sharing this article, You’ve helped a lot of dog lovers. :D

    Mary
    http://mirenaiudlawsuitsinfo.com/

    Reply
  • Kelly February 11, 2014, 10:28 am

    Go Maggie!!! Thanks for sharing this. My little Ziggy boy (yorkie poo) will be 7 this year and also need to lose a few lbs. I appreciate the tips!!!

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  • colleen February 11, 2014, 10:37 am

    We so need to do this with our beagle/pug mix. She is a year old and has shown her beagle side—eating anything insight and is heavier than she should be. She has a vet appt. next month so her weight will definitely be a topic of discussion.

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  • colleen February 11, 2014, 10:37 am

    We so need to do this with our beagle/pug mix. She is a year old and has shown her beagle side—eating anything insight and is heavier than she should be. She has a vet appt. next month so her weight will definitely be a topic of discussion.

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  • Reenie February 11, 2014, 10:43 am

    Looking good Mags!!! :)

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  • Barb Y. February 11, 2014, 11:51 am

    At one point our cat Whisky weighed 26 pounds. He was a Maine Coon which tend to be bigger, but he was overweight. He was diagnosed with diabetes (no surprise there I guess) and within 6 months he has lost 10 pounds and was off insulin. He eventually got down to 12 pounds, all by eating a set amount of moist food – the moise food actually helped his kidney problems. He also had dry food every day – 1/8 cup that was put in an little exercise ball. If he wanted the food he had to work for it! He did get “snacks” every once in a while – yogurt, turkey and peanut butter were his favorites! He lived to the ripe old age of 19 years old so we did something right!

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  • K @ Finding a Skinnier me February 11, 2014, 7:51 pm

    Aww I am so happy to hear that Maggie is a healthy weight and I am super excited to get some great tips. Our newest addition is a dachshund as well and I worry constantly about her back. So far the vet says she is a perfect weight but I want to keep it that way. Our middle dog is a Shiba Inu and she is chunky right now. Turns out according to our vet we were over feeding her even though we were following the instructions on the dog food bag. But I like the veggies for snacks idea since we are guilty of feeding her those bacon dog treats. AND now she has to run/walk with me a few evenings a week. We also have a 10 year old Viszl who struggles to put on the pounds, currently she eats wet food at night and is finally sitting at a decent weight. It can be so hard to keep the furry lovies healthy and so many people don’t take the time to actually do it. I can’t tell you how many overweight dachshunds I see and it physically makes me cringe. :)

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  • amelie February 12, 2014, 8:19 am

    congrats! you look good at all.

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  • Rachel February 14, 2014, 2:22 pm

    I’m actually trying to get my cat to GAIN some weight (per my vet’s advice), so maybe I’ll do the opposite of what you did! Heh.

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  • Joey February 22, 2014, 10:03 am

    You are such a good & patient pup mama!

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