Molly

The Labrigator is embarking on a weight-loss plan in 2013. (Courtesy of Kim Fernandez / December 31, 2012)

We noticed over the holidays, much to her chagrin, that the Labragator is getting a wee bit chunky 'round the middle. Just like us, she's getting older and her weight is becoming an issue; our last lab had joint problems that weren't helped at all by excess pounds, and I don't want Molly to suffer unnecessarily.
 
So right along with my "eat less, move more" resolution is one for her. Thankfully, it runs along the same lines: less in the mouth, more with the feet. But it's not as simple as it seems, because it's hard to judge how much your pet needs to eat or exercise, and it's not always easy to fit in physical activity.

The first step is to adjust food amounts. According to the experts at PetMD.com, you can go ahead and ignore what it says on the pet food can or bag. "Most house cats and dogs, if fed at the amounts stated in the label recommendations, will eventually become overweight," they say. Instead, ask your vet for a starting amount for your cat or dog. The Labragator has been eating 2 cups of food twice a day for the past few years. My vet told me to cut down to 1 1/2 cups per feeding and see what happens, and supplement with banana slices or some green beans or broccoli if she seems hungry. We’ve also used canned pumpkin in the past with great results.

The next part is more difficult -- the exercise! We’re going to spend more time chasing tennis balls at the dog park, and I'll take her along for longer, faster walks, which will help both of us. It's not difficult to get a dog moving, but what about cats?

PetMD.com recommends investing in cat toys that get felines moving. "You can buy pet toys that simulate an escaping prey," they say. Other ideas include adding another, younger cat to the mix (from the shelter, of course), and sparking your cat's interest in climbing.

This, I hope, will be the year the Labragator and I both whittle our waistlines. Have you successfully slimmed down your cat or dog? Tell us about it in the comments and share your strategies that worked.