When I met Sally, a 6-year-old yellow Labrador, she tipped the scales at 105 pounds, well over her ideal weight of 60 to 70 pounds. Sally’s adoptive owner asked me to devise a weight-loss program—no easy task given that Sally’s size prevented her from walking more than a few steps at a time.
Unfortunately, Sally has plenty of company. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention estimates that over 45 percent of dogs and 58 percent of cats are overweight or obese, setting them up for arthritis, diabetes or even cancer.
When you pet your dog or cat, rub your hands along her sides. If you can’t readily feel her ribs, she could be overweight too. Talk to your vet to create a safe and effective weight-loss program. And keep these guidelines—many of which helped Sally go from flab to fab—in mind.
- Ignore feeding instructions on pet-food labels. This invariably results in overfeeding. Your vet can tell you how much and how often to feed based on your pet’s age, breed and lifestyle.
- Weigh regularly. Extra pounds can go unnoticed. Weigh your pet every two to three months at the vet’s, where the scale is more accurate (weigh-ins are usually free).
- Form a dog-walking club. This will provide health benefits at both ends of the leash.
- Trade in fattening snacks for no-calorie “attention treats.” For Sally, that meant belly rubs and playtime with a variety of toys.
- Practice due diligence. Certain dog breeds (Labs, Pugs, Dachshunds, Basset Hounds and Golden Retrievers, for instance) are predisposed to being overweight. If you fancy such a breed, prepare to be a lifelong calorie counter.
- Get professional help. A prescription weight loss diet, plus time spent on an underwater treadmill that allowed her to exercise without stressing her joints, helped Sally slim down to a svelte 67 pounds in three months. Yes, such help may be pricey, but it will likely save you on healthcare treatments—and heartache—in the long run.
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