It seems Australian dog owners are on the verge of killing their pets with kindness, as the number of obesity-related vet visits has jumped 300 percent in just the past two years.
But a new high-tech doggy device is whipping pampered pooches back into shape – the Fitbark.
Using the same technology used in popular fitness monitors for people, Fitbark allows you to monitor your dog’s activity, from number of steps taken to minutes at rest, as well as set fitness targets and deliver ‘Bark points’ as your dog strides towards its goal.
It’s lightweight, easy to use, clips onto your dog's collar, and uploads data directly to your smartphone app.
You can even follow your friends’ dogs' progress.
Ripper is one such hefty pup, whose owner Alex Thomas, CEO of Australia’s largest pet insurer, PetSure, is taking action to ensure his health is top-notch.
"Back in October our vet took a feel of his ribs, couldn’t feel them – so we took some steps straight away," she said.
"Those steps were monitoring his food, but also exercising him regularly. We went from a very short walk a day to two walks a day, and having the discipline with the app enabled us to track his progress. He’s lost a kilo and a half."
Already popular in the US, the Fitbark is now just being rolled out to Australia— and the market is huge.
"There’s eight million dogs and cats in Australia, and we spend 12 billion dollars on those dogs and cats," said Ms Thomas said.
Food, veterinary bills, toys, treats and grooming all go into that figure – with more and more pampering turning pets into couch potatoes.
"Obesity is a huge problem with our pets," veterinary surgeon Julie Summerfield said.
"About 40 percent of our dogs are overweight, and that leads to a lot of other physical problems like arthritis, diabetes, heart conditions. But exercise is really important."
This little doggy device could help owners change the dog-obesity tide.
And so far, they’re loving it.
"I can plan exercise ahead looking at the app," said Kerby Sadler, owner of French Bulldog Iggy. "I know how far to walk him, or how much time I have to put aside."
Even if your dog is home alone, you can see what it’s been up to on your smart phone. You can track how many steps it’s done, how much it’s slept and even how much it's barked – which can give clues about agitation and anxiety.
You can track your pup day-to-day, or hour-to-hour, and view an overall 'Health index' and 'Sleep score."
And you’ll get an alert when your dog hits its fitness goal.
Dog owner Sarah Forsyth says her own fitness and her dog Sophie’s fitness go hand-in hand.
Sophie’s been using the Fitbark for about six weeks.
"It’s important for me to make sure that’s she’s happy. It’s the number one thing. And that means being fit and healthy," Ms Forsyth said.
"They say a tired dog is a happy dog."
The Fitbark retails for $80.95 US ($107.65 AUD) and can be purchased from Fitbark.com.