Dog Days Make Big Splash at Glenview’s Carriage Hill
Workouts in a farm pond for a surgery-rehabbing hunting dog inspired what is now like an indoor water park for pooches on Waukegan Road. “Swimming has been such an asset for Bella,” said Christine Vicere of Chicago, who takes her Labradoodle regularly to Carriage Hill Kennel’s indoor aquatic center in Glenview. “We walk her every day, but she’s 4 and has so much energy. I can’t possibly run with her.”
With pets often confined to four walls because of busy owners and urbanization, they may get mere minutes of exercise a day. They also might be hindered by health and mobility issues that can becompounded by running on city streets or sidewalks. Some owners take their pets to the beach, but weather can curtail that option.
Exercise determines up to 40 percent of a dog’s weight and 90 percent of a cat’s, with the rest dependent on diet, said North Carolina veterinarian Ernie Ward, who founded the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. The group’s recent fifth annual survey of vets showed 25 percent of cats and 21 percent of dogs were obese in 2011, revealing a steady upward climb over previous years.
Pets are classified as overweight if their abdomens sag and their ribs are hard to feel, and obese if they have large fat deposits, their abdomens sag prominently, they have no waist and their chests appear distended or swollen. The excess weight can be detrimental to a pet’s internal organs, joints and longevity, not to mention its owner’s pocketbook.
Ward has a sound bite for what’s happening. “Pet obesity is a people problem, not a pet problem,” he said, because people control what’s put in pets’ mouths. “Humans associate food with love, celebration, satisfaction,” Ward said. “But dogs don’t associate food with their birthdays. We say, ‘I love you,’ and then give them food, when what dogs want is interaction with us.”
Glenview veterinarian Ashley Rossman sees the problem every day and even wrestles with it at home with her German shepherd. When he looks up at her with those big brown eyes, it’s hard to resist giving him what she knows is a high-calorie treat. “I swear, my dog would eat until he exploded,” she said.
Still, she tries to control her urges, and gently nudges her clients toward acknowledging that pudgy is no more cute in pets than in humans, and that the humans should help their animals stay lean and fit.
Brae Korin’s black Labrador, Harley, swims at Carriage Hill twice a week to help with his severe hip dysplasia. The hope is to avoid surgery, which Korin, of Winnetka, said could cost $5,500 for one hip.
“He is the most active, energetic dog we ever had,” she said. Yet his weight can creep up from a desired 75 pounds to about 85, and his hips can give out, as they did a couple of years ago when he couldn’t leave the water at the beach.