Pet Diets

  • Work with your veterinarian. A checkup will rule out health problems that can cause weight gain, such as diabetes, hypothyroidism, Cushing’s disease, and other hormonal disorders. Medical expertise can also help you develop a safe and effective weight reduction program.
  • Lite pet food or prescription diet? Your veterinarian can help determine which is appropriate for your pet. Lite brands may have less calories, but “They’re not designed for weight loss,” warns Remillard. “They may be all right for pets that fall into the 6 or 7 category, but for 8s and 9s, a prescription food is needed.” Such products contain less fat and have elevated levels of nutrients important to dieting animals, such as fiber to control hunger and carnitine and protein to combat muscle wasting.
  • Treat your pet right. Treats should never compose more than 10 percent of a pet’s food intake. For pets on a diet, try substituting cooked or raw vegetables, low in fat and high in fiber.
  • Make it a family affair. If little Bobby or Grandma is sneaking the pet table scraps, the diet is bound to fail.
  • Be strong. Your pet may not know what willpower is, but you do. Resist the whining and begging.
  • Exercise caution. Walks, swimming, a spirited game of drag the Stuffed Mouse or Throw the Frisbee encourage desired calorie-burning activity, but don’t push your pet beyond his safety level. Remember that overweight animals are more heat-intolerant and may also suffer orthopedic problems.
  • Spayed and neutered pets need less. Dogs and cats that have been sterilized don’t contribute to the pet overpopulation problem and enjoy certain health benefits as well. But the operations do result in lowered metabolisms. Owners need to realize this and adjust the amounts they feed. Age is another, albeit more gradual, metabolism slower that owners need to guard against.
  • Be skeptical of the recommended quantities on the labels of pet foods sold in supermarkets; they’re often higher than what the typical less active, indoor pet needs, says Remillard. “They’re manufactured for repeat sales based on palatability,” she says, which means more fat and calories. To prevent weight problems, she suggests dry foods fed free-choice to cats and meal fed to dogs. Compare labels and choose a food low in fat. “One brand’s ‘lite’ food may actually be higher in fat than another brand’s regular.”

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