2120081211140252saddog If you're using the new year to kick start a diet and get in shape -- don't forget your pets! The fourth annual Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) National Pet Obesity Awareness Day Study found approximately 53% of cats and 55% of dogs were overweight or obese.
Let's lower those numbers in 2012!
Just as it is for you, so it goes for your dog: The first step to losing weight involves a balanced and healthy diet. Chicago veterinarian Dr. Tony Kremer noted, "It's amazing how many people think their dog isn't eating enough, and yet so many dogs are overweight."
The problem starts, he said, when pet owners -- fueled by either a sense of duty or guilt in leaving pets home alone -- want to do something nice for them. So they give them a tasty (translation: high-fat and high-salt) treat.
Instead, Kremer recommends finding another way to respond to a dog's perceived need for attention. "Usually, it just wants positive reinforcement,'' he said. "And you can do that in moderation -- for your pet and yourself.''
For the dog, in particular, he recommends putting its normal kibble in a plastic container and rattling it, then giving it one piece, followed by praise.
"There's an old saying,'' said Andrea Metcalf, a fitness expert in Chicago, "if your dog is getting fat, you're not getting enough exercise. Unfortunately, a lot of people think they don't have the time to get it in -- for themselves or their animals.''
But now is the time for you and your pet to get in shape together!
Metcalf said that even a 10-minute walk in the morning and evening, combined with an appropriate diet, can make a difference. As you and your pet get stronger, she recommends going for longer walks on the weekend, hiking, biking, and even running.
For more detailed workouts you can do with your dog, check out the following:
WebVet: Dog workouts for weight loss and control
WebVet: Yoga for dogs
Play time! "All animals love to play,'' Colleen Currigan, DVM, of the Cat Hospital of Chicago, said. "Playtime is fun for cats, and it's excellent bonding time with owners for them. It's attention without food, and it's fun and stimulating for them.''
Offer a variety of toys and switch them around. "To keep your cat from getting bored with them, don't leave the toys out all the time, and regularly alternate the ones your kitty is allowed to play with,'' Currigan said.
Use food as a toy. Currigan said owners also could feed their cats by putting dry food in a treat ball. The cat has to move the ball to get to the food. Some veterinarians also suggest moving the food bowl around to different locations -- or splitting the food among several bowls in different locations.