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Project: Pet Slim Down by Nestle, Jenny Craig aims at pets, owners

Is Fido getting fat? Rover a bit too round? Does Muffin sport a muffin top? Nestle Purina and Jenny Craig have teamed up to help your portly pet and you slim down with Project: Pet Slim Down.

The new online program encourages pet owners to register and take advantage of several features, including tips on feeding, how to track your pet’s progress, ways to share information with friends and family, and advice on exercising with your pet.

“Project: Pet Slim Down recognizes the potential for pets and their owners to get fit together, and have fun doing it,” said Dr. Grace Long, a veterinarian for Nestle Purina in a news release. Then she added this: “Pets are loyal, nonjudgmental, and supportive. They are the ideal weight-loss partners.”

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Let’s get real. By “pets” she means dogs. I have two cats who judge me constantly. In fact, I’m sure one of them completely disapproves of the outfit I’m wearing today. As I left the house this morning the disdain in her eyes said it all: “You’re not actually going out in that, are you? Wow.”

Supportive? They’re supportive of me putting food in their bowl. Loyal? We’re not even going to go there. Trust me, if I were to choose a weight loss partner it would not be an animal that is comatose 18 hours a day.

But you should check out the videos on the site. Zeus is a 20-pound tabby owned by Matt, who adores this big boy so much he has a mug decorated with a heart-shaped picture of the two of them. That’s love.

When Matt gets the bad news that Zeus weighs as much as a Thanksgiving turkey that serves 10 adults, he’s taken aback. “I just thought he was sturdy,” Matt says.

We also meet Sage, a Weimaraner owned by Walter, who is a chef. That’s bad news for Sage, since for Walter, food equals love. “She absolutely loves people food,” Walter says. “Lamb chops, osso bucco. She prefers nice braised, winter foods.” Honestly, that sounds so good we can’t really blame Sage for being overweight.

Tubby pets can be cute, but they’re at risk for some of the same diseases and conditions humans are, such as diabetes and heart disease. Excess weight can also put stress on joints.

Many fitness experts recommend exercising with your pet--in fact, this Web chat with Jacqueline Epping, a public health scientist in the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, contains a wealth of information about exercising with your pet.

She offered this great suggestion: “Many dogs need to be trained to run with their person. The dog should know how to ‘heel’ and it’s best to start with walking. Depending on your dog, fast walking or even bicycling with your dog on a lead could be options. Safety is important, though, so if your dog can’t be trained to stay at your side, skip the bicycling!”

Pet foods have evolved in recent years as pet owners have become more health-conscious about their own eating habits. Foods without preservatives or fillers have become more popular, as have raw foods that contain no byproducts.

Do you have a portly pooch or a curvy kitty? Have you gone on a weight loss program together? Tell us how that went.


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