► 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.
► 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