It’s not just a people problem: Growing rates of obesity in pets have led to the emergence of fat farms offering “pawlates,” “doga” and “barko polo” — doggy versions of Pilates, yoga and Marco Polo — to help slim down man’s best friend.
In the United States, 53 percent of dogs are overweight, up from 45 percent four years ago. In cats, the figure is almost 58 percent, said Ernie Ward, a veterinarian and founder of the Association of Pet Obesity Prevention in Calabash, North Carolina. Overweight pets can suffer diabetes, joint problems, heart disease and decreased life expectancy, he said.
Most luxury pet hotels and spas will customize a fitness program for a pudgy dog or cat, but only a few have fat camps for large groups.
For golden retriever Ceili, it was easy to fatten up when living with a boy who dropped food from his highchair. The extra weight led Eileen Bowers of Bedminster, New Jersey, to sign up the more-than-100-pound pooch for a five-day fitness camp last month at Morris Animal Inn.
Besides pawlates, the camp offered swimming, nature hikes, treadmill trots, massages and healthful treats such as organic granola. It was designed to give Ceili and 40 other dogs a head start on a healthier life, said Debora Montgomery, the New Jersey camp’s spokeswoman.
Wonder how you get a dog to do a downward dog? You wouldn’t recognize that yoga pose in the canine version. In doga, stretches are close to the ground, while pawlates uses higher-up balance equipment, such as large exercise balls, Montgomery said.
And the barko polo pool game varies from its human inspiration: A staffer shouts “barko,” and the first dog-paddling pooch to yelp gets a toy.
In all activities, “the dogs work for their meals. We praise and make the sessions fun and interactive,” Montgomery said.
Bowers started sending her dog to the Morris Animal Inn months ago when Ceili hit 126 pounds. Usually, female golden retrievers weigh between 55 and 70 pounds, Montgomery said. Ceili got down to 118 but went to camp to lose more.
“We want her to be around for a long time,” Bowers said.