Dog Weight Loss and Cat Weight Loss Tips Help Owners Ensure an Overweight Pet Succeeds at Healthy Weight Loss

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New Year's resolutions to lose weight are not just for the family, but for the family pet. An overweight dog or overweight cat is subject to many of the same health risks as humans. A pet diet that is too drastic can be unhealthy.

We are so used to seeing overweight pets that many people do not even know whether their pet is overweight or not, and they feel just terrible to think they have contributed to their pet's problem.

Healthy eating and weight loss are not just good New Year's resolutions for the family, but also for the family pet, which can suffer many of the same health risks from obesity as humans.

Obesity in dogs and cats can result in diabetes, cardiovascular disease, back problems and joint deterioration, according to Dr. Anne Chauvet, a veterinary neurologist and neurosurgeon. However, an overweight dog or overweight cat must be managed properly or their health can actually be damaged, Chauvet said.

"I do many back surgeries in my practice, so I see firsthand the damage that can result from excess weight," she said. "We are so used to seeing overweight pets that many people do not even know whether their pet is overweight or not, and they feel just terrible to think they have contributed to their pet's problem." She added that too much food and too little exercise are the formula for weight gain in pets just as it is for pet owners.

Chauvet cautions that food should never be cut back severely or abruptly to avoid metabolic imbalances. Weight loss should be slow and steady whether for an overweight cat or dog. Aim to lose about 1 percent of body weight per week, she said.

Always start a pet weight loss program with a visit to a veterinarian who can recommend the correct amount of food and advise how to reduce the amount of food gradually. He or she also will determine if your dog is overweight or your cat is healthy enough for a weight loss program and uncover any underlying issues, such as an underactive thyroid that could contribute to the weight gain, she said.

Judge healthy weight by body shape rather than a scale. Looking at a dog or cat from above, there should be a slightly indented "waist" between hips and ribs, and the ribs should be felt easily. Most veterinary offices have a chart for dogs and a chart for cats that show proper body shape.

Whether pets are on a diet or not, a measured amount of food should be given to them once or twice a day, preferably at the same time each day. Gradually eliminate the bottomless food bowl.

Treat time is bonding time for pets and owners, so don't eliminate them altogether, according to Chauvet. Reduce the number of treats and give them in smaller pieces. Some dogs like frozen green beans and cats or dogs may enjoy a small treat of soft cheese.

Regular exercise is crucial. Dogs should be walked twice a day for a minimum of 10 to 15 minutes. If a dog is really out of shape, gradually work up to that amount. Certain breeds, mainly working dogs, may enjoy more exercise, she said. Coax your cat to chase a toy or a string.

"If kitty cries for more food, pet her and try to distract her. If that does not work, ignore her. The same for Fido's begging," Chauvet said. "Be more persistent than they are, after all this is for their own good. The goal is for our animal companions to live a long, healthy and happy life."

About Veterinary Neuro Services:
Dr. Anne Chauvet, one of about 150 veterinary neurologists and neurosurgeons in North America, is the founder of Veterinary Neuro Services in Sarasota, Fla. Veterinary Neuro Services treats brain, spinal cord and neuromuscular conditions in animals and is the only strictly neurology and neurosurgery practice on Florida's Gulf Coast. More information is available by calling 941-929-1818 or online at http://www.PetNeuro.com.

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Sue Engelhart
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