ST. LOUIS, April 13/PRNewswire/ — Dog owners have a new tool to help their pudgy pooches win the battle of the bulge.

A recent canine weight management study conducted by Purina Pet Products®, the makers of Fit & Trim® brand dog food, and the North Carolina Sate University College of Veterinary Medicine, helped create the Fit & Trim Weight Loss Kit. The free kit includes a meal plan, progress report, measuring cup and tape measure to keep track of weight loss, background information on the study and tips on helping dogs shed excess weight.

“”We are facing an epidemic of canine obesity,”” said Dr. Nancy Peters, a veterinarian from Town & Country Veterinary Hospital in Apex, N.C. who participated in the study. “”And it is largely due to consistent owner behaviors, not the dog’s. We mean well, but we may not be doing what’s best for our pets.””

New “”Leash on Life

“” Purina Fit & Trim conducted the eight-week study on the role diet and owner commitment play in canine obesity as a result of the detrimental effects obesity has on our pets’ quality of lives. Obesity is the top nutritional disorder affecting America’s dogs, with nearly 30 percent of dogs seen in private veterinary practice recognized as overweight. It often is the culprit in the development of serious, life-threatening conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, musculoskeletal diseases, respiratory problems and gastrointestinal disorders.

“”Owners love their dogs and believe that one way to show their affection is by constantly giving their dogs treats and/or table scraps. Another factor in canine obesity is that few owners actually measure their dogs’ daily food allotment and end up feeding them too much,”” said Dr. Peters. “”And just as we need exercise, it’s important for our dogs too, but this activity often is overlooked.””

It takes time, knowledge and a strong commitment to achieve results with any diet, and it’s no different when we put our pets on a weight loss program. But success doesn’t have to be difficult – it takes discipline. Despite their busy schedules, three-fourths of the owners in the Fit & Trim® Weight Management Study said it was not difficult to keep their dogs on the diet and nearly all of the dogs (96 percent) lost weight. In fact, owners were so impressed with the program that 94 percent indicated they would recommend it to other dog owners because it was not only simple but yielded results. In addition, 96 percent of the participants said they believe they’ll be able to maintain their dog’s new weight.

Study participants noted an increase in their dogs’ energy, activity level and improved appearance. The dogs lost an average of 5.2 pounds, or 6.7 percent of their body weight. In human terms, that’s the equivalent of a 130-pound woman losing nearly nine pounds.

Study Procedures

Veterinarians in the Raleigh-Durham area selected overweight dogs from their practices for the study. An initial health screening, including a complete panel of blood tests, was conducted to determine if the dog had an underlying problem such as thyroid disease. Dogs who met the study criteria were fed custom-prescribed amounts of Fit & TrimÒ with the Purina Ulti-Pro™ Enhanced Protein System, which provides extra protein needed to minimize muscle mass loss during weight reduction, fewer calories and less fat than the leading dry dog food. A select amount of PurinaÒ brand treats also were allowed. In addition to the prescribed feeding schedule, owners were encouraged to increase their dog’s activity level, and keep a daily diary to monitor their dogs’ food intake, attitude and behavior. Owners also took their dogs to the veterinary clinic for biweekly weigh-ins and body condition scoring.

At the end of the program, owners were surveyed on their involvement, including feeding and exercise practices, and opinions of the weight loss program.

Weight Loss 101

To help your dog achieve long-term weight loss, follow these guidelines from Purina® Fit & Trim® and the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine:

1. Perform a Rib Check™. The Fit & Trim® Rib Check™ is a quick, reliable way to tell if your dog is carrying a few extra pounds. Perform the following hands-on and visual evaluation once a month:

  • Begin by placing both thumbs on the dog’s backbone. Run your fingers along the rib cage. If you can’t easily feel the bony part of each rib, the dog may need to lose weight.
  • Stand directly over your dog as he’s standing and look down at him. You should see a clearly defined waist behind the ribs. If he doesn’t have an “”hour glass”” figure, he may be carrying extra pounds.
  • Check your dog’s profile as well. If you don’t see a clearly defined abdomen tucked up behind his rib cage, he is probably overweight.

Visit your veterinarian if the Rib Check confirms your dog needs to lose weight.

2. Cut the fat but keep the protein. Increased protein helps prevent loss of lean muscle mass during weight reduction. The Purinaâ Ulti-Pro™ Enhanced Protein System in Fit & Trimâ brand dog food provides extra protein your dog needs to minimize muscle mass loss during weight reduction. Fit & Trim also has 15 percent fewer calories, 30 percent less fat and 33 percent less sodium than the leading dry dog food.

3. Measure it. Many people simply overfeed their dogs without realizing it. Always measure how much food you give your dog. The instructions on dog food packages offer a good starting point, but you’ll need to watch how he responds and adjust accordingly. Dogs, like people, are individuals.

4. Feed less, more often. The food you have measured in the morning as your dog’s total daily allotment can be divided among several small “”meals”” throughout the day. Not only does this keep your dog’s metabolism running, but it may also reduce begging by your pet and stimulate weight loss.

5. Trim treats and scrap table scraps. Reduce calorie-laden treats in your dog’s diet; instead use your time and attention as rewards. If you prefer to continue providing food as a reward, stick to commercially prepared treats or substitute pieces of low-calorie food. Treats must be included in your pet’s total calorie allowance. Refrain from giving your dog any table scraps — such people food may be hard on a dog’s waistline as well.

6. Add exercise. The best weight loss results are achieved when better eating habits are combined with moderate exercise. Begin with three 20-minute walks each week to help your heavy hound drop pounds and maintain an ideal body weight. Check with your veterinarian for the type and duration of exercise appropriate for your dog.

7. Be Patient. Dog owners trying to trim down their pets must be patient. “”Your dog didn’t gain weight overnight, and he won’t lose it overnight either. Slow, steady weight loss is ideal,”” says Dr. Peters. “”It’s safer for your dog and he’s less likely to regain the weight he loses.””

Consumers can receive their free Fit & Trim Weight Loss Kit by logging on to the Internet at or calling 800-FIT-TRIM (800-348-8746), ext. 130.

For more information, contact Amy Horsley of Golin/Harris International, 312/729-4366, for Ralston Purina Company.



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