It's not only we humans that are trying to shape up for summer. This year over a thousand dogs and cats joined a special weight loss programme run by vets countrywide. And of those that have already reached their goal weight, eight have been chosen as the finalists in the 2009 Hill's Pet Slimmer of the Year Competition. These include a cat burglar, a blind Dachshund and "the only dog that ever put on weight at the SPCA".
South African vets say that about half the animals they treat weigh more than is healthy and US and UK figures reflect the same widespread problem of pet obesity.
"Obesity is a disease and a serious problem," said Dr Guy Fyvie, veterinary advisor for Hill’s Pet Nutrition. "Excess weight can cause arthritis, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and discomfort; it can also negatively affect the outcome of surgery." Research has shown that overweight pets live two years less than those at their optimum weight.
Pet Slimmer entrants
Entrants for the Hill’s Pet Slimmer title had to have achieved their target weight by 31 August to be eligible to enter this year's contest. The selection was based on weight loss, the background story, the evidence (before and after photos) and the veterinarian's testimonial. Now the judges are meeting each of the finalists before deciding on the winner (to be announced in late November). The owner of the winning pet will win a luxury holiday in Mauritius and three month's supply of Hill’s.
Collectively the entrants in this year's contest have lost a third of a ton of fat (364kg), with the eight finalists shedding an average of 33% of their bodyweight.
Dr Fyvie said that the primary cause of obesity in pets is similar to that in people - eating too much and exercising too little. Fyvie says that it is usually "loving owners" who overfeed their pets, without realising that they are literally "killing their pets with kindness".
Fun spin on obesity
The Hill's Pet Slimmer Programme started in South Africa 12 years ago to address the issue. "Obesity was already a big problem but the vets didn't know how best to broach the topic with owners. The competition puts a fun spin on a serious issue and raises awareness of the health implications," said Rina Cronwright, one of the competition judges and managing director of Hill's Pet Nutrition.
According to Dr Fyvie the Hill's Pet Slimmer programme combines regular weigh-ins and exercise recommendations with a scientifically formulated 'diet' food for pets – Hill's Prescription Diet r/d. "This is the only pet food proven to help turn off the genes responsible for fat storing and turn on those responsible for fat burning. This change in metabolism helps reach the goal of sustainable and safe long term weight management for a healthy happy pet."
The 2009 Hill's Pet Slimmer of the Year Finalists are:
- Asterix Nel, a blind Dachshund from Strand, Western Cape that went from 10.8kg to 7.4kg.
- Calsi Carrasco, a greedy "garbage disposal" Labrador from La Lucia, Durban that went from 38.9kg to 28.8kg.
- Mickey Holl, a Jack Russell from Pretoria whose greatest love used to be pancakes. She went from 14kg to 8.7kg.
- Ounooi Koch, a Dachshund from Pretoria whose owners who did not believe it was possible she could lose weight. She went from 11.7kg to 5.9kg.
- Peanut Hellwig, a Jack Russell from Swakopmund, Namibia that went from 10.8kg to 8kgs.
- Phumba Alledahn a Staffie from Hillcrest, Durban, that was "the only dog that put on weight at the SPCA". He went from 28kg to 21kg.
- Picasso Kornmuller, a Burmese cat from Johannesburg who used to steal food from the neighbouring flat that went from 7.2kg to 5kg.
- Rufus Ruiters, a Maltese from Johannesburg whose tummy used to drag on the floor. He went from 12.2kg to 7.2kg.
The 2008 winners Vinkel and Koljander, Spaniel siblings from Pretoria, each lost almost a third of their bodyweight on the programme. Ella Pienaar, the dogs' owner, says that since they lost weight they "are both full of energy and good health and Koljander's back problem has disappeared."
For an objective assessment ask your vet for a free weight check. For more information about practices running the Hill's Pet Slimmer programme call the Hill's Pet Nutrition Careline toll free on (0800) 228 783 or log onto www.HillsPet.co.za.
Issued by Paula Wilson Media Consulting for Hill's Pet Nutrition.