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Bridget Johnson


May 16, 2014 - 9:37 am

The puppacita before, left, and after losing a pound plus

From the moment I found the puppacita at the pound three years ago, she’s been a good eater. To the point where I don’t know where she puts it all, whether it’s a dish of doggie ice cream or begging diners for tidbits at outdoor cafes or foraging for spilled birdseed. But, alas, it caught up with her eventually.

She weighed 5 1/2 pounds when I found her, and naturally started eating a really good diet. But at a doctor’s appointment last September, she tipped the scales at 7 pounds. Lose a pound, the doctor advised, both for her internal health and to be merciful to her little tiny legs (which have asymptomatic patellar subluxation, common in chihuahuas).

Victory: at an April checkup, with full blood work to ensure the weight loss was healthy, she weighed 5 pounds, 12 ounces.

It was not easy. Look at that face and try to say no. But I figured out some tricks that worked:

  • She loved the Pill Pockets I was using to give her Benadryl and supplements, so I was also giving them to her as regular treats. Alas, they’re not low in calories. Instead, I now wrap her tablets in a bit of moist dog food.
  • I keep other pets’ food out of reach so she’s not sampling.
  • She only eats canned food because of her missing teeth. I’d never checked the cans to compare calories before, though. Turned out the chicken and rice and beef flavors of her favorite brand, Verus, had more calories than the turkey and veggie or fish and potato flavors. Switch.
  • I also paid more attention to portion control from those cans. Truth be told, it takes her four days to go through a regular-sized can of dog food.
  • I was giving her whole-meat treats because I thought no additives, just good old freeze-dried meat was much healthier. The problem is, she doesn’t expend enough energy to burn off the calories from all that protein. So I tried the Lean Treats by Butler at my vet’s office. They work like a charm and puppa loves them.
  • Since the Lean Treats are soft, easily pinched off and maleable, I use one and throw the bits all around the living room for a puppa treasure hunt. She gets the exercise and finds them all.
  • She doesn’t get any more people food. I’ll give her bits of a Lean Treat during meal time so she can be tricked (not) into thinking she’s getting people food. Or she’s at least satisfied at the alternative.
  • It’s amazing to me that she lost the weight over the winter because it’s not like she wanted to go for any walks in the cold and snow. Her energy level was already good, but has increased even more since she lost the weight. So I got her a lightweight harness for summer so she can run without tripping on her leash.
  • I stop into the vet’s once a month to say hi and use the baby scale (more accurate than the big-dog scale for her) to track her weight. And even though she wears clothes in the winter to stay warm and in the summer to protect her allergic skin from the grass, how they fit is also a great guide in ensuring that she’s not packing on the pudge.

Don’t get me wrong, she gets the occasional treat:

Share your own stories and tips about canine or feline weight control…

Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.

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All Comments   (5)
All Comments   (5)
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You should try raw with the pup. Because she's missing some teeth you'd have to give ground up raw which is usually available frozen at any pet food store. It aids in portion control as each patty is uniform so you'd know exactly how many calories she's getting.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
My BFF had a Dachshund that she kept slim & trim for all of his 23 years. She fed him a healthy diet, no junk food, used herbal remedies on any illnesses & walked him 5 miles a day. Both LOVED the long walks & everyone in the neighborhood got to know & love "Petey".
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
Animals do not face the battle of the pudge. Their owners do.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
My Maine Coon can bounce anywhere from 22 to 25 pounds; he's a full-sized male and 22 is actually a pretty healthy weight for him, so that's our usual target. He's been eating the same diet for years and the vet actually advised against altering it too much, so I just make sure the cup of food isn't too full (skimming some off the top) and try to give him lots of play opportunities. It's getting harder since he's a cranky old man who just wants to sleep a lot, but brushing his coat still gets him worked up and eager to jump on things. And Maine Coons need a LOT of brushing.

So nice to see the puppacita again! I like dogs, but my current lifestyle really doesn't suit one, so I love seeing pix of the puppa being happy and having adventures.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
Susie had gained a little too much weight the first year I had her, maybe up to eight pounds, she should be around seven. She does scamper around the back yard and I'll take them to the park on the weekends, but even she gets pooped on the longer, Sunday ones, so she goes into the stroller along with Sparky -- he's now arthritic in his front leg so his exercise has gone down a lot. Went from half a can twice a day (Susie's missing half her teeth) to 1/3 of a can twice a day. Plus only one treat a day.
41 weeks ago
41 weeks ago Link To Comment
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