I spent most of this week at the North American Veterinary Conference (NAVC) in Florida, working to bring the word of positive reinforcement training to veterinarians and veterinary technicians. While I was there, I go to attend Getting Back Mobility: A New Therapeutic Approach to Managing Joint Conditions by veterinarian Darryl Millis [with a lot of letters behind his name - too many to list, actually]. This talk was all about nutritional management of osteoarthritis (OA).
My yellow Labrador, Tango, suffers from OA and I'm trying to be proactive so I'm not reliant on NSAIDs out of the gate. (NSAID is an easy way to refer to non-sterroidal anti-inflammatory drug.) NSAIDs are great for pain relief, but they can do a number on a dog's liver if used long-term. Tango's only 9 1/2 years old - I want to save the NSAIDs for when he's an old, old man and there aren't any other options to manage his pain.
I loved this talk because it showed me what veterinarians say to one another - they're very matter of fact, research driven, and because there isn't a client in the room, they can stick to just the facts without having to make the words pretty for the dog's owner. Here's the most important thing I learned: Weight loss is our #1 tool to manage OA.
Weight loss? Really. Weight loss is free. It doesn't cost me anything to cut Tango's calories. It'll actually save me some money.
I've always tried to keep my dogs on the lower end of the normal weight range, but as they (and I) get older, it's harder to keep those pounds from creeping on. I've also been trying to drop 10 pounds that somehow tagged along somewhere in my 4th decade.
Tango's goal is to be between a 4 and 5 on the body condition scale. He was there a few years ago. To get there, he needs to lose about 6 pounds. For those keeping score, he's 66.8 pounds today, and we're working toward 60 - 62 pounds. The lighter, the better as far as OA is concerned. I want to lose 10 pounds. Nothing crazy -- just get back to my regular old weight I've been all my life (until about 3 years ago).
So Tango and I are making a joint effort (get it? I'm too much sometimes, aren't I) to lose some pounds. We'll weigh in every week, tell you what's working and what's not on our quest for fewer pounds. How will we do it? The old fashioned way: exercise more, healthier food choices.
Where is your dog on the body condition scale? Have you been successful in dropping your dog's weight (or your own?)? Share your tips below!
This goes without saying, but I'm a behavior person, not a veterinarian. If you are wondering about your dog's body condition score, OA, or any other health-related issue, check with your vet. Also, check with your vet before putting your dog on any weight loss or exercise plan.