Alison Sweeney and dog

As the host of NBC’s The Biggest Loser, Alison Sweeney is well aware of the importance of maintaining a healthy weight. But it never occurred to her that the table scraps she was feeding her Boston Terrier, Winky, were causing the pooch to pack on the pounds. “I’m so focused on a healthy lifestyle for my family and myself, so I was surprised when the vet told me Winky was two pounds overweight,” says the 35-year-old mother of two. That may not sound like much, but two pounds on a 20-pound dog is the equivalent of a 200-pound man being 20 pounds overweight.

Pet Obesity: A Common Problem

Winky is part of a growing obesity problem that began with adults but is now plaguing our children and pets. “I started talking to other pet owners and realized just how common this is,” Sweeney says. In fact, a recent study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention found that 55 percent of dogs and 53 percent of cats were overweight or obese. The main culprit: Owners who feed pets too much, don't exercise them enough and aren’t aware of the serious health problems associated with excess weight. Much like humans, overweight pets have an increased risk of developing diabetes, arthritis, respiratory problems, and other health issues.

While humans can close the refrigerator door and hit the gym more often, pets must depend on their owners to take the initiative. In hopes of providing inspiration and support, Sweeney teamed up with Hill’s Pet Nutrition to launch a weight loss challenge called the “Million Pound Pledge.” To take the pledge and for weight management tips, visit through March 30. Be sure to consult your veterinarian before beginning a weight loss program for your pet.

Tips and Tricks: How Winky Dropped the Weight

Eliminate Table Scraps. Table scraps can really throw off a weight management plan. “If you feed your dog an ounce of cheese, it’s the equivalent of a 5’4” woman eating three hamburgers,” Sweeney says. Keep your pet in another room when you’re preparing dinner, to keep pets from begging and you from caving in.

Practice Portion Control. Along with cutting out table scraps, Sweeney carefully measures out the amount of food Winky eats at each meal. “It’s not a good idea to keep your pet’s bowl filled throughout the day,” Sweeney says. “Free feeding leads to overeating.”

Substitute Praise for Treats. Just like humans, pets love verbal approval, so swap praise for treats as much as possible. And when you do want to reward your pet with treats, “don’t forget to account for them during meal time,” Sweeney says.

Get Active. From playing games in the backyard to taking walks around the neighborhood, Sweeney got her whole family involved in helping Winky get fit. “You’d be surprised at what a big difference 10 minutes of activity can make when it comes to your pet’s health,” she says.