Being a veterinary nurse I am used to assisting in euthanasias. They’re hard, all of them, but the last one I assisted with was one of the worst I have ever assisted with. Why? Because what happened was preventable.
Amos (name changed) came to us as a drop off appointment for a regular, semi-annual check up. His blood work showed Amos’s blood sugar was 400. Normal for a dog is 80-120. Amos was diabetic.
Eight years old and severely obese, Amos’s owners had been warned time and again about his weight. They had been given calorie counts to stick to, various prescription weight loss foods, been told to increase exercise. For whatever reason, they failed to get Amos to a reasonable weight. They told us they thought it was cute that he was so fat.
Managing a dog with diabetes is a life-altering task. You have to be home at the same time twice per day to feed them and give insulin. They require many follow up appointments and a lot of costly testing. Having a dog that has become diabetic is a lifestyle.
Unfortunately, even if with weight loss, diabetes in dogs does not go into remission, unlike both humans and cats. Amos’s family took some time and realized they could not handle the care a dog with diabetes takes, refused offers for relinquishment to rescue, so they decided to euthanize him. They also decided they could not be there when the process took place.
My doctor and I spent time with Amos. It was after the hospital closed, and it was only the three of us left in the hospital. We fed him peanut butter cookies, chocolate covered cherries, pasta… Anything we could think of. I raided the employee fridge for leftovers for him to enjoy. He ran around the treatment area and ate everything a diabetic dog- or really any dog!- shouldn’t.
After a while Doc and I knew we had to say goodbye to Amos. I picked him up and placed him on the treatment table. We placed an IV catheter. My doctor and I looked at each other, tears in our eyes and I hugged him, petted him and told him he was a good boy as he peacefully passed in my arms.
Fat dogs are not cute. It’s not funny. Obesity- even being overweight- can cause a cascade of health problems in our dogs. Cushing’s disease, diabetes, hypothyroid, just to name a few. Arthritis, inter vertebral disc disease, ligament tears, to name a few more. I could keep going.
We can choose what we put into our bodies. Our dogs can’t. We are the ones that choose what goes in their bodies and, most importantly, how MUCH. We can choose a sedentary lifestyle- our dogs can’t choose to go exercise more. That’s up to us.
How do you tell if your dog is overweight? Vets go by what is called a Body Condition Scoring Scale. Numbered 1-5, the Body Condition Scoring Scale points out different things to look for on your dog’s body.
Can you feel your dogs ribs easily? Their backbone? Do they have a defined waist? If so, they’re on the ideal weight side. Have a hard time seeing a waist? Can’t quite feel the ribs? More towards the overweight/ obese side of the scale.
If your dog is more towards the overweight side don’t worry- stay tuned for weight loss tips!