January 1, 2011 "Ask Seth"

I would like my 6-yr. old Cairn Terrier to lose 2 lbs. I feed her one cup of food daily and we take 3 walks. What else do you suggest?



I have a six year old female Cairn Terrier that is a little overweight.  I would like her to lose 2 lbs.  I feed her Wellness Healthy Weight, only one cup per day and add a cube of freezer dried liver that I shave to mix in. The only treat she gets is two or three small pieces of freezer dried chicken.  I do take her for three good walks each day.  What else do you suggest?


I would first discuss with your veterinarian to find out what the ideal weight would be for your dog. Although you may feel she is overweight, your vet may decide she is at an ideal weight for her age and breed. Veterinarians use a body condition scoring (BCS) system to evaluate the overall condition of the animal, factoring in the height and build of the dog. Ideal weights for breed standards can be misleading and sometimes low. For instance, the breed standard for female Cairn terriers is a weight of 13 pounds with the height at the shoulders at a max of 9 ½ inches. In my experience, many of the Cairns I have seen are larger than this. They may appear to be larger due to their hard, thick coat. A veterinarian's hand can discern whether or not your dog actually needs to lose any weight. Veterinarians can also determine if your dog has any other possible conditions. Due to your dog's age she is in the age group when you start to see signs of hypothyroidism (low thyroid/ decreased metabolism). If this condition exists, canines are simply put on a daily medication, monitored annually, and do very well thereafter.

Now that we have covered some of the possible medical reasons for the overweight issue, there are some other things you can do to get and keep your dog fit. As you already know, Cairns are very active, so simply increasing her exercise level will help burn those extra pounds away. The walks are great for her, but may not be enough. I recommend playing catch in the back yard or visiting a local park that is dog friendly. Stimulating her mentally and physically will be good for her weight and her overall well-being. I wish you great success.

Seth Mayersohn, CVT


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