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>Q: We adopted a kitten from a shelter, and at only 7 months she already weighs 14 pounds. We feed her a half a can of canned food each morning and have dry food available all the time. Sparky even sleeps near the food bowl and eats often. How can we help Sparky lose weight?

-- D.H., Las Vegas

A: Dr. Jane Brunt, executive director of the nonprofit cat advocacy CATalyst Council, says, "It's great you're concerned about your cat's weight, as this is a critical issue. It sounds like Sparky may be obese, which can lead to health problems. See your veterinarian to insure Sparky is healthy and also to devise a [weight-loss] plan."

That plan will likely include adjusting Sparky's diet, as well as the way you feed this cat. You may be urged to feed Sparky on a schedule rather than leaving food out all the time. "When he looks for food, instead take a toy and play, or groom him," says Brunt, of Baltimore.

In fact, exercise is a good idea. Hiding treats in food-dispensing toys and puzzles would also force Sparky to exercise as she searches for the goodies.

Work with your veterinarian to develop a schedule, so you can keep tabs on Sparky's weight loss. And, of course, no crash diets!


Q: We've had our 7-month-old Shih Tzu for just 10 days. Over the past five days, he's been having strange episodes -- running around the house licking the floor or cabinets, then vomiting. What's going on?

-- P.M., via cyberspace

A: Veterinary behaviorist Dr. Gary Landsberg, of Thornhill, Ont., suggests your dog has "a gastrointestinal problem, not a behavior issue. Your veterinarian might suggest a limited protein diet for allergies to see if that clears up this problem. Also, checking for intestinal parasites makes sense.