If your cat or dog has packed on a little padding lately, doing what’s good for them can be just as good for you–loosing weight, exercising more and generally de-stressing. Plus, keeping Socks and Sparky fit and happy should be all the motivation you need to get you both in shape for swimsuit season!

Choose Treats Wisely “The easiest way to help shed pounds off your pooch or kitty is to stop giving too many treats – table scraps, cookies, soft chews, etcetera,” explains veterinarian, Autumn McKenzie at Oakhurst Veterinary Hospital in Seminole, Florida. “Each cookie is like giving them a chocolate bar!” She suggests limiting treats to two to three a day and to ask your veterinarian about “low-fat” treats.

Pay Attention to Portions Cut back on the amount of food in order to cut calories. Don’t always follow suggestions on the bag of dog or cat food – these may be wrong for your pet’s body size, stage of life and metabolism – contact your veterinarian for an appropriate amount to feed per day (or your doc if you need a refresher on your own meal sizes).

Also, McKenzie says to try ‘meal-feeding’ versus ‘buffet style’ feeding. “If your dog or cat does not eat their food within an hour, take it away – feed twice a day.” And if necessary, your veterinarian may recommend placing your pet on prescription weight loss diet, one that contains high fiber that makes pets feel full but has fewer calories.

Scamper and Pounce More Fortunately, dogs love to exercise — err, I mean to play! Up their ante on activity by taking an extra walk, double the length of your normal walk or find a new dog park nearby for a special outing a few times a week. Your dog will love meeting (and sniffing) new dogs and you might make a new friend or two as well.

Cats can be a bit more challenging when it comes to exercise, so you’ll have to be persistent and creative.

“Find or create things for kitty that will be environmentally stimulating to reduce boredom and increase their activity,” suggests Dr. Sonja Olson of Florida Veterinary Specialists in Tampa, Florida.

Olson adds that playtime is great bonding time for you and your pet. Play together with your cat for best results. Just tossing them a toy and leaving the room is likely to lead to a catnap instead of a calorie-burning session!

Some pets embody several qualities that make them ideal exercise buddies, such as consistency of routine, scheduling flexibility and compatible fitness level. But not all pets are suited for extensive exercise. Be safe and schedule a visit with your pet’s vet before embarking on a fitness routine.

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