When the goal is losing weight, slow and steady wins the race.
Consider the case of my pudgy miniature wiener dog, Zoe, who is making steady gains -- make that losses -- as part of the Fit Pet Project, our monthly series examining obese and overweight pets.
In January, our unofficial Fit Pet "spokes-dog" tipped the scales at 8.6 kilograms (19 pounds), whereas the breed standard says she should be 5.4 kg (12 lbs) at most.
Since being placed on a prescription diet and exercise program, the weight has been slowly sliding off her tiny frame and her energy level has soared.
The change has been dramatic -- a sedentary pet is now suddenly climbing up on the back of the living-room couch without help from human hands.
On April 16, Zoe weighed in at 7.5 kg (16.6 lbs). "That's down 2.4 pounds from when we started, or 13.6 per cent of her starting body weight, which is really good," declares our vet, Dr. Jim Broughton, owner of Exclusively Cats Animal Hospital on Corydon Avenue.
"She's lost five per cent of her body weight just in the last five weeks," the vet notes. "She's right on target, maybe a tinge ahead of target."
While 2.4 pounds may not seem like a lot over roughly three months, it's a big deal for a little animal's health.
"It's 2.4 pounds for her, but it's the equivalent of a 190-pound person losing about 25 pounds, so from that perspective, it's like 'Whoa!'" Broughton says.
The wiener dog's daily intake is being reduced from seven-eighths of a cup of calorie-reduced kibble to three-quarters of a cup.
"A little dog like her doesn't need a lot of food," the vet explains. "She's losing weight, and as her weight goes down, her energy requirements are going to go down and so as she gets smaller, we readjust the amount of food we feed her."
One of the main reasons a pet's diet fails is because the owner falls off the wagon when the animal starts begging for treats.
For me and Zoe, the key has been using carrot sticks as a treat as opposed to high-calorie store-bought goodies.
"I really notice when Zoe is on the exam table that she's got a definite waistline now," Broughton says. "Before she was a barrel and now she's getting her hourglass figure back. I wish half the cats I put on diets did that well."