Success Story – Abby

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 4.40.47 PMMy Black Lab and sometime assistant, Abby, has a recovery success of her own. Let me point out it is not my purpose to train dogs, but her story is an excellent example of a situation I encounter regularly and how I brought about her success.

Abby came to me as a 10 1/2 month old puppy. I immediately introduced her to retrieving. She was quick to learn and was well on her way to being a very good retriever.  I took her to the vet for a preliminary exam, waiting for her full exam on her first birthday. The full exam revealed that she had heartworms. She was spade and then received her heartworm treatment. For a full year, I had to keep her quiet. Retrieving was out and her walks had to include measures to keep her heart rate down, so that the dead heartworms would not act like an embolism. During this time, Abby put on fifteen pounds. Even though she is much bigger than most Labs, her weight was becoming an issue. After the year, I began to work with her again. She dropped some weight, but she was not the same dog. Her energy level was not the same and she tired very easily. I began to question whether or not her metabolism was affected by the treatment. Vet after vet at the same clinic, told me that was not the case--she was just overweight. She, also, developed a higher than normal BUN level, meaning that her kidneys were not functioning properly.

For the next few years, the vets all seemed to worry about her BUN levels and kept encouraging a prescription, low protein diet. Her metabolism issues were ignored despite my pleas even after her thyroid panel showed she had hypothyroidism. She was tested and re-tested and no direct cause was ever established for the high BUN levels. Abby's weight gain continued until she weighed 112 lbs. Finally, I decided to take her to another clinic. Clearly, the new vet that examined her had no clue about weight loss. He prescribed the low protein diet, but said I needed to protect Abby from blowing out her ACL by exercising her by walking and letting her swim. I was told no retrieving at all and  not to let her jump into or out of my truck!  I had to pick her up! The vet even told ME how to get her to lose weight--by calorie restriction only! Labs are always hungry. Imagine starving a Lab on purpose!  He also felt Abby was going into kidney failure and did not have very long to live. He ordered an ultrasound, but not for her kidneys, but for her gallbladder. Finally, I had enough of that clown, and took her to Dr. Leonard Batey at Germantown-Farmington Animal Hospital.

Dr. Batey examined her kidneys and felt that she was not going into kidney failure.  She was too healthy. He did feel she had some kidney problems, but treatable.  In the past, Abby was given high fat, low protein food. He immediately changed her diet to high fiber, low protein food. He, also, agreed with me that Abby needed to thyroid medication. Just like humans, there is no way to lose weight on high fat food and  diminished thyroid function.

Just like I do regularly with my clients, I formulated Abby's weight-loss plan using a customized personal training approach. With her diet, weight-loss goals, and proper supplementation in place, I began Abby's exercise routine, designed with periodic training variations that have been so successful with my clients.  The results were dramatic! Abby dropped 28 lbs and now weighs 84 lbs! More importantly she is much healthier, her BUN levels have dropped,  and acts at least two years younger than her actual age of 7 years old.

The lesson to be learned is that sometimes the whole picture must be examined before satisfactory results can be achieved. There can be under-lying problems that often sabotage fitness plans, and must be corrected. Luckily, humans rarely have to go through the trouble I had with the vets, but sometimes even physicians cannot see the whole picture and it takes a "cranky, old" personal trainer in Memphis like me to push for the solution!

UPDATE (5/16/2014): Abby is now 8 years old.  Despite having kidney disease her entire life and not showing any physical signs that would indicate she was ill, unfortunately, she is in the early stages of kidney failure.

UPDATE (5/20/2014) Abby lost her fight. She died peacefully this morning with me by her side.