New Nestle Purina program hopes to move the scales on pet obesity

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Oct 19, 2010
By dvm360.com staff

St. Louis — Nestle Purina is rolling out a campaign called Project Pet Slim Down as a way to address pet obesity.

According to Dr. Grace Long of Nestle Purina, the campaign is growing as a result of a successful pilot project launched earlier this year.

In fact, the goal of Project Pet Slimdown is to move the scales on pet obesity by creating a series of educational materials and online tools (projectpetslimdown.com) to encourage pet owners to work with veterinarians and get a better understanding of obesity and its ill effects. About 45 percent of dogs and 58 percent of cats are considered obese. Nationally, that amounts to some 89 million dogs and cats.

"One of the things we learned from the pilot is as the dogs lost weight, they were more willing to exercise," Long says. "The hard part is getting them off the couch, and getting them into a consistent routine."

In the pilot, many of the owners expressed that offering treats was very important. When it comes to weight loss, the more that stays the same, the better the success, Long says. So, treating shouldn't be stopped, but the quality and quantity of food offered should be the focus.

"We can show pet owners how to treat in a healthy way. And I think that is very important," Long adds. "You should only have about 10 percent of those calories in treats. So, one tip is to have a treat bag. At the beginning of the day, you put a whole allotment of healthy treats in a bag. When it's gone, no more treats. It will help owners set limits," she says.

The pilot program also offered some valuable insight when it comes to exercising. "The trick was to find an activity the owners enjoyed doing. Some dogs walked for a block, and then would have a sit down strike. There was one dog, a Shih-Tzu named Courtney, that did not like to exercise at all. The owners found ways to play with the dog to get it exercising. They threw her toy up the stairs, and that would make her run up the stairs to get it." Some dogs had obstacle courses in the yard. Another miniature Dachshund loved to swim. When they couldn’t get to the beach, the owners let Peewee work out in the bathtub.

The goal, Long says, is to get pet owners talking about weight loss with their veterinarian.

To find more information about the campaign go to projectpetslimdown.com.