Less than two years ago, this pup weighed in at 56 pounds. (Photo: Brooke Burton)
Once a wanton wiener dog, Dennis went on a diet and is now a happy shadow of his former self after losing more than 75 percent of his body weight.
Less than two years ago, Dennis weighed in at a whopping 56 pounds — about the size of four or five miniature dachshunds, which is what he is. A series of “before” photos show Dennis resting on rolls of fat, his head seemingly too little for his blob of a body. He couldn’t take more than a few steps without being out of breath.
Then Brooke Burton adopted him from a relative who had fed him White Castle burgers, pizza and other human food, and didn’t pay much attention to the dog’s burgeoning belly.
Burton, a 26-year-old nursing student, recalls how emotional she became when she first saw Dennis in June 2013, and then persuaded her relative to give him up.
"Out comes Dennis, and I couldn’t believe it," Burton says. "I wasn’t even sure what breed of dog he was supposed to be because he was so large."
Burton put him on diet of dry dog food, plus lots of walks and affection. Now the 6-year-old wiener dog is a svelte 12 pounds and happily chasing squirrels in the backyard, playing fetch and bossing around the other three rescue dogs that live with him.
Now, Dennis weighs in at 12 pounds — meaning he lost more than 75 percent of his body weight. (Photo: The Columbus Dispatch, Eric Albercht)
"In the beginning, you could tell he was very depressed, that he really didn’t feel good at all," Burton says. "He didn’t have much of a personality. After he lost weight, this bossy little demanding man popped out. He’s into everything, he wants to play with everybody."
Dennis lost so much weight that he started tripping over the folds of excess skin that were left over and getting infections. He has had three surgeries at the Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center to get rid of it.
Dr. Kathleen Ham, the veterinary surgeon who performed the operations, says Dennis’ story is a good lesson for pet owners who might feed their animals too much.
"We have an expression: food is not love," Ham says. "Most of what your pet wants from you is affection and attention."
According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, more than half of cats and dogs in the U.S. — 52.6 percent of dogs and 57.6 percent of cats — are overweight or obese. Health risks of obesity for cats and dogs include kidney disease, osteoarthritis, high blood pressure, heart and respiratory disease, Type 2 diabetes, and a shortened lifespan of up to 2.5 years. On the flip side, a pet’s excess weight could also be a sign that something else is wrong, such as hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease, according to VCA Animal Hospitals.
A big problem: Many owners of obese pets don’t even realize their furry friends have packed on too much weight. ”In simplest terms, we’ve made fat pets the new normal,” Ernie Ward, founder of the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, told CNN.
A dog is considered overweight when it weighs 10 to 20 percent more than its ideal body weight, according to VCA Animal Hospitals, and obese when it weighs 20 percent or more than its ideal body weight.
A good way to help determine if your dog is overweight or obese is to check its ribs. If you feel the tops of your knuckles when holding your hand palm-side down, that’s how your dog’s ribs should feel behind the shoulder blades.
Additional reporting by the Associated Press.