According to APOP, the Association of Pet Obesity Prevention, an estimated 54% of dogs and cats in the United States are overweight or obese. That’s approximately 93 million US dogs and cats that need to get moving!
Simply put, this makes me sad. We live in a world where nutrition and exercise is taking a back seat. Obesity in adults, kids and pets is rising rapidly. I’m not going to lecture on eating right and exercising, but it is definitely relevant. The trend seems to have happened like this. First, our health slowly took a back seat, then our children pick up our bad habits and now the pets in the home are getting overweight.
I know it’s difficult to find the time to run with our dogs, but it is our responsibility. Most breeds need quite a bit of exercise and stimulation. They need to run, not just walk, and they need challenges to overcome to tire them out physically and mentally in order to be healthy. Cats can even be encouraged to exercise more with toys and games. The one key ingredient these animals are missing is you. You can always hire a dog runner, not just a walker, but someone who can do short bursts of running with your pet to actually drain his energy. Also, it needs to be someone who knows about breeds and pet first aid to make sure your dog is in good hands. The benefits of exercise are endless and practically the same for dogs and cats as humans. The most important being the fact that it helps prevent extra weight. Extra fat puts your loved ones at greater risk for cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, respiratory problems, joint and skeletal disorders, and early death. Regular activity tones muscles, builds strong bones, improves circulation, and lifts spirits by increasing ‘feel good’ chemical levels in the body. Dogs are not okay being in a yard all day because he doesn’t run laps as you might think. He waits for you to get home for stimulation. Fit dogs, just like fit humans, feel better and sleep better. This makes happier people and pets with fewer medical expenses.
The next step is the food they eat. Every animal is different just like people. For example, some dogs benefit from being fed scrambled eggs and others can’t handle it because there stomach is too sensitive. Think about this when choosing your dog and cat food. Is your pet getting enough nutrients? Is your pet food too high in fat? Does your pet need a supplement? All these questions can be answered by a vet. I also suggest cutting out people food for a while and looking into organic and/or low fat treats. Get treats that are very soft and squishy so you can break them up into tiny pieces. Trust me, your pet doesn’t care how big the treat is, just that he gets one. This way your pet doesn’t feel deprived and you can still fulfill your urge to give it to him because he deserves it on cuteness alone. I understand how it is. Sometimes when I’m cooking, all it takes is a cute little turn of the head and before even thinking about it I’m feeding my dogs part of my dinner. But it is a bad habit. Even if it’s their favorite food. Everything is there favorite! I once knew a woman who gave her cat chocolate milk everyday even though it made the cat ill. She said she couldn’t help it because it was Fluffy’s favorite. Please don’t be that person. Next time you feel the urge to feed Fido from the table, grab a squeaky toy or yarn ball and toss it for them to play with. You should feel better thinking about the fact that they will live longer and happier lives, bringing you more companionship by being a healthy weight.
It seems there are always things happening to keep us from going outside to run our dogs. That shouldn’t stop you from other activities that can stimulate your pet. Cats are easy, cut back on their food and extra treats then swing something fuzzy around till they are bored. There are even tricks you can teach your cat, just google it to learn how.
Dogs are more involved. They still need their exercise as you do, so take turns on the treadmill when the weather is bad outside. Do intervals with your pet. For example, start with a warm up and to two minutes running hard or at an incline with one minute of rest. Hop off and put the pooch on for a bit while you do twenty crunches, twenty jumping jacks, push ups, squats, etc. Then hop back on the treadmill for two or three more intervals. You hop off and repeat the floor routine while Fido is jogging. Repeat as many times as you like and this is just to give you an idea to think outside of the box. If you want to watch a television show then put the treadmill next to the couch and watch it while Fido works out. Make sure he is always supervised. Some dogs quickly take to it and others need encouragement and guidance. There are many dog games you can play in the house to drain energy like the ‘find it’ game. You can also work on obedience in the house. Teaching something new or refining skills in the house where its a controlled environment is perfect. This way your pet will have less distractions and can’t run while practicing off leash techniques. Always be looking for ways to exercise your pet in your area. There are always hikes, marathons with dogs, agility classes and more to look for.
After reading this article I can trust that you have been influenced and will spend more time exercising your pet. Take care of you, your family and your canine kids.