Get your pet back in shape in 2010

Tampa Tribune
January 14, 2010

Could Peaches stand to drop a few pounds? Does Cali need some calisthenics?

Now that you’ve been working on your own resolutions for a couple weeks, how about helping your pets with theirs?

Ironically, many of the resolutions recommended for pets are the same we make for ourselves — lose weight, exercise more and generally live a better life. Perhaps a partnership will be good for both of you.

More pets than ever are overweight, according to a recent national study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention. That’s 44 percent of dogs and 57 percent of cats. And guess who’s mostly to blame?

“The easiest way to help shed pounds off your pooch or kitty is to stop giving too many treats — table scraps, cookies, soft chews,” says veterinarian Autumn McKenzie at Oakhurst Veterinary Center in Seminole.

“Each cookie is like giving them a chocolate bar!”

Limit treats to two or three a day and ask your vet about low-fat treats, she suggests.

Another tip: Cut back on meal portions to cut calories. Don’t always follow suggestions on the bag of dog or cat food; they may be wrong for your pet’s body size, stage of life or metabolism. Ask your vet about the right amount for your pet.

Mealtime shouldn’t be a daylong buffet, either, McKenzie says.

“If your dog or cat does not eat their food within an hour, take it away — feed twice a day.”

Your vet may also recommend a prescription weight loss diet, one with high fiber that make pets feel full but is low in calories.

Fortunately, dogs love exercise — er, I mean play. Take an extra walk, double the length of your normal walk or find a new dog park for special outings a few times a week.

Cats can be a bit more challenging when it comes to exercise, so you’ll have to be persistent and creative.

“Find or create things for kitty that will be environmentally stimulating to reduce boredom and increase their activity,” suggests Sonja Olson of Florida Veterinary Specialists in Tampa. For best results, play with your cat. Just tossing a toy and leaving the room is likely to lead to a catnap.

Mind their manners

If you need to polish your pet’s manners, talk to a trainer. Ask friends, family or your veterinarian to recommend a good one that uses positive techniques and positive reinforcement.

“Make some rules and be consistent,” says Jeff Drier, master dog behavioral therapist and trainer at Bark Busters in Tampa.

“Dogs, being dogs, expect and thrive on rules.”

Consistency is key. Don’t let dogs get away with something today that you correct tomorrow. Dogs are lifelong learners. They love learning new things, and if you make it fun, they can learn very quickly.

A dog’s list

This year, make a New Year’s resolution to help your pet live a healthier, happier life. Just for fun, the American Kennel Club offered these resolutions your dog may be considering for 2010.

Top 10 Resolutions by Dogs:

10. Owner on floor, dog in bed.

9. Stop begging and actually get a seat at the dinner table.

8. Give up the dream of ever catching my tail.

7. Bark like a big dog but still get cuddled on lap like a little dog.

6. Get back at cat for litter box incident.

7. Find every bone I ever buried.

4. No more haircuts! (come fall, I can go as a Komondor for Halloween).

3. Become alpha dog in my house. Well, at least stop letting the cat push me around.

2. Invent goggles that allow me to see the electric fence.

1. Finally pass that darn AKC Canine Good Citizen test.