Rufus Ruiters has been declared top dog in the 2009 Hill's Pet Slimmer of the Year, winning his owners a holiday in Mauritius. The 11-year-old Maltese Poodle from Johannesburg beat off weighty competition from over 1,000 cats and dogs in South Africa and Namibia. Rufus lost over 40% of his bodyweight, slimming from a rotund 12.2kg to a svelte 7.2kg.
Eighteen months ago Rufus was so obese that his short legs could barely cope with the load. His skin was covered in sores which he had licked raw; he was lethargic and seemed depressed. Veterinarian Dr Lorraine Moriaty advised Rufus’s owner Jenny Ruiters to embark upon a weight management programme for pets, because his health problems stemmed from his excessive weight.
"I used to cook Rufus minced beef and chicken breasts every week, and he used to enjoy a little of whatever we were eating," said Ruiters. "His new diet plan was a carefully weighed portion of pellets twice a day. The family decided I was the 'weakest link' and took over the feeding duties.
"We soon started to see a difference. Rufus's skin improved and the warts disappeared. He went for regular weigh-ins at Bromhof Veterinary Clinic and his steady weight-loss amazed me. From being a couch potato who slept most of the day, Rufus started to show a keen interest in the birds in the garden and walks became a joy, as we no longer had to carry him home. He can now fit through the security gate, and he has gained so much confidence. He's playful again like the puppy he once was, and likes to sing along to songs and play chase around the house."
Over 200 veterinary practices around South Africa and Namibia run Hill’s Pet Slimmer weight clinics, which – like human weight loss programmes – combine an eating plan with regular weight checks. Cats and dogs on the programme that achieved their target weight by 31 August were eligible to enter the annual competition. Eight finalists were chosen and the judges met each one before selecting Rufus as the winner. "With his good health, striking before photos, devoted family and heart-warming story Rufus was a natural winner," said Rina Cronwright, Managing Director of Hill’s Pet Nutrition and the competition's head judge.
South African vets say that about half the animals they treat weigh more than is healthy; US and UK figures reflect a similar pet obesity trend.
Pet obesity a serious problem
"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 the primary cause of obesity in pets is similar to that in people - eating too much and exercising too little. Very often it is loving owners that overfeed their pets not realising that they are literally “killing their pets with kindness”.
The Hill’s Pet Slimmer Programme started in South Africa 12 years ago to address the issue. "The competition puts a fun spin on a serious issue and raises awareness of the health implications," said Cronwright.
If you’d like your pet to slim down for a longer, healthier life call the Hill’s Pet Nutrition Careline toll-free (0800) 228 783 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for information on participating practices.
The 2009 Hill’s Pet Slimmer of the Year finalists:
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 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 8kg.
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.
Source: Issued by Paula Wilson Media Consulting on behalf of Hill’s Pet Nutrition.