Love means helping them become slim
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.
Sporting her new look, winner Ruby with proud owner Diane Roux, of Cape Town.
Experts recommend owners take action to help obese pets.