When less is more

You can do more damage to a plant by overfeeding than underfeeding. Like kids with candy, plants will scarf up all the food they can find – especially nitrogen and phosphorus. Over-application of plant foods – organic or not – can be deadly.


Leaves turn a very dark green at first, then light green fading to yellow. The leaves struggle to keep their shape, and the stems lose their ability to bend and bounce back. Over production of flowers is followed by low or no production.


As it is for plants, so it is for dogs (and people by the way). Too much weight puts stress on virtually all of a dog’s organs, joints, bones and ligaments. Overweight dogs are at risk of diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and respiratory distress. People confuse treats with love and can quite literally “love” their dogs to death.


Duke just arrived at a whopping 150 lbs; way too much weight for his frame to support. He has to be moved on a stretcher to reduce stress on his joints.


Samson and McKinley are in a little better shape, but both have a lot of work ahead. Reducing food intake is an obvious first step. Pumpkin, which is loaded with fiber, can be added to meals. Calories are burned through walks and play, ensuring our pups do not overdo. It is very important to start slowly and gradually increase time and distance to avoid over-exertion or injury.


One of the most beneficial exercises is swimming as buoyancy takes pressure off the joints. Thankfully, a generous supporter gifted Homeward Bound with a pool specially designed for the dogs and their volunteer people. Swimming helps burn calories and strengthens joints and muscles.


And, of course, there is nothing better than a nice cool splash on a hot summer day – even for reluctant first timers! Click here for a short video of McKinley being introduced to the water for the first time.


As we all know, it is a lot harder to undo excess than to maintain a healthy balance in the first place. So do your dog and yourself a favor – show your affection with play and exercise instead of excess treats. You’ll love each other a lot longer that way!

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I am a nascent gardener, rescuer, and photographer, chronicling the journey of the dogs at Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue and Sanctuary near Sacramento, CA - and the Memorial Garden we have devoted to them.

21 thoughts on “When less is more”

  1. Awww, Duke is precious and I love the video of McKinley! Best of luck to them on their diet and exercise programs! Last year at the reunion picnic, Oscar was the widest dog there. People kept commenting on it and I left feeling like a bad mom. He’s slimmed down a little and has always gotten an hour walk every day (unless it’s pouring rain), but he’s still built like a tank (although the vet says his weight is perfect for his frame). Of course he loves treats, but I strictly limit cookies and give him carrots, apples, and pumpkin-sicles (canned pumpkin frozen in ice cube trays) instead.

      1. I wish we were coming! We moved to Washington state last summer. It’s a bit too far!

  2. Such excellent advice for plants and pups! Love the video of McKinley in the pool. Swimming with me is on my humans’ wish list. Not so sure it’s on mine, though. 🙂

  3. Excellent advice! It’s good to have that reminder, for both plants, animals, and people. Poor Duke though! I can’t imagine how stressful that must have been on his joints and body to be that overweight…Luckily he has some wonderful people who are helping him get back to being the healthy, happy boy that is hiding beneath all that extra!

  4. Keeping a dog to a respectable weight can be so hard. Constant vigil after cruciat ligament op has kept our Honey’s weight down, because it is so important with dodgy legs. She always inhales her food and will try to get to any animal poo when walking if she can. Actually dog poo and lettuce are the only things she wont eat. Masses of grated carrot helps and, of course, giving medication is a breeze. 🙂

  5. Loved the video. May he get use to the water and the fruit and veggie snacks. My grandkids’ pup has been a vegetarian since they got him, and there is nothing he likes better than a piece of carrot. 🙂

  6. Great message. I learnt this lesson the hard way when we overfed our dogs and they got (a little) chubby. I’m happy to say that we worked really hard to get the weight off and they’re pretty good at the moment. Their quality of life is so much better and they play with a lot more excitement and joy now. Walking them once a day was not enough. Now, instead of their evening rawhide chew, we go out and play with them so they get rid of their evening energy. They love it.

    1. Good for you…and them! We have to keep at our Bella as well. She had surgery for a ruptured disc and the last thing she needs is excess weight.

  7. OMG – that just breaks my heart in pieces to see dogs like that. I just don’t understand what makes some people tick. I’m so glad they were able to get into some loving hands before it was too late. You all are such a blessing to those gorgeous creatures.

    1. Cindy, sometimes people just can’t recognize when they no longer have the capacity to care for their companion. It is a very hard and heart breaking decision for them to surrender their dog in order to do the best thing. Often, the decision comes much later than we would like, but we are still so thankful that they made it.

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