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My Pet World: Adopted chubby kitten needs a weight-loss plan

January 24, 2012

ORLANDO, Fla. — These reader questions were answered by experts attending the North American Veterinary Conference here Jan.14-18.

Question: We adopted a kitten from a shelter, and at only 7 months she already weighs 14 pounds. We feed her a half a can of canned food each morning and have dry food available all the time. Sparky even sleeps near the food bowl, and eats often. I believe she must have gone hungry before she came to us. To cut calories, I have switched to adult dry food. Our other cat is 13 and is a healthy weight. How can we help Sparky lose weight? — D.H., Las Vegas

Answer: Dr. Jane Brunt, executive director of the nonprofit cat advocacy CATalyst Council, says, "It's great you're concerned about your cat's weight, as this is a critical issue. It sounds like Sparky may be obese, which can lead to health problems. See your veterinarian to insure Sparky is healthy and also to devise a (weight-loss) plan."

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That plan will likely include adjusting Sparky's diet, as well as the way you feed this cat. You may be urged to feed Sparky on a schedule rather than leaving food out all the time.

"When he looks for food, instead take a toy and play, or groom him," says Brunt, of Baltimore, Md.

In fact, exercise is a good idea. Hiding treats in food-dispensing toys and puzzles would also force Sparky to exercise as she searches for the goodies.

Work with your veterinarian to develop a schedule, so you can keep tabs on Sparky's weight loss. And, of course, no crash diets!

Q: We've had our 7-month-old Shih Tzu for just 10 days. Over the past five days, he's been having strange episodes -- running around the house licking the floor or cabinets, then vomiting. This usually happens in the evening. The rest of the time, he seems like a very normal dog. What's going on? — P.M., via cyberspace

A: Veterinary behaviorist Dr. Gary Landsberg, of Thornhill, Ontario, Canada, suggests your dog has "a gastrointestinal problem, not a behavior issue. Also, sometime dogs do lick when they feel nauseous."

Your veterinarian might suggest a limited protein diet for allergies to see if that clears up this problem. Also, checking for intestinal parasites makes sense.

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