|Alternative Pet Care - A Slimming Proposition|
By: Robert S. and Susan J. Goldstein
How to help your cat or dog lose those unwanted pounds and become happier and healthier along the way.
We've all seen the cat that scampers into the kitchen when she hears the plink plink plink of dry food being poured into her bowl, or the dog that sits patiently by the dinner table, staring up at the plates with wide, sad eyes. Chances are we share our homes with one or both of these animals, and their behavior is perfectly natural.
Unfortunately, in a domestic environment, where cats and dogs are more likely to spend their days lolling on the family sofa than hunting for dinner, their survival instinct to eat as much as possible can result in unwanted pounds, even obesity. At any stage of life, obesity can have a negative impact on your animal's body, mind and spirit. It has been linked to diseases of all the major organs, takes a toll on joints and contributes to hormonal and glandular imbalances, which can result in conditions such as diabetes, liver disease and cancer.
Does your pet need to lose weight? As a general rule your dog or cat's chest should be broader than his belly, and you should be able to feel your animal's ribs. If this is not the case, it may be time to slim down.
Start your animal's weight-loss program with a visit to your veterinarian for some routine blood work and a nutritional assessment; sudden weight gain, in particular, can be a sign of a serious illness. Antech Laboratories offers the BNA test, which can provide you and your veterinarian with helpful diagnostic tools linking your pet's weight problem with nutritional and glandular weaknesses or imbalances. Your vet may then prescribe an individual nutrient supplement program designed to speed up your pet's metabolism while supporting the immune system, or you can discuss the appropriateness of our homemade supplement program (see sidebar, page 89).
Next, focus on the food. Reduce your animal's commercial food intake by one-third, switch to a light or senior food, or consider our home-cooked diet (see page 90). Be sure to mix any new food gradually into the old diet. For the most part, diet pet foods such as Hill's Science Diet aren't very good; most are loaded with byproducts, chemical preservatives, indigestible fillers and empty calories, and they often taste awful. Furthermore, a common problem with weight-reducing, prescription-type foods is that after weeks or months of eating this type of food, your animal may become ravenous and overeat, causing rebound weight-gain. There are, however, some natural brands that are better-tasting and more nutritious, including California Natural, Cornucopia, Innova, Lick Your Chops, Pet Guard, Precise and Wellness.
If your animal is used to snacking throughout the day or seems hungry between meals, feel free to allow a treat. There are many fat-free snacks available, some of which come straight from the garden or backyard, such as fresh organic carrots or chopped apples. Cats enjoy melon, which is a great diuretic, and both species will delight in low-fat popcorn or organic rice cakes. These alternatives will ease hunger pangs and the psychological need for snacks. Don't go overboard, though: Two or three snacks per day between meals is plenty.
You should also implement a weekly or twice-weekly "meal skip" consisting of 12 hours without solids; something your dog or cat would do on its own if living in the wild. You can take the psychological edge off during a mini-fast by offering your animal warm broth or fresh carrot, apple and celery juice every few hours. The meal skip will energize your companion and expedite weight loss, and you can continue this practice for maintenance even after your animal has lost weight. Keep in mind that you should never go beyond 12 hours or fast an animal that is sick unless supervised by a trained holistic veterinarian.
As anyone who's ever tried to lose weight knows, the calories you burn are as important as the calories you take in. Daily fresh air and exercise should be increased gradually to a minimum of 20 minutes each day. This shouldn't be a problem for most dogs or for cats that go outdoors, but if you live with a couch-potato cat confined to the indoors, be creative and encourage playtime for a total body workout. A catnip mouse on a string or other toy should do the trick.
It's a good idea to monitor your dog or cat's emotional state during a period of weight loss to ensure it is in sync with the changes happening in its body. Pay attention to at-home stress levels, both your animal's and your own, which your animal will pick up on. If you sense that your dog or cat is stressed, head to the health food store for an herbal or homeopathic stress remedy such as Dr. Goodpet's Calm Stress, Earth Animal's Calm Down or Homeopet's Anxiety. At the same time, you can make your home a less stressful place by practicing meditation and playing calming music. And, of course, make sure both you and your animal are getting plenty of exercise and fresh air.
Once your animal has achieved the proper weight you can go back to a normal diet, but be observant. If the weight begins to come back, revert to the reduced-calorie diet right away.
Animal lovers share two things in common with their animal companions: They want their animals to have a long life, and they want that life to be disease- and pain-free. A fat animal is likely to die sooner than an animal of average weight and will have more health problems. So help your animal slim down, firm up and stay active. Your cat or dog will enjoy health and happiness for a long time to come.
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