Help your pet maintain a healthy lifestyle in the new year

It’s January and time again for our Biggest Loser Contest. One year ago, the Dunkirk Animal Clinic decided to fight the epidemic of obesity by promoting a healthy lifestyle for our pets. Owners were invited to enter their pets into our contest and the winner was determined at the end of thirty days. The majority of pets were placed on a strict weight loss diet a prescription food low in carbohydrates and fat. Recommendations were given for an exercise plan.

The winner of the contest was Pepper, a sweet calico cat who lost 2 percent of her body weight during the 30 days and 5 percent overall! Pepper’s owners started measuring her food and gave only her allotted amount for the day. Every time Pepper would beg for food, her owners would give her a few pieces of her “allotted” amount and no extra treats.

Pepper’s owners came up with an exercise plan according to what Pepper enjoyed doing. As a kitten Pepper had fun “retrieving” crumpled up pieces of paper. Peppers owners decided to increase her daily activity by throwing crumpled up pieces of paper down the basement stairs. Pepper very happily retrieved the paper and brought it back up the stairs about four to five times a day. Because of the combination of exercise and diet, Pepper went from a flabby feline to a fit feline!

As a pet owner, you may be wondering what you can do for your pet. First of all, it is important to determine if they are in fact overweight. In dogs, you should be able to feel the ribs easily without seeing them. Your pet is overweight if you feel a layer of fat over the ribs. You also want to see a nice abdominal tuck or waistline. Cats tend to accumulate fat on their under belly and tend to get a very “paunchy pouch.” You want a very small pouch if any at all. You should also be able to feel your cat’s ribs.

Next, it is important to come up with a diet plan. Your veterinarian can help formulate a plan for your pet. Many things need to be taken into consideration – for example, are treats allowed, are you feeding canned food or dry food, and what should be your pet’s goal weight? If your pet is having trouble losing weight, some blood testing may need to be done to rule out any underlying health issues such as an under active thyroid gland. Finally it is important to come up with any exercise plan for your pet. Below I am going to give a few ideas for exercising your pet:

Throw colored balls or Frisbees for your dog – even in the cold weather, they still enjoy fetching in the snow.

Use a laser pointer indoors to play with your cat or your dog.

Place your dog’s and cat’s toys around the house in hidden places so they have to work to find their toys – use cat nip toys for your cats.

Use stairs as a way to exercise your cat. Put the litter box in the basement, and food and water in an upstairs bedroom or bathroom.

Use leftover wrapping paper and boxes from Christmas as an obstacle course for your cat – cats love boxes!

Let your dogs join in family winter activities such as sledding or building a snowman.

Use snow banks and hills to your advantage when walking your dog.

Take your dog snowshoeing or cross country skiing with you.

Enter your dog into an indoor agility or obedience class.

Schedule play dates with your friend’s pets (as long as they get along).

Get another pet to play with your pet if you only have one!

The Dunkirk Animal Clinic would like to help you get your pet started on a weight loss plan today. We are offering 10 percent off all our weight loss prescription foods and will help you come up with a weight loss plan that best suits your pet. Enter your pet in our Biggest Loser contest and win great prizes for the most percentage weight lost! Call us at 366-7440 or e-mail us at

Dr. Rebekah Frost is a veterinarian at the Dunkirk Animal Clinic. Send comments on this column to