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Tips for helping your dog or cat eat better and stay slimmer

Vegetables make great snacks. Dogs are often fond of carrots, zucchini, and celery, and some cats love zucchini.

Measure food carefully. Even when using a cup, people varied from an 18 percent underestimate to an 80 percent overestimate, research shows. For cats, cans may make portion-control easier; make sure to use the right size. For homemade food, use only recipes from board-certified veterinary nutritionists.

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Use smaller feeding dishes, which can be filled without overfeeding a pet. The same applies for measuring scoops.

Keep a written record of what pets are fed, posting it somewhere, such as a refrigerator, where everyone in the household can see it.

Choose food appropriate to a pet’s activity level. A couch-potato pet doesn’t need a high-fat food designed for an athletic animal; better to pick a low-fat, high-protein, and high-fiber food.

Pick up food bowls between feeding times. Even cats will adjust easily to two to three meals a day.

Train pets not to beg for table scraps, which add calories and can disrupt nutritional balance.

Give pets plenty of exercise. Dogs generally need to be walked beyond the confines of a typical yard. Activities can include chasing, climbing, running, walking, playing Frisbee, running obstacle courses, swimming, and playing with toys.

Make the home environment more stimulating for pets. Forcing pets to work for their dinner by finding pieces of hidden food (in a commercially available or homemade feeding device) provides exercise for body and brain.

SOURCES: Dr. Dorothy Laflamme, Dr. Deborah Linder, Dr. Rebecca A. Johnson

KAREN WEINTRAUB

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