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My hero: Fat Georgia dog drops 100 pounds

Meet my new hero — Raleigh, the dog. I’m thinking of taping his picture to my refrigerator.

Raleigh, through diet and exercise — and we all know that, unfortunately, is what it takes — dropped 100 pounds in just over three years.

Raleigh weighed 60 pounds when owners Jane and Jay Whitehead of Oconee County adopted the then one-year-old mixed breed at a Gwinnett County animal shelter about six years ago.

But, as the Athens Banner-Herald points out in a lovely story about Raleigh’s weight battle, he just kept growing – sideways.

By February 2006, Raleigh was a Goodyear blimp on legs, ballooning to 187 pounds.

The Whiteheads tried cutting back on Raleigh’s food, and took him to their vet, who found no disorder. Other than his weight, he was perfectly healthy.

He couldn’t walk more than a few steps at a time before he flopped over on his side, and it would take three people to get him up again, his owners said.

“It just kind of equates to people you see on TV that are so obese they can’t get out of bed. That’s what he was,” said Jane Whitehead, the chief financial officer for a Gwinnett County company. “You just don’t know what to do. He had no quality of life, but nothing seemed to help.”

In late 2005, the Whiteheads’ vet referred them to Sherry Sanderson, a professor in the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine’s department of physiology and pharmacology who was beginning a study on a new weight-loss drug for dogs.”

Raleigh turned out to be ineligible for the study, but Sanderson remained interested in his case, and suggested the Whiteheads began feeding Raleigh a specially formulated dog food that is low in calories but has the nutrients dog need. It was was provided free by the Nestle Purina PetCare Co., which also helped pay for the rest of Raleigh’s therapy.

That was the other problem. Raleigh was too far gone for normal dog exercise, but Sanderson asked one of her students to set up three-times-a week sessions on an underwater treadmill in the College of Veterinary Medicine’s Small Animal Hospital. The treadmill, most often used to rehabilitate dogs after surgery, allows dogs to move their legs without putting much weight on their joints.

The treadmill and new diet worked for Raleigh, who began shedding pounds. In a few weeks, he was able to walk short distances on his own.

By January 2007, Raleigh had slimmed down to 116 pounds, and by last April, he was down to 89. His owners are aiming for a goal weight of 70 to 80 pounds.

“After seeing what he did, I don’t think there’s any case that’s truly hopeless,” Sanderson said. “I hope he can be a motivator for others.”


Comment from JorgeG
Time June 1, 2009 at 11:51 am

Great post, inspiring story. What you say about exercise is so true, at the end, it’s what’s always needed. I will there where better guidelines for people to know when their dogs are fat though, i feel most people don’t realize their dogs are fat until they are really fat. Others just don’t think it’s their fault even though they are the ones giving so much food.

Comment from Eighteenpaws
Time June 2, 2009 at 6:36 pm

I really enjoyed this story and was touched by the video. I was so happy for the “new” Raleigh! I have raised MANY dogs since graduating college, and although my tactics were pretty routine and standard among all, a few of my pups grew larger and faster and heavier than I wanted no matter how much they ran and played freely. When I was able to get some weight off of them as young adults, each certainly lived a happier life. As with humans, I think that some animals are predisposed to growing larger than reasonable. I was impressed with seeing Raleigh on the “underwater treadmill.” How in the world do you teach your dog to walk that walk??!! And where can even I get one of those for ME??!! 🙂

Comment from loeb
Time July 23, 2009 at 7:52 pm

We adopted our dog a little over a month ago at 122 lbs (as a norwegian elkhound, he’s got almost 70 to lose.) He’s down to about 110 so far and still going. No hydrotherapy as he’s a water-phobe, but luckily the walking gets easier every week!