Consider this: 56 percent of pet dogs in the U.S. are overweight, with 30 percent of those being obese, according to a 2018 survey by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. Those statistics increase the likelihoods of pets being diagnosed with diabetes, heart disease, cancer and arthritis, resulting in shorter and reduced quality of life.
“We see so many dogs that are overweight and in some cases obese, and I am concerned for their health, happiness and longevity,” says Jean Stelten-Beuning, owner of Top Dog Country Club in New Germany.
Enter Top Dog’s Canine Weight Camp. “I developed the program details, and my operations manager, Stephanie [Nitzschke], came up with the idea,” Stelten-Beuning says. “It is something that we have unofficially done at Top Dog for years.” Previously, many clients, she says, have commented that their dogs return home from Top Dog with an increased fitness level, thanks to receiving five to six hours of daily group play in large outdoor play yards. “Often, my clients utilize a Top Dog vacation to help their dog lose those extra pounds, knowing that they are on a routine here with lots of exercise and knowing we don’t cave every time we get those begging eyes and noses nudging for extra treats,” Stelten-Beuning says.
But the Weight Camp takes things a step further. “The program is completely customized based upon the dog and [his/her] medical situation,” she says. “We work with the dog’s current veterinarian, as they know the dog’s history. Exercise can include swim therapy, walks, flexibility exercises [and more].”
The program involves a kick-start getaway to Top Dog with a veterinarian-directed diet and exercise, followed by a customized plan and a maintenance program, including diet recommendations and a continued exercise regime. Applicable costs include the standard boarding/daycare fee, which includes five to six hours of group play, plus a $100 administrative fee. Additional walks, swim therapy and flexibility exercises and vet transport would be in addition.
Maintaining a pet’s healthy weight once a goal is achieved doesn’t equate with denying him/her an item or two from the table. “I am not against a treat from the table now and then,” Stelten-Beuning says. “My own dogs always get a bite of my beef tenderloin when I treat myself or a bite of broccoli. However, I am very careful to never give them sweets or grains, which serve no useful purpose in a dog’s diet.” She recommends apple slices and vegetables, which are good low calorie treats for dogs. “A quality dog food, free from fillers, grains and other carbohydrates, is complete and balanced for dogs and should be their primary source of nutrition,” Stelten-Beuning says.