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There’s another way to tell if your pet is overweight, and that’s by using the new, science based Healthy Weight Protocol, which was created by Hill’s Pet Nutrition in conjunction with veterinary nutritionists at the University of Tennessee.
This tool is “brilliant,” says Hughes, who likes it because it’s objective.
How does the protocol work? A vet takes measurements — four for a dog and six for a cat — then inputs them into a computer. The computer then determines the animal’s body fat index. By comparing this with a chart, the vet can tell you exactly how much weight your pet needs to lose if it is overweight.
“It’s much more specific and scientific than me saying a pet looks like he should lose two to five pounds,” Hughes says. “With this, we can determine exactly how many pounds pets should lose and how many calories they need per day.”
If you’re going it alone with your pet’s weight loss — and Dr. Dobies does recommend that pets have a physical with their vet every six months — you can weigh your pet on a scale, if they are small enough, he says, and monitor the weight over time.
If a dog or cat is overweight, cut their food intake by 25 percent, Dr. Dobies advises, and increase their exercise level gradually day by day.
“Don’t leave it up to the dog,” he says, “but make sure he gets out on the leash. Gradually you want to build up to a 30-minute walk, twice a day.”
It’s harder to force cats to exercise, he adds, so play with them more if you can, with kitty toys or a laser pointer, for example. But also recognize that cats are at their most active when the sun is rising and setting, so if you can play with them during these hours, you’ll be most effective.
Dr. Dobies also cautions against letting your kitty lose weight too fast. Rapid weight loss can lead to fatty liver syndrome (hepatic lipidosis), which can cause her to go into liver failure.
Having your pet exercise may also mean you don’t have to reduce his food as significantly, especially as his endurance builds up — and maybe soon you’ll have an hourglass figure, too.
A type of light device that transfers a bright beam; this is used for many medical purposes
A type of system that is used to compare animals within a given group to one another
Referring to the liver
A medical condition in which the joints become inflamed and causes a great deal of pain.