NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” host Alison Sweeney and her Boston Terrier, Winky, have together waged a successful battle of the bulge.
Now they are encouraging pet owners around the country to join them.
Sweeney = along with pet food maker Hill's Pet Nutrition have kicked off the Million Pound Pledge, a national call-to-action for pet owners to help their cats and dogs lose weight - a prescription for living a happy, healthy lifestyle.
It's no secret, studies show one in two pets is overweight. Like with humans, obesity can lead to a host of health problems including diabetes and kidney failure, not to mention the stress extra weight puts on joints.
A survey, conducted by sponsor Hill's. shows nearly half of pet owners do exercise with their pet, but almost the same number feeds them daily snacks and 42 percent offer them free choice food - the fast track to fat.
Sweeney said she discovered her six-year-old rescued terrier was overweight on a routine vet visit a year ago. Together they embarked on a weight loss plan that included proper diet and exercise that helped trim Winky down.
"A lot of pet owners don't releazie how much a few pounds affects a little dog," said Sweeney in an interview last week.
Just two pounds on a dog can equal 19 pounds on a person, she points out.
Slipping a pet table scraps is a sure fire way to add on pounds. "For too many of us food is associated with love and that's unhealthy," Sweeney said, adding that she follows the advice of experts who urge pet owners to supply affection, a toy or exercise as an alternative.
Sweeney and Winky's exercise program even brought in children in her neighborhood. "The kids play with her," said Sweeney. "You can really tell the difference in her energy level."
On the Pet Fit website, home to the Million Pound Pledge, pet owners can find tips on how to control their pet's weight and get nutrition information. You can chart your pet's progress toward the nationwide goal of losing a collective one million pounds with an interactive journal.
And you can watch a video that shows you how to assess whether your pet is overweight and determine if they are a candidate for a weight loss program.
How about exercising your cat? Some cats in my house have turned out to be that unusual breed, the Domestic Short Haired Retriever, who faithful fetch and toy mice and cardboard shopping bag handles twisted together.
Adopt a kitten. Having a kitten around, as we do now, helps keep the older cats fit.
Another sure-fire way to get kitty to bust a move is to buy a laser pointer device (sold for about $5 in most pet stores).
Most cats - though not all - will chase the red dot as long as you feel like shining it.
Also you can always try harnessing up your kitty and going for a walk. We have one cat that waits by the door each morning for his walk through the apple orchard.
You can join Sweeney in taking the pledge by visiting www.PetFit.com through March 30 and enter for the chance to meet her at “The Biggest Loser” live finale in May.
Two cat owners and two dog owners, selected at random, will receive tickets to "The Biggest Loser" finale.