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Case study: Juggling medication with lifestyle

Tolly’s Story

Tolly joined our family in December 2018, a perfectly normal (mad) Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever who we all instantly fell in love with. For the first few weeks everything was brilliant but around four months old we noticed that Tolly had started to lose his puppy lust for life and was slowing down and not playing as much as he did. Within a few weeks he was becoming noticeably unwell and began to suffer bouts of a mystery illness that would leave him not eating, lethargic and in a lot of pain. At the peak of the attacks we would find him stood upright, unable to comfortably sit or lie, with his head and neck straight in front of him and staring at a wall. It was so distressing to witness, especially in a puppy and our vet was baffled.

Long story short and Tolly was eventually diagnosed, with the help of a new vet and following a lumbar puncture, with SRMA, a form of Meningitis which ‘Tollers’ are particularly prone to. In his first year of life he endured 7 attacks of SRMA but once the vet started him on a long steroid course he quickly became free of symptoms and was able to enjoy puppy life again.

The down side of long-term steroid use, as many dog owners will know, is a propensity to put on weight, as well as (cruelly) developing an unsatiable appetite. Despite our best efforts Tolly began to gain weight and in a matter of weeks his weight had gone from 26kg to 31.4kg. Around this time I had been introduced to PitPat by a friend who has a working Cocker Spaniel, “Dodger”. He wanted to keep track of the hours his dog was working and exercising in order to make sure his diet was appropriate. He showed me Dodger’s stats on the PitPat App, and as a bit of a gadget freak myself, I thought it might be something Tolly would benefit from.

Man and Duck Toller retriever sat on a rock

It was a novelty at first, and we enjoyed downloading each day’s activity to the app and proudly boasting of our badges and achievements!  We increased Tolly’s exercise and watched each day’s stats improve but he wasn’t losing weight. Back at the vets Tolly was put on a Weight Management Plan, and a strict Metabolic diet. No treats either, other than he could eat as much cucumber as he liked. He was not in the slightest impressed with that, but to be fair in the end he developed a taste for it.

Rather than fill out a diary (as the veterinary nurse requested) we decided to use the information gleaned from PitPat to monitor Tolly’s progress and the impact the types of exercise he was doing on his weight loss. It’s important to understand and accept that PitPat is not a GPS device. It provides you with an indication of your dog’s activity through miniature accelerometers within the unit. I walk with a Garmin anyway and we have found that the distances recorded are about right, given that Tolly tends to walk up to 50% further than I do, as I am not doubling back every 30 seconds or so on the off chance that I might have detected some week old poo left on the verge.

Our best PitPat day, so far!…

Tolly’s breed are used for duck hunting in North America and his webbed feet and double coat, together with powerful legs and excellent buoyancy makes him a strong swimmer. And boy does he like to swim!  Every day our long walk incorporates a visit to a large lake where he swims for around 20 minutes. The PitPat goes everywhere he goes, including the water. We have it fixed to his walking harness, so it is only recording the formal exercise he does, rather than the day’s ‘pottering’. He doesn’t wear a collar anymore because the fur removed from his neck for the lumbar puncture is struggling to grow back.

Duck Toller Retriever wearing a harness

In around 8 weeks, thanks to a combination of a metabolic diet and lots and lots of exercise, recorded and monitored through the PitPat, Tolly has smashed his target weight and is now 24.7 kg!  The veterinary nurse who runs the weight management program was really impressed with the PitPat and how we had utilised it to complement Tolly’s plan. An additional benefit is being able to share Tolly’s calorie burning data with our dog food provider to ensure that he is taking in enough calories to fuel the exercise. We will continue to use PitPat to record our walks and of course chase the next badge or award!  Having the PitPat and being able to review so much data on the App has been transformational in getting Tolly fit and healthy again. The customer service from PitPat has also been brilliant with lots of communication and advice. I would thoroughly recommend getting a PitPat for your dog, either to assist in a fitness/weight management program, or just for fun!

Duck Toller Retriever and a Shetland Sheepdog

Tolly and his new best friend, our Shetland Sheepdog pup Tilly!

Richard Langton and Tolly

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