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Old 11-04-2013, 01:54 PM
straw straw is offline
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Default How to tell someone thier dog is too skinny...

There's a 5 month old Dutchie pup that attended puppy class at my workplace and now comes to daycare. I see him on a weekly basis and... he's just too skinny. Visible hips, spine, ribs, and femur when he's just standing still. They bring him a lunch, but it's pretty meager. I'm not sure if his breakfast and supper are larger, and his midday meal is just a snack to tide him over.

We have kindly told them to feel free to bring extra food for him, and we can do some more training exercises throughout the day, but they said no thanks. I mean, it's one thing if their dog's that thin because he's got digestive issues, or is sick, or they're feeding 7 cups a day and are trying to figure out where it's going. It's another thing entirely if he's not getting enough calories.

I don't know if they are first-time Dutchie owners, but get the impression that they don't think we'd have the slightest idea what to do with their racecar of a puppy. We are a pet-focused training school, after all.

It's frustrating trying to think of a way to tell them their dog is underweight without having them blow me off because I must be used to seeing fat doodles all day. I don't care if your dog is an active working breed from sport lines and seems like he's constantly on a sugar high - no puppy is supposed to be that scrawny.
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Old 11-04-2013, 02:59 PM
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PuppyInMotion.com PuppyInMotion.com is offline
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Poor fella. I hope he's feeling somewhat ok.

I think you have to make up something to inform them that you have reason to be concerned beyond just what you know (for example you know someone with the same breed and their puppy does not look like theirs). Then perhaps, ask if their vet has said anything about his condition.
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Old 11-04-2013, 03:25 PM
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Originally Posted by PuppyInMotion.com View Post
Poor fella. I hope he's feeling somewhat ok.

I think you have to make up something to inform them that you have reason to be concerned beyond just what you know (for example you know someone with the same breed and their puppy does not look like theirs). Then perhaps, ask if their vet has said anything about his condition.
Ok, in the spirit of full disclosure, I avoided responding to this thread because it is a sore subject for me. But this post is not the way to go about things.

Sometimes puppies of certain breeds are just boney and too skinny at certain points in their growth. Are they "supposed" to look like that? No, they're not "supposed" to but sometimes they do despite your best efforts. Lying about what you do and don't know about the breed is wrong.

If I might make a few suggestions:

1.) Do not say "oh but I knew a Dutchie and he was never so skinny" because even if it's true, who cares? That dog wasn't their dog. I know a Mal who gets fat easily but that doesn't mean mine will or that I'm doing something wrong because she doesn't. (I think it's obvious that lying to give yourself traction is wrong, so I wasn't going to even touch that one.)

2.) Don't ask if the vet has seen the dog. That's a pretty passive-aggressive and accusatory question. It's an indirect way of saying, "I think your dog is in bad shape but I'm not sure you notice or care enough to have a vet look at him." It implies a lot and will make people defensive.

3.) They may not want you giving him extra food because he may have a sensitive stomach. He may be going through a stomach issue right now, or maybe just too much food gives him diarrhea. Who knows? When my dog was really sick, I wouldn't have let anybody feed her either but it wasn't because I didn't think she needed to gain weight or because I didn't care. Even if they send more of his own food, some dogs will get terrible diarrhea on too much food.

4.) These people are paying for puppy class and daycare. They can pay for food. They have a breed that's not easy to find, and a breed that can often having issues holding weight when young. I think it's pretty safe to assume that they are aware of the issue, and that they care. They seem invested in the dog. If you feel you must approach them, I would start off by assuming they're doing what they can and that they care. With that in mind, you might ask them if his condition/weight is normal for a growing Dutchie puppy. Even saying, "I know they can be pretty lean sometimes, so is this pretty common?" would be a way to bring up the subject without putting them on the defensive or assuming the worst. If they say, "What do you mean, his weight?" then maybe they're really that clueless.

All I'm saying is... as someone who has been there with "Why don't you feed that dog?" question, both when my dog was just a young, adolescent Mal, and when she was very sick, please, please approach the subject with tact. It is really hurtful when you're spending $362 on GI panels and fecals, and home cooking for your dog every night, to have someone callously assume that you just don't know or care.

In most cases, if you think seeing ribs and hips and other bones sticking out is painful, it's doubly painful for the owner. Please approach the subject with a healthy dose of compassion and don't make assumptions about the owners. If they're really clueless, you'll figure that out and can help, and no harm will be done.

Like I said, this IS personal for me and I apologize in advance if my post reflects that too much. I know you care about the dog in question, just please assume his owners do as well if you need to approach them about his weight.
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Old 11-04-2013, 03:40 PM
Saeleofu Saeleofu is offline
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He may be going through a stomach issue right now, or maybe just too much food gives him diarrhea. Who knows?
I agree with ALL of Emily's post, but especially this part. What's the point of dumping more food in a dog if it's just going to come out the other end undigested? That's not beneficial at all, makes the dog feel like crap, and makes the owner work harder to clean up after their dog.

If I were to send my dog to daycare, I would decline extra feeding and training, too. I'm not sending the dog there for training, I'm sending it for daycare. I'm not sending it there for you to give your opinion on how I care for my dog, either, because you don't know ANYTHING about the dog's care other than what happens during daycare.

For all you know the dog can only handle small amounts at a time. The dog might be getting 10 cups a day split into many 1/2-1 cup servings. The dig might be getting massive amounts of food at home, and the food they send is only a token amount to keep you off their backs, because they know their dog is skinny and they're trying everything to help it gain weight.

If I took my dog to daycare, and my dog was underweight and I KNEW why and was working on it, and they told me I need to take my dog to a vet because he's skinny, I'd drop that daycare SO FAST. That's not what I'm paying for.
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Old 11-04-2013, 04:04 PM
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Miakoda Miakoda is offline
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Playing devil's advocate.....

Some people have taken the anti-obesity stance too far in the other direction. All the "puppies are not supposed to be fat" and "too many dogs are overweight" and "it's ok to see a rib or two" comments have caused some people to swing all the way to the opposite site of the spectrum. Their view of " healthy" becomes just as distorted as that of owners of overweight dogs, except they view no visible ribs or hip points as dog is too fat. They take controlled feedings too far. It's a more drastic form of conditioning at the food bowl.

With that said, I only wanted to bring it up because I personly am seeing a trend in this. It does need awareness, but the issue should be brought up in a casual and non-accusatory manner.

I've had some dogs that would get portly at a mere extra 1/4 cup of food a day, and I've had some that stayed lean. I've had one (TB) that had the nickname Skeletor, compliments of my former coworkers. That dog was high-energy, high-drive, and also had a bit of nervous energy. At his prime (2-4 years of age), he was eating 3 cups of DVP kibble twice a day (early 2000s...not as much variety available), as well as being fed satin balls mid-afternoon. Even then I was barely able to prevent his bones coming through the skin. He had great muscle tone, no doubt about it, but he burned calories like a maniac. I had sooo much testing done on that dog, but everything pointed out to a picture of perfect health. It wasn't until he was 8 that he started filling out to a normal lean body composition.

But I understand the rude comments and stares.
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Old 11-04-2013, 04:05 PM
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Both Emily and Saeleofu have said it perfectly.

I've had that skinny dog, and the assumptions were maddening.
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Old 11-04-2013, 04:09 PM
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I agree with Emily. Talon has finally started looking normal, but for the longest time he ess nothing but bones and I have to say the amount of criticisms I got and comments that might as well be accusations was ridiculous. You need to be super careful, though even then you will likely offend them just by making a point to bring it up when you've already done so. It's a tricky situation.
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Old 11-04-2013, 04:22 PM
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Thanks for the posts everyone. I should have mentioned before, I'm not assuming they're starving their dog. I just don't know how to ask what's going on without offending them. I've also had 'that' skinny dog and received my share of negative comments. Coming out directly saying 'yo, your dog's too skinny' is only going to put them on the defensive and make them take him elsewhere, I realize that.

I worry because a coworker has gently probed the issue by saying 'hey, want to bring him a bigger lunch?' and they responded with a glare and silence.

If it were a matter of GI issues, why not mention it? In their application they indicated that he was okay to have treats and that he had no sensitivities. If things have changed I assume they would have let us know.
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Old 11-04-2013, 06:21 PM
Saeleofu Saeleofu is offline
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Quote:
I'm not assuming they're starving their dog.
You know that, but they don't know that. Asking sounds like assuming, even if that's NOT your intention.


Quote:
I worry because a coworker has gently probed the issue by saying 'hey, want to bring him a bigger lunch?' and they responded with a glare and silence.
In that case I wouldn't bring it up unless you're wiling to lose a paying customer.


Quote:
If it were a matter of GI issues, why not mention it? In their application they indicated that he was okay to have treats and that he had no sensitivities. If things have changed I assume they would have let us know.
Things can change, and people may not always remember to update something they filled out when they first came in. Also, getting diarrhea from eating too much isn't a "sensitive stomach" in they way most people use the term. They can still eat whatever, they just can't eat too much. Logan used to be like this.
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Old 11-04-2013, 06:33 PM
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Phelan is skinny, if I feed him more he'll poop liquid. It's typical of shepherd puppies, the answer is don't. Just don't play a vet online or otherwise. You can ask what they are feeding and recommend what worked for your hard keeper but do not assume the puppy is without the best care, particularly if you're seeing plenty of energy and a fine coat and eyes.
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