Q: My veterinarian prescribed a weight loss diet for my obese Labrador mix, Gertie, but what I really need is motivation to feed the prescribed amount, stop giving her table scraps and start taking her for walks.

How do I motivate myself to do what’s right for Gertie when it’s easier to give in to her big brown eyes?

A: It’s all about tough love — the way we demonstrate our love for our pets even when it’s hard on us.

Start with this: When she begs for food, tell her you love her and kiss the tip of her nose instead of offering her a food treat.

Teach Gertie and yourself new habits, and be consistent. When you stop giving her table scraps, stop altogether. Don’t give in on special occasions, or she’ll continue to beg.

If Gertie likes treats, give them after her daily walks. Offer her a couple of raw green beans, a baby carrot or another treat low in calories.

Consider the many benefits of helping Gertie lose weight, chief among them her longer life.

Multiple studies show that dogs maintained at a healthy weight live longer than overweight and obese dogs — up to two years longer in one study of Labrador retrievers.

Normal-weight dogs also experience less pain and disease than overweight and obese dogs. For example, arthritis, intervertebral disc disease and pancreatitis are less prevalent in healthy-weight dogs.

Gertie’s risk of cancer is also lower if you keep her weight within the normal range.

Cancer is common in Labs and other large-breed dogs; overweight and obese dogs — more than half the dogs in the United States — are at even higher risk simply because of their weight.

Finally, decide what motivational techniques work best for you. For example, if you weigh Gertie every few weeks, you can record her weights on a chart taped to your refrigerator door and reward yourself with a gold star each time she loses weight.

Make the process fun, and I’m sure you’ll be successful.

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Q: My cat Milo is a “dog cat”: He comes when I call, fetches small balls and loves to play with toys.

Last week, I caught him batting around a laundry detergent pod. Should I let him play with those things, or are they toxic?

A: Laundry detergent pods are so dangerous to pets that I recommend you store them where Milo can’t reach them and, when you need more laundry detergent, buy something other than pods.

Standard laundry detergents can cause vomiting and diarrhea if ingested. But laundry pods contain highly concentrated detergent under pressure.

The key words here are “highly concentrated” and “under pressure.”

When a pet — or a child attracted by the bright colors and candylike appearance — bites into the pressurized pod, it explodes, hurtling concentrated detergent into the lungs and stomach.

Any that remains in the mouth mixes with saliva and turns into a corrosive foam that is easily inhaled or swallowed.

Inhalation causes coughing, breathing difficulties, wheezing and lethargy. When the detergent hits the stomach and the pet vomits, the vomitus may be aspirated into the lungs, causing additional injury.

If Milo does rupture a laundry pod, immediately wash his mouth, face and coat with enough water to remove the slippery, soapy feel and all the detergent. Encourage him to drink water or milk to dilute any detergent that made its way into his esophagus and stomach.

Then take him to the veterinarian, who can determine whether additional treatment is needed.

Lee Pickett DVM practices companion animal medicine in North Carolina. Click here to ask her questions for her weekly column. The opinions expressed are her own.