You may remember reading about Nemo in our December issue – the Labrador from Durban that won the 2012 Hill’s Pet Slimmer of the Year having lost 22% of his bodyweight. Well it seems that Nemo is not alone in the battle of the bulge – vets say that about half the patients they see weigh more than is healthy. At the moment over 2,000 dogs and cats around South Africa are enrolled on the Hill’s Pet Slimmer programme, the weight-loss regime that helped Nemo and thousands of other animals reach their goal weight, since it started here in 1994.
The underlying cause of the obesity epidemic is similar in the pet and human populations – too much energy being consumed and too little used up, with people and pets leading increasingly sedentary lifestyles. To exacerbate this growing problem, many of us are guilty of treating our pets with unhealthy snacks and ‘human’ food to show how much we love them.
Dr Guy Fyvie, veterinary advisor for Hill’s Pet Nutrition, is one of the leading experts on pet obesity in South Africa. “Being overweight or obese puts cats and dogs at an increased risk of breathing problems, heart disease, arthritis and cancer. A fat cat is four times more likely to develop diabetes. People who over-feed their pet may actually be shortening its lifespan.”
But how do you know if your pet is piling on the pounds? Research suggests that most owners aren’t objective enough when it comes to this delicate topic; only 12.5% of dog owners and 20% of cat owners said they consider their pet to be overweight. For a professional opinion ask your vet or use the online tools available on www.petslimmer.co.za – the country’s leading source of pet weight management information. You’ll also find a list of clinics that run the Hill’s Pet Slimmer Programme and the inspiring stories of successful pet slimmers.
Patrys Stander, a wire-haired Jack Russell from Hartebeestpoort Dam and Pretoria, lost 32% of her bodyweight (14.8kg to 10kg), with the help of Atterbury Bird & Animal Hospital.