- Special Pages
By Dorene Internicola
As the obesity rate soars among Americans, their dogs are getting potbellied, too, encouraging fitness companies to come up with a range of equipment and classes to get pampered pets back into shape.
From canine-tailored treadmills, to puppy pedometers and group fitness classes, there’s no shortage of tools to trim and tone the sagging paunches of pooches. As part of his fitness routine, Rocky, a rotund dachshund, traipses a mini-treadmill designed for small dogs.
“When Rocky first came to us, he looked like a small marine animal,” said Dr Dennis Arn, veterinarian at the Desert Inn Animal Hospital in Las Vegas, Nevada. “He’s got a waistline now and his conditioning is significantly better.”
Just like their owners, obesity affects pets’ longevity and quality of life. About 53 percent of adult dogs are classified by their veterinarians as obese, according to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention.
To combat the weighty issue, Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine in North Grafton, Massachusetts, announced the creation of the nation’s first obesity clinic last month, geared specially towards pets.
“If you can’t lay your hands on them and feel the ribs pretty easily, they’re obese,” said Arn, adding that too many pet owners reward their charges with treats.
“As a blanket statement, a dog needs at least 30 minutes (of exercise) a day,” said Geralynn Cada, who has been training dogs for more than 30 years. “A dog who is less active is less happy and has more health problems.”
Cada, who is based in Nevada, teaches classes such as dog yoga, puppy Pilates, and a canine interval training course known as Retrieve and Burn.
Physical issues aside, dogs that are denied exercise often develop behavioral problems, she said.
“A tired dog is a happy dog,” Cada said. “If your dog gets bored, they’ll search for purpose and that purpose will be to chew up your wallet.”
To burn off her high-strung husky’s extra enthusiasm as well as calories, Cada runs him regularly on his dog treadmill, dubbed the DogPACER.
David Ezra, CEO of DogPACER, said he got the idea for the canine cardio machine after observing clients at his fitness centres.