To my chagrin, I am facing 2011 with an all too familiar New Year’s resolution to lose weight. Mind you, this is the same New Year’s resolution that I have proclaimed every year since I became a wheelchair user at age six. As a sedentary individual with a love for food, weight is always an ongoing issue for me.
As the old year ended this weekend and I pondered my New Year’s resolutions, I received a large brown envelope in the mail from my service dog provider agency, Paws With A Cause.
You can imagine my surprise when I perused the official correspondence from PAWS declaring that Whistle must be within HIS target weight or it could jeopardize his recertification process. PAWS requires each service dog team to renew its public access certification every 18-24 months throughout the working life of an assistance dog. Although during each recertification process, I have to report Whistle’s weight, this is the first time that PAWS has declared a target weight policy. This new policy states:
The health, well-being and longevity of your Assistance Dog are dependent on keeping your dog within its target weight. Even a slight increase in weight can dramatically impact the working life of your Assistance Dog! PAWS and your veterinarian will help you monitor this for the lifetime of your dog. Certification and recertification will include verification that your dog is within their approved weight range.
Certification/recertification will be delayed if your dog is 15-20% above its target weight. Certification along with your dog’s harnesses and ID card will be removed if your dog is 20% or more over their target weight.
Whistle’s target weight is 68 pounds. 15% over would be 78 pounds and 20% would be 82 pounds. Yikes, I guess this means that Whistle has a date with the scale at our vet’s office and he will be joining me with a New Year’s weight loss resolution of his own!
I know weight is a serious issue for all beings, including humans and canines. However, this is the first time, as far as I know, that my service dog agency has declared weight management as a policy much less instituted consequences for noncompliance with this policy.
If your dog is more than 15% over its target weight, please seek veterinary counsel in determining a safe weight reduction plan. Monthly weigh-ins must be initialed by a staff member at your veterinary hospital, and the veterinary staff should scan and email or fax this form to PAWS.
Whistle is definitely not the sleek 2-year-old golden/lab that arrived almost 4 years ago. He will be six years old on April 1, 2011 and I have noticed he is not as spry as he was a year ago. He has also gained a few pounds over the years. This new policy will definitely motivate me to be more cognizant of his weight which in turn, will hopefully help me to be more cognizant of my own weight loss issues. Whistle and I both have some serious work to do to reach and maintain our target weight goals in 2011!
Nutrition is such an important issue for us and our dogs. I have been reading Dr. Fuhrman’s book Eat to Live and as I contemplate my own dietary choices, I can’t help but be concerned with Whistle’s diet. Whistle has been eating the same commercial, traditional dog food that he’s eaten his whole life. And although I don’t think it’s the worst food in the world, I also don’t think it is necessarily the best food that he should be eating.
As I’ve shared before, I’ve tried all kinds of diets with my retired service dog, Morgan. But due to his severe allergies, the only food he has been able to tolerate is a prescriptive rabbit and potato dry food. I can also give him potatoes as treats. He gets low salt potato chips, French fries, sweet potato fries, tater tots, etc. And, boy does he love them.
Whistle, on the other hand, has not exhibited any dietary restrictions. But Whistle will be turning five on April 1. From my experiences, age five has always been a big turning point for my service dogs. It’s when they have really reached their peaks as adult dogs. And, it is after age five that they started developing some minor health concerns.
I want to be as proactive and preventative as I possibly can for Whistle’s health. And I feel the first step toward preventive health care is his diet.
There are so many foods out there that claim to be healthy and/or organic but I am so nervous about switching his food. I am afraid he will develop digestive issues like my previous service dogs.
I guess I just need to study about the nutrients that Whistle requires to be a healthy canine. Years ago I took Morgan to a holistic vet who put him on a raw diet. Although he loved the food, I honestly felt like it was not a good choice for him. His allergies escalated and his digestive problems seemed to worsen.
Every time I purchase another bag of Whistle’s traditional dog food, I tell myself, “This is the last bag I am buying because I am going to change his diet.” Whistle and I have been together for three years now and I am sorry to say, he’s still on that same food!
I recently bought another bag of that dog food and this time, I bought an even larger bag. I consciously purchased the larger bag and I said to myself, “I am getting the larger bag because it will give me a few more weeks to figure out Whistle’s new diet strategy.”
Help! I would love to hear what you are feeding your dog and how you switched his or her diet in the past. Whistle and I would greatly appreciate your thoughts and/or suggestions!