Overweight pets Pearl and Shorty lost a combined 38 pounds with help from their owners
Humans aren’t the only ones losing half their size and embracing a healthier lifestyle, PEOPLE found two dogs who are doing the same.
More than 55 percent of dogs are overweight or obese. With the help of their owners, these two canines beat the odds and dropped the extra weight they packed on over the years.
Shorty: A Chihuahua transformed from ‘pitiful’ to playful
When Carlie Cahill stopped in PetSmart in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in August 2018, the last thing she expected to get was a dog. She already had a 3-year-old Staffordshire terrier named Toad. But it was pet adoption day, and when Cahill left the store, she couldn’t stop thinking about Shorty, an 8-year-old Chihuahua mix that had caught her eye.
“He was so cute, and he just looked so miserable.” she says.
The next day she called Pitiful Pups, the organization that had rescued Shorty.
“I told them I wanted that fat little Chihuahua,” says Cahill, 24, a personal trainer and cardiology technician. “They were surprised.”
Shorty weighed 18 lbs., twice his ideal weight. He was diagnosed with a thyroid condition, for which he nows takes medication. Within a few months he slimmed down to 9 lbs. on a diet of high-protein kibble and green beans.
“Sometimes he gets a tiny bit of coconut oil to lick off a spoon,” says Cahill. “He loves that.”
He also loves Toad and now has the energy to keep up with him.
“Shorty could barely move when I first got him, but once he lost weight, I took him to the dog park and her started running,” Cahill says. “He can chase squirrels now.”
Pearl: An abandoned shelter dog became a regal beagle
The day that Pearl, a 50-lb. beagle, was surrendered to the Humane Society in Missoula, Montana, last December, Jessie Maclay was on duty.
“Pearl was so uncomfortable, she couldn’t even move,” says Maclay, 23, a member of the organization’s adoption team. “But her tail never stopped wagging. I knew I had to take her home.”
Pearl, now 12, was diagnosed with a dislocated hip, as well as Cushing’s disease, a chronic condition that can cause weight gain.
“She was completely unable to walk,” says Maclay, “but I wondered if she could swim.”
Maclay is also a volunteer at Montana Water Dogs, a facility that provides hydrotherapy for pets, and took Pearl there to strengthen her muscles and increase movement.
“She loved the pool,” says Maclay. “At first she could only swim for a minute. She worked up to 15 minutes a day, six days a week. By last summer she’s swim alongside me while I went paddleboating on the lake.”
Pearl’s weight-loss transformation continued once she healed from hip surgery and began medication to manage her Cushing’s disease. Maclay put Pearl on a veterinarian-prescribed diet of low-fat kibble, baby carrots, and frozen greens beans and bananas.
In 11 months, Pearl lost 30 lbs. She can now walk a mile.
“She’s as healthy as she can be,” says Maclay, who takes Pearl to work with her every day.
For more on the humans and pets who changed their life to get healthy, pick up a copy of PEOPLE, on newsstands now