Even some dogs and cats could stand to drop a few pounds.
These days, humans aren't the only ones fighting the battle of the bulge. "I see more and more overweight cats and dogs at my practice today than ever before," says Tanya Ellenbogen, D.V.M., a veterinarian in Boston and the owner of two cats -- "one of whom is fatter than he should be." And the health risks for obese pets are the same as for humans: excess weight strains the joints, as well as the heart and other organs. Consult your vet to figure out the best serving size, the ideal weight for your pet, and how long it should take to get there. Then follow these steps:
- Switch to "diet," "light" or "less active" food. Gradually mix the diet variety with the regular feed over a 10-day period, until your pet gets used to the light food.
- Feed cats and small, finicky dogs once a day. Feed large overeaters once, and take the food away after 20 minutes, says Ellenbogen: "If they're hungry, they'll finish in that amount of time. If they don't, it means they've had enough."
- Up the amount of exercise you give your pet. Take your dog for a jog, or buy your cat a new toy and spend time playing with him.
- Weigh the animal once a month in the presence of your vet to make sure he's not losing weight too fast. All animals have different metabolisms, but as a general rule, cats should lose no more than 20 percent of their body weight per year; dogs no more than 30 percent.
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