Love means help­ing them be­come slim

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - NEWS -

SOUTH Africa’s most suc­cess­ful pet slim­mer – the 2017 Hill’s Pet Slim­mer of the Year – was an­nounced ear­lier this month and the “top dog” is a gor­geous dachshund from Wet­ton, Cape Town.

Ruby, Di­ane and

Eu­gene Roux’s minia­ture dachshund, lost 3.6kg (42% of body­weight), go­ing from 8.6kg to 5kg, under the care of Blue Cross Ve­teri­nary Hos­pi­tal in New­lands.

Di­ane said: “I adopted Ruby in July 2014 from friends who were em­i­grat­ing. She was a happy, healthy dog, or at least I thought so. My fam­ily started say­ing that Ruby was fat, but I al­ways replied that they must be jok­ing, my lit­tle Ruby was not fat.

“Then I saw a poster in the window of our lo­cal vet shop about pet obe­sity and de­cided to take Ruby for a weigh­ing. We went to see Chyanne McCleeve at Blue Cross Ve­teri­nary Hos­pi­tal. I nearly fell over when Chyanne said my lit­tle girl was around 3kg over­weight. She sug­gested we put Ruby on the Hill’s meta­bolic food, which she loved – Ruby loves food.”

Once Ruby, 4, reached her ideal weight, Roux said the dog was hap­pier, health­ier and younger look­ing.

Hill’s Pet Nu­tri­tion South Africa started the Hill’s

Pet Slim­mer of the Year com­pe­ti­tion in 1997. The inspiration was the grow­ing prob­lem of obe­sity in pet cats and dogs. Al­though obe­sity poses se­ri­ous med­i­cal risks, many vet­eri­nar­i­ans were find­ing weight a touchy topic to dis­cuss with clients.

The an­nual con­test, now in its 20th year, puts a fun spin on this se­ri­ous is­sue and helps raise pub­lic aware­ness on the im­por­tance of main­tain­ing a healthy weight.

Carolyn Her­rick, gen­eral man­ager at Hill’s

Pet Nu­tri­tion South Africa and one of the judges for this year’s com­pe­ti­tion, told Week­end Ar­gus any dog or cat that reaches its goal weight on the Hill’s

Pet Slim­mer pro­gramme (a ve­teri­nary-su­per­vised weight loss pro­gramme run by hun­dreds of ve­teri­nary prac­tices) is el­i­gi­ble to en­ter the com­pe­ti­tion.

“To en­ter they need to reach their goal weight be­fore the clos­ing date (midAu­gust each year). From

100 en­trants this year, 10 fi­nal­ists were cho­sen based on their story, be­fore and after pho­tos, weight loss (in ki­los and body per­cent­age) and their suit­abil­ity as a Hill’s am­bas­sador. The panel of judges then re­viewed each fi­nal­ist and chose the top three,” she said.

As first place am­bas­sador, Ruby won R10 000 and the cov­eted 2017 Hill’s Pet Slim­mer of the Year ti­tle. Run­ner-up An­nie, Shanene Bey­ers’s dachshund from Cen­tu­rion, won R7 000. Third place was a tie be­tween Bella, Pauline and Flip Hel­berg’s Labrador re­triever from Lim­popo, and Arial, Beatrix and Coen­raad Naude’s Jack Rus­sell from Pre­to­ria. Each won R5 000.

Her­rick said: “The main mes­sage of this com­pe­ti­tion is love your pet enough to go for reg­u­lar weight as­sess­ments, as it’s hard to be ob­jec­tive about those we love and see ev­ery day.” OBE­SITY has be­come one of the biggest prob­lems for pets in the coun­try. South African vets say more than half the pa­tients they treat are over­weight. Glob­ally, obe­sity is the most press­ing health is­sue fac­ing cats and dogs to­day.

Ac­cord­ing to ex­perts, chubby should not be a pa­ram­e­ter for mea­sur­ing your pet’s cute­ness. They say that, by over­feed­ing them, you are po­ten­tially killing your pet with kind­ness.

“Over­feed­ing your pet is def­i­nitely not lov­ing them, it can ac­tu­ally shorten their life and make them less happy. It’s clin­i­cally proven that an­i­mals who lose ex­cess weight have a bet­ter qual­ity of life than when they were fat,” said Dr Guy Fyvie, ve­teri­nary af­fairs man­ager at Hill’s Pet Nu­tri­tion South Africa.

Oc­to­ber was na­tional Pet Obe­sity Month, with vets around the coun­try of­fer­ing free weight as­sess­ments.

What is pet obe­sity?

Obe­sity in pets is de­fined by an ex­cess of body fat.

It’s es­sen­tially any pet that weighs more than it should and the most com­mon nu­tri­tional dis­ease af­fect­ing pets to­day.

Sis­ter Norma Boshoff, a ve­teri­nary nurse who runs the weight clinic at Tyger­berg An­i­mal Hos­pi­tal, told Week­end Ar­gus that there are five ar­eas to mon­i­tor for signs of obe­sity:

If you look from the top you should see a marked mid­dle or "waist".

If you put your hand on the side you should feel the ribs under a layer of skin.

From un­der­neath, the tummy should curve up­wards, not sag or hang – even in a bull­dog.

At the base of the tail there shouldn’t be any fatty de­posit or dip.

From the side, the legs should look long and el­e­gant – the only breeds al­lowed to have "short" legs are those like dachshunds and cor­gis.

“I've of­ten heard peo­ple say ‘my dog has short legs’ when in truth it’s sim­ply over­weight,” Boshoff said.

Is your pet obese or just slightly chubby?

Re­search sug­gests most peo­ple can’t tell if their pet weighs more than is healthy. Nine out of 10 own­ers of over­weight pets mis­tak­enly be­lieve their pet is a healthy weight.

“Once a pet is car­ry­ing ex­cess fat, the in­flam­ma­tory pro­cesses that re­late to obe­sity start. So whether a pet is obese or ‘slightly chubby’ its long-term health is be­ing com­pro­mised and it’s ad­vis­able to take ac­tion. If any­one uses the word chubby about your an­i­mal you can be pretty sure it’s over­weight,” Fyvie said.

What causes obe­sity in pets?

“Over­feed­ing them is the most com­mon cause of obe­sity. Shar­ing your treats and human food with them – dogs will al­most never say no, they will just keep on eat­ing,” Boshoff said.

In ma­ture pets the meta­bolic rate de­creases, just like ours. You can­not feed an older pet the same amount as when they were younger and more ac­tive. Ig­no­rance and lack of aware­ness is a big fac­tor.

When a pet is spayed or neutered, their me­tab­o­lism gets slower and meals should be ad­justed ac­cord­ingly.

The amount of ex­er­cise a pet re­quires varies, but all pets should have reg­u­lar ex­er­cise. Short daily walks are bet­ter than a long one once a week. Sim­ply play­ing in the yard is not ex­er­cise.

What are the health risks sur­round­ing obe­sity?

Joint dis­eases, in­clud­ing rup­tured knee lig­a­ments and hip and back pain. Breath­ing dif­fi­cul­ties and heart prob­lems are also com­mon.

Pan­cre­ati­tis is a se­ri­ous con­di­tion that can be caused by high fat in­take. Skin prob­lems can be caused by folds in the fat mak­ing groom­ing dif­fi­cult. Di­a­betes is an­other prob­lem and one that can be dif­fi­cult to man­age.

“There is noth­ing worse in life than hav­ing chronic pain or dif­fi­culty breath­ing and both th­ese prob­lems can be avoided by main­tain­ing a healthy weight. When I see an over­weight pa­tient, I al­ways re­as­sure their own­ers this is a health prob­lem that we can cure,” Boshoff said.

What are some of the steps to avoid pet obe­sity?

Feed the cor­rect amount for the pet’s age and life­style.

Do reg­u­lar weight checks and keep track of your pet’s weight. Get a body con­di­tion score from your vet.

Ad­just the feed­ing to fit the an­i­mal. For ex­am­ple, as a pet be­comes older, less ac­tive or is ster­ilised, food por­tions should be ad­justed ac­cord­ingly.

Are some an­i­mals more sus­cep­ti­ble to obe­sity?

“Cats can be sus­cep­ti­ble be­cause they are so of­ten lazy – and happy to eat, sleep and do lit­tle else,” Boshoff said, as are cer­tain dog breeds such as Labradors.

Of­ten work­ing dogs that are no longer ac­tive gain weight, eg Jack Rus­sells, dachshunds, etc. Ster­ilised pets are also more likely to gain weight.

Food re­quire­ments for obese pets?

“We’ve been con­di­tioned to need to be told how much to feed our pets, as per the in­struc­tions on kib­ble/pel­let pack­ag­ing. The truth is that there is no right an­swer. While we pro­vide a feed­ing guide, it is only a guide­line; we en­cour­age own­ers to mon­i­tor re­sponse and ad­just meal por­tions ac­cord­ingly,” said Ilse Makowka, from Raw Love Pets.

Boshoff rec­om­mends re­stricted calo­ries for weight loss. The por­tion size de­pends on the an­i­mal’s re­quire­ments. She rec­om­mends feed­ing a min­i­mum of twice a day, ide­ally three times, care­fully mea­sur­ing out the right amount of the daily al­lowance.

PIC­TURE: BREN­TON GEACH

Sport­ing her new look, win­ner Ruby with proud owner Di­ane Roux, of Cape Town.

PIC­TURE: ERIK LAM

Ex­perts rec­om­mend own­ers take ac­tion to help obese pets.

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