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24 April 2010


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I once had someone demand to know the name of my vet when I refused to agree that my DH puppy was being deliberately starved. But most folks are like the owners of the overweight, elderly lab mix at my farmers' market today - thinking she's that way because she is getting old. Uh, no.


My vet has a chart in the waiting room to show how to evaluate your dog's or cat's weight. My dog needs to knock off a few pounds. One of the big mistakes people make with an adopted greyhound is that they let the dog pack on more pounds than it should have. The fine bones won't support excess weight well and they need to be kept lean. But to most people, it looks too skinny. Rawley is absolutely puppy-beautiful! A dog who is starving will not have a shiny coat and bright eyes!

H. Houlahan

You should tell everyone that everything he eats goes into growing FEET.

Wendy (The Local Cook)

Ha, I have two Italian Greyhounds who eat everything in sight if I let them, so yes, people think I'm starving my babies too.


I have a friend who was accused by a lady that her dog was such a skinny labrador retriever that she would report it as animal abuse. The dog in question is a flatcoated retriever and was just a year old at the time...

I really wish people would first learn to recognize a dog that isn't overweight - and then consider the breed. But I guess using common sense is out of the question in most cases.


I agree with Liz. People don't actually know what a healthy-weight dog is supposed to look like.

My first dog is skinny - he eats VERY well, but is also very active, and doesn't gain weight easily (we should all be so lucky). He's not underweight, but he does have a nice tuck-up, you can see a few ribs, etc.

Dog number 2, adopted 3 months ago, is FAT. Fat, fat, fat. She's short enough to walk *under* dog #1, but weighs *more* than he does.

When we go out on walks, guess which dog gets negative comments about it's weight?

H. Houlahan

It is not the plight of sighthound owners alone. It is the plight of everyone who keeps her dogs in lean working condition.

I am thankful that my male ES are fluffy enough to hide it; Moe can even pass for chunky on a big fur day.

But the GSD, and the ES bitches -- I am abusing them.

In a world where random show-dog knowitalls will not accept that I know what BREED my dog is, and that it is a real breed despite them never having seen one at a show, are you shocked that other random knowitalls cannot accept the reality of a dog with a runner's build?

Gina Spadafori

All dogs (and all people, for that matter) would be better off a percentage point or two "underweight" -- or rather, normal should be moved down a little bit.

So says I, giddy with delight when I find generously sized "16s" when I'm really an 18. (But used to be ... well, never mind.

Hard working condition is ideal for all working dogs. And not fat is ideal for the rest.

Rawley is perfect. Just perfect.


Even aside from the sighthound body type issue, too many people have not seen many dogs at a healthy weight. When I shave Addy down for the summer, I get lots of comments on how very skinny she is.



You should tell everyone that everything he eats goes into growing FEET.

Comment by H. Houlahan — April 24, 2010 @ 10:04 am

And ears. Don't forget the ears :)

Christie Keith

LOL, Heather... and his tail, which is twice as long as he is at this point. ;)


As someone fighting the good fight to trim down her dogs without feeding them sawdust (sorry, that just doesn't sit right with me), I salute you. I was delighted today to see my Frenchie RUNNING today at the dog park - he probably burned a few calories! Often he just sits by my feet while the other dog plays. I guess I set a bad example. ;)


I know a guy who got turned into the humane officer for starving his dogs.

They were two retired racing greyhounds and obviously weren't starving!

I think more people ought to be turned in for having morbidly obese dogs.


Totally can relate on this one! My dog is a mix of a catahoula and an Australian shepherd. She is just a Lean dog, but very well fed...but I get comments that she is too skinny though we make sure she is a very healthy girl. Beautiful dog by the way :)


I just read an article in the Whole Dog Journal that said that research shows that dogs who are on the skinny side of normal are healthier and live longer. So, kudos to all of us who make sure we have "skinny" dogs!

Pamela Picard

Walking footstools. heheheh Good one.

Kim Thornton

That would be kind of funny to start going around and turning people in to animal control for having fat dogs or making disapproving comments to them about how fat and unhealthy their dogs are. Except for that whole part about how I hate busybodies...


Today I was at a small dog event in Naples and was happy to see most of the dogs had normal weights. For some reason they all seemed to be long haired breeds, too. The only comment I hear dall day was about a Chinese Crested. Someone told the owner the dog's skin was getting sunburned. The owner, a friend of mine, informed the busybody her dog has on sunblock and her skin is always a light shade of pink. Who feels it is their business to go up to someone and say something negative about their dog?!

"Oh, I was only trying to help- I LOVE dogs!"

they reply.

Christie Keith

I was chatting with Marion Nestle and Mal Nesheim about this one day, and Mal pointed that the study that "skinny dogs live longer" was actually a fairly severe calorie restriction study, done on dogs in a laboratory setting. He wondered how practical it is for dogs who are living as family pets and companions to be hungry all the time, and what behavior issues it might cause. And also, about the dogs' quality of life.

I have to admit it made me re-think my earlier touting of that study as showing "skinny dogs live longer"; the study didn't really look at "skinny dogs" per se, but at substantial calorie restriction. And can that study be extrapolated out to family pets, and to keeping your dog lean not through drastic calorie restriction but with, say, exercise or a high metabolism? Or just keeping your dog SLIGHTLY underweight?

There's also the issue that the pet food company that ran that study is using it in their ads to suggest that their food, "when fed as directed," can add more than a year to your dog's life. Which is not at all what the study was about. It wasn't about this food vs. another, it was about calorie restriction.

Still a lot to consider here. I do agree dogs should be lean, I'm just not sure I feel comfortable using that study to prove that point anymore.

H. Houlahan

Severe calorie restriction probably increases lifespan in humans, too. But who wants to live five years longer while your stomach is growling the whole time?

But lean is lean, and a lean dog is more likely to be somewhat hungry. Better hungry than can't get up because his joints hurt and his heart is working way too hard.

I was a little bit underweight at the end of a weight-loss regimen a few years ago, after being a bit overweight for a couple of years. Underweight feels better.

It's helpful to feed at least two meals to dogs who are kept lean, so they aren't hungry throughout the day. But it is probably harder to keep the discipline of portion-control when the dog gets several small meals a day. Not impossible by any means, but harder.

On very hard-working days, we snack the SAR dogs regularly, taking a page from distance mushers. It is probably impossible for them to take in and metabolize enough calories to break even if they get two or more long task assignments in a day. One of Sophia's first searches went for five days, and we rode her (and ourselves, and Pip) hard the entire time -- it was a missing child in true wilderness. She was just about skeletal at the end of that search, and happier than I've ever seen her.


I feel your pain! I have a very nicely fit 7 year old Basenji and I hear constantly that he is too thin.

Oh, and the "walking footstool" --- I am *SO* borrowing that!


...and Zazou too! (the very svelte Basenji)

Amy Suggars

I once said to my vet that this was the first time I'd brought him a fat dog and he looked at me with a puzzled expression on his face. Firebug, a Flat-coated Retriever, was a good 8 lbs overweight and I knew it. In fact, the first words out of her breeder's mouth when upon seeing for the first time in a few years was "Your dog is FAT! (At least she refrained from commenting on my condition as well.). But my vet thought Fire was just fine. I guess compared to what he sees on a typical day, she did seem fine.


Also, since nobody else mentioned it, I'm pretty sure chronically undernourished mammals don't run around playing gleefully as Rawley does.

Can't people read a dog's demeanor?

Gina Spadafori

I'm smiling here in Houston, knowing that "McKenzie" is Christie's brother McKenzie. And that he is built rather like a Deerhound himself -- very tall, lean and graceful. I bet he hears a few comments about "why don't you eat something?" himself!


I know this rant is about dogs, but the words FAT and CAT rhyme for a reason... it seems to be a fact of life for some owners that indoor cats tend to get fat. I've seen some cats just become round fur balls with tiny legs sticking out.

I know I gave in to my cats constant meows for food and gave them extra food just to make them hush so I could watch TV (geez, too lazy on my part to play w/ em--eek-- Bad cat mom watching TV.)

I learned I had conditioned them and myself to 'give in' them and once I ferbertized them...ooh, I like that...Fur-bertized... then the habits broke and they trimmed down.


We hear you, Christie. I took my greyhound into my office one day and one of my coworkers commented "that's the skinniest dog I've ever seen!" Imagine if she had been at her track weight. Poor gangly Rawley, all legs and feet and ears and nose ;)

I like the expression "footstool" too. I had always called them football shaped.

Kim Thornton

Twyla is at least a couple of pounds overweight--we're working on it--but I asked her vet once what he thought about her weight, and he said she was fine.

Gina Spadafori

Poor McKenzie has struggled post-spay. She's also "normal" by what vets see, but needs to lose another two-three pounds.

At least her fitness isn't an issue: After all, this is a dog with her own personal trainer. (Bob the dog-runner.)

Original Lori

My lab mix Kasey has a nicely nipped in waist, and since it's much easier watch his weight than MINE, I'm very careful about it.

My SO didn't used to like Labs, he thought they were round and clunky until I showed him what a nice field Labrador looked like. He really thought the average family Lab "walking footstool" (love that) was what they were supposed to look like.

I suppose it isn't surprising that the most obese nation who thinks a meal isn't a value unless it's SUPERSIZED would think overweight pets were normal.

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