Tips for helping pets lose weight

Posted: Sunday, April 18, 2004

Weight loss and fitness are not only important to people's good health, but to pets' as well. Humans can determine if their pet is overweight by:

Feeling your pet's sides. You should be able to feel, but not see, his or her ribs.

Standing behind your pet and looking down. You should see an hourglass shape. If not, it may be time for a diet.

Kneeling down and looking at your pet's belly from the side. It should be tucked up slightly from his rib cage to his rear end, not flat or hanging down.

To help make the job of pet weight loss a bit easier, experts offer the following tips:

1. Seek veterinary care. Before putting your pet on a diet, check with your vet.

2. Exercise daily. Pets should have 20 to 30 minutes of exercise daily to eliminate extra calories and sustain muscle tone.

3. Make it fun. Walking, chasing a ball and jogging are good for dogs, while cats can tone up by chasing objects in the house or even walking on a leash with you during a daily stroll.

4. Portion control. Owners should follow the feeding amount recommended by their veterinarian or provided on the pet food package. 5. Avoid repeat feedings. Decide who will feed the dog or cat, so no one accidentally feeds extra meals.

6. Stay consistent. Make sure all meals are provided in the pet's bowl.

7. No table scraps. Not only does human food often contain bones that can get caught in an animal's throat or splinter and puncture the digestive tract, but it also can be high in fat and not well-balanced for an animal's needs.

8. Substitute play for food. When a pet seeks attention, play with him instead of turning to edible treats.

9. Select a low-fat premium food. When switching to a low-fat food, it's important to change the food gradually. Provide your pet's daily food portion as 75 percent of the old food and 25 percent of the new formula on the first day. For day two, try a 50-50 ratio. Then, proceed to a 25-75 split. On day 4, go to 100 percent of the new low-fat formula.

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