New Year, New Goals

Are you a Resolution type person? Some of us are with the New Year and the celebration of a fresh start gives up room to have a “do over” of sorts. It’s a time to start better habits whether those affect our physical health or our mental wellbeing. 

This year I resolve to walk my dogs. That is it. It’s that simple. Walk one Jack Russell terrier and one mixed breed terrier as many times a week as I can. 

Why? 

Because they are fat and tend to bask in the sunshine in their back yard domain more than move around. And because I talk a lot about exercising our dogs in the exam room and I need to walk my talk (in this case literally walk). 

Lizzie Grace is a short, wide Jack Russel with strong opinions and who doesn’t like to stray far from home. She enjoys two breakfast mornings when one person forgets that another family member fed her and maybe a midday snack. She doesn’t like to walk unless it’s to the kitchen for more snacks. 

Mister Scruffy is a terrier of unknown heritage who will run through an opening in the door or fence to scour the neighborhood for more food. He gets two meals a day plus all  the leftovers that he can sneak when no one is paying attention.

Their human is a person who often stress eats her way through the day. No consistent routine but she likes to snack on whatever is available. (For the record this human is me and I graciously snacked on the wonderful treats brought by our amazing clients through this Holiday Season)! I need to manage my stress better and my health as I enter into 2024. So instead of abstaining from New Year Resolutions, I resolved to walk the dogs. 

Obesity in pets can lead to a number of health concerns for our pets just like with us. We do have to discuss your pets weight and health in the exam room during their annual exam. As veterinarians, we are looking at their body composition- like their waist or where they deposit fat- and their muscle tone. Obesity can lead to joint problems and arthritis, cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, and has been proven to shorten our pets lifespan. 

This fall, I noticed at home that Lizzie Grace was losing her waist and toddling around on her four legs more so than actually walking. Mister Scruffy was missing the bench in the kitchen when he was trying to steal the cat food. When they sat down both dogs had love handles that pouched out over their back legs. I could no longer palpate ribs on either one of them, they were more round from the rib cage to the hips when I looked down on them, and their belly hung down from their Christmas pajamas the kids had gotten for both dogs. All of these signs were hard to miss that my dogs were getting fat. 

How can I advise patients to lose weight when I am not doing the right thing for them? I was even taking a class in veterinary rehabilitation and physical therapy and had two fat dogs! I started with a weigh in and a calorie calculation for them both. Each dog was well over their maintenance caloric need significantly- just from regular dog food plus little bites of snacks here and there.  They had no consistent exercise routine other than to stroll around the back yard or occasionally patrol the fence for perceived danger on the other side. 

So for this New Year New Habits, I will start with walking both dogs and as a plus they are walking me. However, since exercise is not the only answer I will be changing their food and eating routines. Both got moved to weight management food. Lizzie Grace got a food puzzle toy for her meals to slow her eating down and allow her brain to engage while she is eating. Mister Scruffy now can’t access the cat food bowls for buffet style snacking as much as he would want. As for me, I am focusing on eating real food since I tend to snack on easily available food when I am stressed or the work day is hectic. For all three of us, we began our walking journey on January 1st. 

Come along for monthly updates on their journey to health and wellness this year. I hope they inspire you to walk your dog at the same time we are walking. We will celebrate progress over perfection and, as we cheer in a New Year, we will toast to long term health goals for all of our pets! Riverview will be here for each step in their journey! Schedule an appointment soon for a health evaluation and weight management plan with our veterinary team! Happy New Year!

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