Last week Scarlett, a ruby Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, had an urgent visit to The Animal Medical Center to see her cardiologist. Since she has been diagnosed with early stage heart valve disease, a condition common in Cavaliers, her family is always concerned about her breathing, which, on that day, was heavier than normal.
The cardiologist says…
Her cardiologist found her lungs to be clear, her pulses strong and her respiratory rate to be normal. Using his stethoscope, he heard a heart murmur, but Scarlett always has a heart murmur because she has leaky heart valves. After determining her heart was not the problem, he then honed in on what her problem was: a two pound weight gain between August and February. For this little Cavalier, a two pound weight gain was equal to 12 pounds in a 120 pound person. The extra weight she is now carrying on her small dog frame puts extra pressure on her diaphragm and contributed to her heavy breathing.
Scarlett, the scavenger
Scarlett’s dog sister, Jackie is a patient of mine. Due to her jaw tumor, she has become a bit of a messy eater. Scarlett believes neatness counts and has been tidying up the kitchen floor after her Jackie eats dinner. The extra calories from Jackie’s fallout have resulted in Scarlett’s weight gain and probably her episode of snorting and heavy breathing.
To get Scarlett back to ideal body condition, she has been pulled off clean-up duty after Jackie’s dinner. I recommended her family purchase a kitchen scale to weigh each serving of Scarlett’s food. Families can cheat on their dog’s portion more easily with a measuring cup than with a scale. Scarlett already eats a light food, so I calculated how many calories a day she needs and translated those calories to ounces of her brand of dog food. No weight loss plan would be complete without some little treat every day. Scarlett’s favorite is chicken. I allotted 10% of her daily calories to broiled chicken breast and the other 90% to her light kibble.
In addition to decreasing her calories, we have increased her exercise. Scarlett comes twice a week to work out on the treadmill at The AMC’s Tina Santi Flaherty Rehabilitation & Fitness Service. When the beaches open this summer, Scarlett will have a waistline as tiny as that of another flirty redhead, her namesake, Scarlett O’Hara!
Lessons from Scarlett
- Review what ideal body condition looks like for both cats and dogs. This will help you recognize weight gain in your pet early.
- Monitor your pet’s food intake and recognize other sources of calories in their diet such as the other pet’s enticing food bowl, food dropped from the high chair or the nice lady next door who cannot resist giving your dog 10 extra treats per day.
- Get your veterinarian’s recommendation on the amount to feed your dog for successful weight loss. All dog foods do not have the same number of calories per cup or can. Even foods promoted as weight loss diets have a wide range of calorie content per cup or can.