The New Year is a perfect and popular time to set new goals and routines. Many people recommit to health and exercise routines because of their proven benefits to overall health and quality of life. In addition to committing to an active lifestyle yourself, you should include your pets in these goals, to ensure they have a strong body and mind during all life stages.
Before your pet engages in any physical activity, ensure they are healthy and without exercise limitations. The new year is a great time to schedule your pet’s annual preventive care exam so your veterinarian can check them from nose to tail, and ensure they are pain free and ready to be active with their pet parents. Staying active with your pet has many benefits, and our Gentle Touch Animal Hospital team has compiled the top five.
#1: Pet obesity is at an all time high
Resisting your pet’s begging eyes as they stare down your last bite of chicken, or holding back one more treat, is not easy. However, too much of a good thing can be dangerous for your pet’s health. Fluffy cats and extra furry dogs can deceive pet parents, who are often unaware that their beloved companions are actually overweight. In fact, pet obesity has become an epidemic, with more than 50% of U.S. dogs and cats overweight or obese. Managing your pet’s nutrition, combined with an active lifestyle, will help ensure your pet maintains a healthy weight. Additionally, treats should be no more than 10% of your pet’s total daily calories to avoid weight gain. During your pet’s veterinary exams, they will be weighed and assigned a body condition score (BCS) that is recorded in their medical record. You can also use a BCS chart at home to evaluate your pet’s weight. Incorporating daily exercise, which can be short, frequent walks, into your pet’s routine will help them burn calories and decrease their chances of becoming overweight or obese. Try walking your canine pal for five minutes, four to five times daily, gradually working up to 30 to 45 minutes of activity.
#2: Active pets have improved physical health
Like humans, staying active provides numerous benefits for your pet’s physical wellbeing. Exercise, such as daily games of fetch or hide and seek with their favorite toy, will prevent a sedentary lifestyle and aid in weight loss or healthy weight management. Our furry pals are never with us long enough, but pets who maintain a healthy weight can increase their lifespan by two or more years. Additionally, overweight pets are more at risk for health issues, including high blood pressure, lung and kidney disease, diabetes, and some cancers. Other health benefits to active pets include:
- Improved cardiovascular function
- Improved muscle tone
- Improved digestion
- Decreased incidence of arthritis
- Increased joint mobility
#3: Active pets have improved mental health
Many pets may consider couch cuddles or walking to their food bowl an athletic event, especially during the chilly winter months. However, you must encourage your furry friends to remain active, including when they are spending more time indoors. Pets who are used to daily outdoor adventures may behave inappropriately because of boredom, sometimes leading to accidents or aggressive behavior. Ensure your pet has a variety of toys and activities to exercise their body and burn calories, and to stimulate their brain, including:
- Soft toys for playing fetch that will not damage any household items
- Rope or other toy for tug-of-war
- Cat toys, such as feather wands, which promote natural stalking behavior
- Hiding small portions of your pet’s food or treats throughout different areas of the house
- Placing food treats in puzzle bowls or toys, such as a Kong
- Teaching a new behavior or skill such as fetching toys that you’ve given a specific name
#4: Staying active with your pet leads to more adventures
Plan outdoor activities with your pet that include exploring new locations and new sights—for example, seeing a beautiful sunrise or sunset with your beloved companion by your side is an added benefit to being active. Neighborhood walks or hiking adventures will provide your pet with unique smells and sights that will help encourage activity. Use caution during the colder winter months, as all pets can be affected by cold temperatures, such as hypothermia. In general, if it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for your pet. Consider dressing your pet in a properly fitting sweater or jacket to keep them warm when you are in the cold outdoors. Additionally, protect your pet’s paws with boots or salves such as Musher’s Secret to ensure they are comfortable walking on cold or wet surfaces.
#5: Staying active with your pet improves your bond
The love of a furry friend is a special, enriching experience that has been proven to increase human quality of life. The human-animal bond is equally important for your pet’s well being and overall health. Spending time with your pet, such as walks in the dog park or backyard exploration with your feline friend, are great ways to strengthen your bond. Pets, like people, are creatures of habit, so establishing a dedicated play time or exercise routine will improve their emotional well being.
Our Gentle Touch Animal Hospital team wants to ensure your pets stay active and healthy through all life stages. Call our office to schedule an exam before starting any exercise routine with your pet, or if you have any questions about keeping your pet active.