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Get tough on treats

Article

Too often veterinarians focus solely on the type of diet being fed to overweight pets and barely touch on treats, says Dr. Ernest E. Ward Jr., owner of Seaside Animal Care in Calabash, N.C.

Too often veterinarians focus solely on the type of diet being fed to overweight pets and barely touch on treats, says Dr. Ernest E. Ward Jr., owner of Seaside Animal Care in Calabash, N.C. So while Dr. Ward always asks clients with overweight pets what type of food they're providing and how much the pet gets every day, he also asks how they reward their pet with treats. He calculates how many calories the pet should consume per day—often a shockingly low number—then shows the client a list of common pet foods, treats, and the calories they contain. (To download the list, click here.)

"As few as two or three treats can contain half or more of their pet's total daily caloric needs," says Dr. Ward, a Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member. "Once we've established that treats can undermine the best intentions, we explain to clients that they can feed their dogs alternative treats such as baby carrots, broccoli, celery, and asparagus." Cats can eat veggies too, he says, but they provide little nutritional value to them. Dr. Ward recommends low-calorie commercial treats for clients who worry their pooch won't eat vegetables. In these cases, he also asks clients about the pet's willingness to eat "people foods." Oddly enough, he says, it's often the same pets that eat readily from the table that refuse vegetables. "This is a great opportunity to discuss the importance of our own healthy eating habits," Dr. Ward says. "If 70 percent of the owner's plate is filled with fruits or vegetables, they may feel better about sharing some of those foods with his or her pet."

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