Weight Watchers is one of the top "diets" for humans. It works partly because you have to weigh in every week, so you are held accountable for what goes in your mouth. It also works because you attend weekly meetings, learn about portion control, are encouraged to exercise, and make new friends who support you.
There are other diet programs that are also successful, at least in the short-term. Diets like Jenny Craig work because they provide you with pre-portioned meals, which is about all you eat. The problem with these types of programs is that once you are no longer buying their meals, it is hard to learn to cook and choose meals on your own.
What does any of this have to do with our pets? Our pet population weight problem mirrors that of the general population. Our overweight pets need to be on a program, too! The best thing about putting your pet on a "lifestyle change" is that YOU are in complete control and don't need to spend any money on monthly fees or pre-packaged food to get them slimmed down!
For dogs and cats, I think the "Jenny Craig" method is a great start. But YOU have to be the one to choose the reduced calorie food and measure out the portions. Most pets don't have a lot of will power when it comes to not eating when food is always in front of them. But there are many low calorie/high fiber foods that can help keep your pet full. You just can't fill the bowl when it is empty - you need to get a measuring cup and feed your dog or cat at specific times. The best part is that you just keep going with the portion control - you don't have to worry about backsliding unless you stop feeding the low-calorie food and stop measuring it out. The responsibility is yours, not your pet!
The Weight Watchers method is also very useful with our pets. I challenge you to bring your pet (dog or cat) to Four Lakes Vet every 2-3 weeks for a weigh-in. This tells you if you are succeeding in getting your pet healthier, but it also is a great way to show your dog or cat that it isn't always scary when they go to the vet! Our pets don't dread the scale nearly as much as we do, but they do worry about getting poked with a needle every time they come through the door. We will do a "happy dance" when your pet gets healthier, and be there for advice and suggestions if the weight isn't coming off.
Exercise is also an important part of the equation for weight loss. A run around in the back yard is fine, but it isn't usually long enough or aerobic enough to burn lots of calories. You need to take your dog on a brisk walk around the neighborhood for at least 30-60 minutes per day. It is fine to let them sniff around for the first few minutes, but after that, you want to be walking and not strolling. If your heart rate isn't up, your dog isn't burning calories!
Cats are a little harder to get to exercise, but even 5 minutes of chasing after a laser pointer or batting a feather toy on a stick gets them moving. You can make them work a little for their food, by feeding them on a high perch or counter, hiding their food dish around the house, or putting their kibble in a SlimCat ball or similar puzzle.
Weight loss is so important for all of us. Your pet will live longer, have less stiffness and arthritis as they age, be more energetic and happy, and be at less risk for many illnesses. So what are you waiting for? Stop in today for that first weigh in!