We constantly hear about the importance of diet and exercise in our daily lives. What we often forget is that a healthy lifestyle is just as important for our furry friends! We can help combat pet obesity by tackling it’s two main causes: poor diet and lack of activity.
Here are some of the benefits of a healthy diet and regular exercise for your pet:
- It improves overall health. Pets that are overweight are more prone to systemic illnesses, such as arthritis, diabetes, and cancer. Exercise helps with weight management and improves overall health.
- It adds years to your pet’s life. Purina conducted a 14-year study that scientifically showed that dogs that ate a restricted diet lived on average 1.8 years longer than their peers. That’s almost 15 years in dog terms! (Read more about the study here.)
- It strengthens the bond you have with your pet. There’s nothing better than a little quality time with your pet.
- It brings excitement to your pet’s day and gives them something to look forward to. Most pets are far too inactive throughout the day. The most exciting part of an average pet’s day is their owner coming home from work, and this basically entails 5 minutes of unbridled joy, followed by a quick return to the usual sedentary state. But what if your pet got just as excited every time you put on your running shoes because they knew they were about to go for a walk? Getting your pet out for a short walk entails far more than just the calories burned doing the physical work – it stimulates their minds and keeps them sharper throughout the rest of the day.
Here are a few tips from our veterinarians on getting started and sticking with it:
- Getting started is the hardest part. Getting yourself and your pet active can seem like a daunting task, so the most important part is setting goals. Talk to your veterinarian and work together to establish short and long term goals for weight loss, activity, and diet. Create 1, 3, 6, and 12 month goals for your pet. In addition, set up recheck appointments with your vet for body condition scoring. This will get you committed for the long haul and prevent early burn out.
- Play to your pet’s strengths. Some dogs love water and nothing is better for cardiovascular and joint health than swimming. Your pet isn’t a water bug? How about fetch or tug of war? If your dog is like mine and is completely driven by his nose (and stomach), try some tracking exercises.
- Understand the limitations of your pet at the outset. When coming up with an exercise regimen, keep age, breed, and pre-existing health conditions in mind. Running an older, arthritic dog may give them temporary joy and help them to lose weight, but it can cause lingering discomfort the next day. If you have a flat-faced breed, (aka brachycephalic breed), such as English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, Pugs, etc., make sure to limit their exposure to heat as there are more prone to heat stroke. Finally, discuss any pre-existing health issues with your veterinarian to find the best means of exercise for your pet.
Our information is not intended to replace the advice of your veterinarian. Do not use this information for diagnostic purposes. Always take your pet to your veterinarian to obtain a diagnosis and course of treatment.