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Make a Healthy New Year’s Resolution…For Your Pets

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) reminds pet owners that if you're planning to make a New Year's resolution for 2014 to lose weight that you should include your pet in your plans for a healthier life.

It's estimated that between 25 and 40 percent of dogs and cats and 31 percent of people in this country are overweight. Studies have found that other domesticated animals, including horses, are also prone to obesity.

"Taking a dog for a walk is healthy for both the dog and the dog's owner. The companionship of a pet provides us with an extra incentive, and inspiration, to get out and work out," says Dr. Clark K. Fobian, president of the AVMA. "Just like humans, overweight dogs and cats are more likely to get a number of diseases and health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, skin conditions, liver disease, and joint problems. So putting yourself and your pet on a diet and exercise regimen will result in improved health for 2014 and perhaps a longer life for both you and your pet. On a personal note, that will be my New Year's resolution for 2014 as well."

AVMA's pet weight-loss tips:

  • A visit to your veterinarian is the best way to determine if your pet is overweight, but there are things to look for to determine if you should make an immediate appointment for a puppy or kitty weigh in. A dog should have a discernible waist without fat deposits, and ribs should be easy to feel while stroking a dog. In cats, if there is any rounding of the abdomen or bulging in the back, limbs, neck or face, you've got a fat cat.

  • Feed your pets at least twice a day, and keep track of how much they eat (your veterinarian may ask). If the pet hasn't finished their food after about 20 minutes, take the bowl away to discourage overeating.

  • Monitor the number and size of the treats you give. A large dog treat can be over 100 calories, while a small treat has as little as 10 calories. If you can't help but repeatedly treat your beloved pet (because they're so incredibly good), break the snacks in half or even thirds to cut the calories.

  • Talk to your veterinarian about the best weight reduction plan for your overweight pet.

  • To exercise a cat, engage them with a feather, string or laser pointer, and try to get them running after a toy as they swat at it. To exercise a dog, consider agility training, play time with other dogs, and chasing a ball or Frisbee. There is no better exercise for dogs, horses and humans than a brisk walk.

  • Hypothyroidism is a risk factor for obesity in humans, dogs and cats, but it's much easier to diagnose in humans. If your dog or cat is obese without a clear cause, make a veterinary appointment.

  • Finally, if your pet is a little on the pudgy side, and you think it might benefit from an increased exercise regimen, see a veterinarian first. No exercise program should begin without a veterinary checkup.

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