Is My Pet to Plump?

Is My Pet to Plump?

My Pets Ideal Weight

The best way to determine your pets ideal weight is to assess their body condition. Your veterinarian will give your pet a “body condition score” during their wellness exam. However, you don’t need the score to know what is ideal. A pet with an ideal body condition will have a “waist” when looking from above and a “tummy tuck” when looking from the side. You should be able to feel their ribs easily when petting over the rib cage, but you do not want to be able to see each rib when looking from afar. Even without weighing your pet, you can monitor their body condition and determine if they are ideal. If your pet is underweight you should speak to your veterinarian about medical conditions that may cause weight loss. If you determine that your pet is heavier than ideal there are a few easy steps you can take to get on the right track. First measuring out the food and meal feeding are a good start. Then cutting out high calorie treats and substituting for healthier treats – such as baby carrots or green beans for dogs and pieces of kibble for dogs or cats. Adding daily exercise into your routine can also help. For dogs this can mean a walk or playing ball. For cats this can mean setting aside play time to engage them with their favorite toy. Rotate toys to keep it interesting. For both dogs and cats you can use food based toys like treat balls – but instead of treats put part of their daily kibble into the ball.  If you have implemented a plan for weight gain or loss and are having trouble being successful, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.  They can discuss medical reasons for weight gain or weight loss with you.  Also bring a list of all foods and treats fed on a daily basis along with the calories (listed on the pet food bag as kcal/cup) in each food.  The doctors and team at GVH are here to help you be successful. 

Nicole Arms, VMD


More Articles on Nutrition

Is My Pet to Plump?

Is My Pet to Plump?

My Pets Ideal Weight The best way to determine your pets ideal weight is to assess their body condition. Your veterinarian will give your pet a “body condition score” during their wellness exam. However, you don’t need the score to know what is ideal. A...

Weight Loss Success!!

Weight Loss Success!!

Rusty in June 2014 at 109 pounds.

Rusty today at 89 pounds.


We had the opportunity to ask one of our clients, Brad Derstine, to share his dog, Rusty’s, weight loss success!! Here are Brad’s answers to questions about his and Rusty’s journey toward weight loss success and a healthier life.


Q:  What’s Rusty’s story…..when did you adopt him?

A:  Rusty is a rescue that I adopted in the Spring of 2009.


Q: How old is Rusty?

A: 10 years old.


Q:  How did you find out Rusty was overweight? How did it feel to hear this?

A:  During Rusty’s wellness exam with Dr. Smith, I was educated on the importance of keeping Rusty in a healthy weight range.  I was then informed that Rusty was very overweight and needed to come down. I was disappointed, but I knew he was getting a little “husky”. 🙂


Q:  Prior to being told this, did you think Rusty was over weight? 

A: I knew he had a few extra pounds but I wasn’t sure what a proper weight was for him.  I was feeding him varying types of dog foods, whatever was cheapest at the time, and then adding in food scraps and leftovers from my meals. I knew he was getting unhealthy, but he looked so happy eating it, he used his charm to get extra food from me whenever he wanted it.  I had a hard time saying no to him.


Q:  What was the feeding plan established to help support Rusty’s weight loss? 

A:  During our first appointment with Dr Smith, I was given a welcome bag and inside was a leash, some pamphlets, and two measuring cups. Dr Smith explained what a proper diet should look like, (controlled calorie intake, limited table scraps and treats) after finding a steady food the dogs liked, I stuck with it.  I began measuring their meals instead of just filling the food bowls.  Rusty now only eats a controlled amount of food once a day, with limited treats and table scraps.  His diet consist of 2 cups of dry food, and half a can of soft food mixed in.  Rusty’s brother Lobo is a picky eater and likes the canned food.  What I give one dog I must give the other so they both get some canned dog food.   When I first started Rusty on his diet, we were more aggressively trying to cut down his weight, so he received less dry food.  We incorporated more walks into our routine to help get him down to a healthy weight.  We now maintain Rusty’s weight by continuing his diet and exercise plan.


Q:  Was it difficult to stick to the new feeding plan? 

A:  I had to retrain myself, removing table scraps from his diet was difficult for both of us to get used to.  I allowed the dogs to manipulate me, giving into sad eyes while I was eating, for me this was the hardest part. My other big mistake was blindly filling the food bowls and not watching what the dogs were eating. The smaller dog would eat till he was full then walk away, then Rusty would finish his food. By measuring both dog’s food and ensuring neither is eating more than they are given, I’ve been able to get Rusty’s weight back under control. He eats only his food, and the occasional pizza crusts.


Q: Did you struggle with feeling guilty about not giving in to treats or excess food? 

A:  At first it was difficult for me to stick to the plan and change our routine.  After a couple of recheck visits with Dr. Smith, positive feedback and results on the scale it became much easier.  I knew I was ultimately doing what was best for my dogs.


Q:  When did you start noticing a difference? 

A:  I didn’t notice much of a difference until one recheck when Rusty got on the scale and he had dropped 6 to 7 pounds. It has been a few months now and it is so rewarding to see his progress.  He still does not enjoy getting on the scale, but I really can’t blame him, neither do I!


Q:  What was Rusty’s original weight and what does he weigh now?

A:  Rusty weighed 109 pounds in June of 2014 and today weighs 89 pounds.


Q: What improvements have you noticed overall following the weight loss? 

A:  Rusty’s overall energy level is higher, he now enjoys going for walks, doesn’t pant as much and now likes being outside.  His walking durations have also gotten longer, so it is helping me too!


Q:  What advice would you have for pet parents struggling to maintain a pets’ weight? 

A:  It begins and ends with diet and exercise. My biggest regret was the excessive amount of people food I was giving them, and how much it was negatively impacting their health.  Find a quality diet that your pets enjoy, then stick to the routine/portion control.  When they seem hungry don’t give in to their sad eyes.  If you have multiple pets you may have to watch them eat for the first few months to ensure that they are only eating their own food.  Pick their food bowls up when they are finished or walk away from their food.  Exercise is the other key to success.  We were taking short walks, so they could both go to the bathroom but it was for necessity not for exercise.  I would advise to start with a longer walk each day that is for exercise and not just necessity.


Toxic Food – Harmful for Your Dog

Toxic Food – Harmful for Your Dog

We all know that certain things can be harmful for your dog if eaten. Toxic food (toxic to your dog) such as chocolate, onions, and grapes are the most common culprits. However, it is important to understand that there are many misconceptions about what is okay to feed your dog. Often times, things are okay as long they are in small quantities. Other items can be very serious if even a small amount is ingested. Here is a breakdown of the most common and significant household toxins for dogs.

Your dog ate what?!?


  • Chocolate: This is by far the most common household toxin, but what many people don’t know is that many chocolates are okay if eaten in moderate quantities. The toxic ingredients are called methylxanthines, including caffeine and theobromide. These can cause gastrointestinal signs (vomiting/diarrhea), agitation, and dangerous changes in their heart rate. In general, milk chocolate is usually okay unless your dog is very small. Dark Chocolate, semi-sweet, and baking chocolate all have higher concentrations of methylxanthines, and are much more likely to lead to symptoms. If you have any questions, your veterinarian or poison control will be able help you determine the best path for treatment.
  • Caffeine: As stated above, other common sources of caffeine can lead to unwanted symptoms. The other most common sources of caffeine are coffee (including grounds) and dietary supplements.


  • Corn Cobs: These are the number one cause for intestinal obstruction. Even if chewed up into small pieces, your dog should not digest corn cobs. Especially at summer picnics, please keep these away from your furry friends.


  • Onions/Chives/Garlic: All of these plants contain substances that can lead to hemolytic anemia (destruction of red blood cells). However, for most of these a significant amount of onion has to be eaten. In general, small amounts of onion over a meal isn’t a concern. If your dog ate several large onions, this would be reason to contact your veterinarian. Be wary of anything with ground or powdered onion, these tend to be more concentrated and can be more toxic.


  • Grapes/Raisins: Most dogs can eat these and never have a problem. However, a small percentage of dogs can have an idiopathic (unknown) reaction which can lead to kidney failure. Unfortunately, we do not know why this occurs. Some dogs appear much more susceptible, but we have no way of determining which ones. Luckily, there is a minimum dose of grapes that have been linked to illness. Therefore, if your dog ingests grapes please contact your veterinarian or poison control. If treated early with hospitalization and intravenous fluids, most dogs can recover with a good prognosis.


  • Alcohol: This one’s a no brainer. Your dog is significantly smaller than you. They may also have a more difficult time metabolizing alcohol. If your dog consumes too much, they can become disoriented, sedated, and vomit. Just as in people, alcohol poisoning sometimes requires hospitalization.


  • Mushrooms: The mushrooms that we cook and eat are not toxic to your dog. However, there are many wild growing mushrooms that can be dangerous to your dog. The most common toxins in these mushrooms can lead to liver failure. It’s difficult to determine which mushrooms are toxic, so if your dog is prone to eating them it would be best that you remove them from your yard.


  • Nutmeg: As in humans, if a large amount of Nutmeg is ingested it can lead to hallucinations, disorientation, difficulty walking, and vomiting. Small amounts used in baking should be fine, but if your dog eats an entire bottle it would be best to contact your veterinarian.


  • Sugar Free Candy and Gum: Many of these contain Xylitol, an artificial sweetener. Even if dogs eat a small amount, it can lead to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and liver failure. It you suspect your dog has been exposed to any of these please contact your veterinarian.


  • Yeast/Rising Dough: If eaten, this will continue to expand and produce ethanol gas in your dog’s stomach. This can lead to bloating, abdominal pain, vomiting, and obstruction. Best to keep this out of reach of your furry housemates.


  • Salt (In Large Quantities): Your dog’s blood contains electrolytes including sodium, potassium, chloride and calcium. If your dog ingests a significant amount of salt, this can make your dog’s blood quickly more concentrated, which can cause fluid to leak out of other spaces/organs, leading to dysfunction. If your dog eats a significant amount of salt, starts vomiting, or becomes weak please contact your veterinarian. Paintballs are a common source of high salt ingestion.


  • Ham: Ham is high in salt and fat. If a significant amount is eaten, the above complications can arise, or your dog can be at risk for pancreatitis.


  • Seeds/Pits: Most of these are not easily digestible, and can become wedged in your dog’s gastrointestinal tract. Obviously, for many dogs a large amount of seeds (or large SIZED seeds) needs to be eaten to cause a problem. Peach Pits, chestnuts, and acorns are the most common to become problematic. If your dog is obstructed, they will become uncomfortable and vomit repeatedly.


  • Macadamia Nuts: If a large amount of these are eaten, they can lead to mild symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and weakness. Most patients have self- limiting symptoms, and can be treated at home.


  • Spicy Foods: While not life threatening, eating very spicy foods can lead to nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal discomfort. These symptoms are usually mild and resolve on their own.


  • Avocado: While avocado can be toxic to birds and some ruminants, they are perfectly safe for dogs. However, if the large pits are eaten they can lead to an obstruction.


  • Dairy: As with people, if your dog is not used to eating dairy, a sudden change in diet with milk or cheese can lead to diarrhea. This is usually self-limiting and will resolve on its own. If you wish to feed your dog milk, cheese, or yogurt, start with small quantities and slowly increase the meal size over time.

Not a food but still very toxic:

  • Tobacco: The nicotine in tobacco can be quite toxic to your dog. It can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, tremors and heart problems. Even a number of cigarette or cigar butts can be an issue. Keep your yard free of these to avoid problems.

And with the holidays approaching be sure to keep your dog safe from common holiday hazards.




Maya – Fun and Fit in the New Year

Maya – Fun and Fit in the New Year

Walking dogLast month I wrote about helping your pet live a fit and active life style in the New Year. Being the human caretaker to an obese, diabetic kitty, I understand the struggle of keeping your pet fit and active. As a veterinary technician for 20 years, I occasionally find myself not following my own words of advice and wondering if anyone can really make life style changes that make a huge impact in their pet’s life.  Little did I know I was about to find out.

On a crisp fall day last year an adorable, energetic black Sheltie mix came bounding into the exam room.  I was surprised to find that only a few months previously she was a meandering, limping, obese black dog. Her name was Maya and I instantly fell in love with her and her story.

For many years, Maya’s weight issues were discussed at her wellness exams and suggestions were made to help her lose the extra pounds. After many years of being overweight (her heaviest weight being 46 pounds), Maya’s obesity began to catch up with her.  In early April of 2014 Maya was seen for her wellness exam. She had chronic hip and joint issues that caused her to limp.  Maya’s quality of life was declining and would continue to do so if some changes weren’t made. Maya was prescribed a special metabolic diet that would make her feel full and help her lose weight.  Her owner was advised to decrease her joint health treats to two a day and not to give Maya any TABLE FOOD.

Maya’s owner was committed to helping her become fit and improve her quality of life. Six weeks later Maya’s weight was rechecked and she had lost 2 pounds and her weight lost did not stop there 4 months later she had lost another 5 pounds and at her last exam she had lost another 2 pounds!! In six months Maya had lost 9 pounds – a fourth of her starting weight. Maya continues to enjoy her special diet, loves her joint health treats and has made a life change to live a fit and active life style.  Maya’s owner was kind enough to answer some questions about Maya’s new life style changes.

Was Maya accepting of the new lifestyle changes?

Maya was accepting of the new food and has always loved her joint health treats.  At first she was slow to accept our longer walks but after a few weeks she was excited to go out for our daily walks in the park.

Perkiomen Trail.001

I know you and Maya exercise everyday. What do you do to exercise?

We take daily walks and Maya loves to play at the local park chasing after the squirrels.

What changes have you seen with Maya since starting her on her new fit and active lifestyle?

Maya has so much more energy; she is like a new dog!! I didn’t know what Maya was like as a puppy because I found her wandering around my backyard. After an exhaustive search, I was unable to find her original owner. After seeing how energetic she is now I can only imagine that she was a very active puppy.

As Maya’s fit and active lifestyle helped you in anyway?

Our daily walks have helped me become fit also. I really am very happy I made the decision to help Maya lose weight.

Maya is a great example of an animal living a fit and active life style every day. Because of her owner’s dedication to helping her improve her life, she is now chasing squirrels and no longer living a sedentary life filled with medications. Maya and her owner have inspired me to not only help my pets lead a fit and active life style but also for myself.  What better way to become fit and active but with a workout buddy – a furry one.

-Meghan, AS

Veterinary Technician

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