DEAR PAW'S CORNER: My cat Sandy has had a weight problem for a few years now. His veterinarian recommended giving him less food and more exercise, but it hasn't helped. What else can I do? – Craig in Grand Rapids, Mich.
DEAR CRAIG: First, take Sandy in for a complete health evaluation at the vet — if one hasn't been done lately — just to rule out any underlying issues. Then, if his health is fine, start re-evaluating his regime.
Like humans, pets can fall into routines where they get far less exercise and eat much more than an owner may estimate. Many pets also are masters at sneaking food when we're not looking. So, here are some tips to help jump-start Sandy's weight loss:
• Follow the vet's recommended feeding amounts exactly. Use a measuring cup.
• If you don't get a recommended amount, follow this guideline for indoor cats: about 20 calories per pound of weight. So, a 10-pound cat needs about 200 calories per day to maintain that weight, while a 15-pound cat needs about 300 calories per day. Lower those calorie amounts slightly — about 40 fewer calories per day — for weight loss.
• Double your pet's activity time. Do you swing a toy in front of your cat for 5 to 10 minutes each evening while your TV shows are on? Make it 20 minutes.
• Reset the routine for both of you. Carve out play or exercise time in the morning and evening.
• Provide your cat plenty of distractions from the food bowl: catnip-laced toys, scratching posts, etc.
DEAR PAW'S CORNER: At my dog's recent checkup, the veterinarian told me to keep an eye on him as a new strain of flu is going around in my area. I didn't even know dogs could get the flu. Can you tell other pet owners what symptoms to look for? – Carol in Chicago
DEAR CAROL: Dogs (and cats) can contract certain strains of the flu virus, and veterinarians even offer flu shots for pets to protect against the most common strains.
In the Chicago area, a new strain of flu virus that affects dogs and cats was recently identified by scientists at Cornell University and the University of Wisconsin. The Chicago Sun Times reported that more than 1,000 dogs have become ill with the flu this spring. Symptoms include a cough, runny nose and fever. The severity of these symptoms can vary, so it's best to contact the vet even if your dog's symptoms seem mild.
If your pet is diagnosed with the flu, your vet may recommend that you keep your pet well hydrated, and may or may not prescribe medicine to ease some symptoms. Do not take your pet to a kennel, doggy daycare, dog park or any other place where it may be around other dogs. If its symptoms get worse or it stops eating or drinking, take your dog to the vet immediately.
A vaccine is available for dogs and cats that protects against the most common strains of the flu, and can lessen the effects of other strains. Talk to your vet about getting this shot.
Send your questions or tips to [email protected]. (c) 2015 King Features Synd. Inc.