As another brutal winter continues to drag out for much of the U.S., local experts are offering some tips on how to help pudgy pets lose their winter weight.

According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, 54% of America’s pets are overweight or obese; and winter certainly doesn’t help when it comes to encouraging pets to get the exercise they need.

“The most preferable and usually the first line of defense when it comes to obesity is prevention,” said Dr. Rebecca Lein, of BluePearl Veterinary Partners. “But if the winter conditions have prohibited your pet’s ability to exercise, we hope these tips will help.”

  • Try outfitting pets in sweaters or fleece when taking them outside to play. But remember, just like people, pets can develop frostbite, so make sure to limit the time they are outdoors. Heed any winter warnings for people and apply the same caution for pets.
  • When using deicers, make sure they are pet friendly, so they do not irritate a pet’s paw pads. Pet parents can also outfit their pets with booties, or they can try Musher’s Secret, a wax-like substance that acts as a protector for dogs’ paws.
  • If outdoor activities are out of the question, try playing tug of war or fetch inside with your pet to increase their aerobic activity.
  • Also, try using treats in moderation as an incentive to get pets to be more physically active.
  • Search the internet for a local indoor pet training facility. There may be a place that provides agility training or flyball in a heated facility.
  • When winter does come to an end, make sure to slowly work pets up to the exercise level they were used to, prior to winter. An out of shape dog can be much more prone to heat exhaustion, even if the temperature doesn’t seem that hot.
  • Check with your veterinarian to make sure you are feeding your pet proper portions of food, and avoid giving them people food.

“Most importantly, make sure you see your veterinarian regularly and consult with them about the best way for your pet to shed the extra pounds,” Lein added. “There may be an underlying medical condition, as not all weight conditions are a result of diet and exercise.”

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