It’s 2019, and you may have made some resolutions as the sparkling ball dropped and you toasted to a year of new possibilities. After weeks of holiday stress and overeating, it’s a good bet that your resolutions include diet and exercise. This year, why not take a different approach and include your pet in your plans? Our New Year’s resolutions will help both you and your furry friend start 2019 on the right foot.
- Assess your pet’s body condition
After stepping onto the scale and deciding whether losing a few pounds is in order for yourself, it’s time to evaluate your pet’s body condition. Many people don’t notice when their pets pack on a few pounds. Gradual weight gain often goes unnoticed, especially on a fur-covered animal.
To assess your pet’s body condition, take a good look at your pet from the side and from above. A dog or cat in ideal body condition should have a noticeable abdominal tuck and her waist should have a smaller diameter, or girth, than her chest area. Next, take a hand and run it over the side of her chest, from front to back. You should be able to easily feel her ribs, but only see the last rib or two. If you cannot feel the ribs, or you can feel a thick layer of fat over them, your pet is probably overweight. If you can easily feel and see her ribs, your pet is likely too thin. For help, check out this body condition scoring chart that is used to evaluate dogs and cats.
If using a five-point scale, an ideal body condition is a three out of five; on the nine-point scale, a four out of nine is desired. Even if your pet falls into the ideal range and does not need to lose weight, healthy food choices and activity are always good habits to establish.
- Make healthy diet choices
If your furry pal does need to lose a few pounds, you’ll need to evaluate her food intake. If you are already feeding a high-quality food, calorie reduction can be as simple as reducing the amount fed with each meal. Start by comparing the amount you feed with the manufacturer’s recommendation on the packaging. It’s important to use an actual measuring cup when portioning out food for each meal since pet owners commonly underestimate the amount they actually feed. If you find that you’re feeding the amount suggested and your pet has still gained, we can perform a more specific calculation to determine the number of daily calories she should consume.
Another important consideration is the food that your pet eats in addition to her meals. Dogs and cats should not eat table scraps—a few bites here and there can quickly add up to another meal’s worth of food. A few treats per day can be OK, but only if the calories are subtracted from her meals. You can also be creative about sharing healthy snacks with your pup or feline friend. Many dogs will eat baby carrots or frozen green beans as treats, while cats often enjoy a bite of canned pumpkin or fresh cantaloupe.
- Hit the streets
A great way to kick off the New Year is to set consistent but realistic exercise goals. Working out together is an ideal way for you to bond with your pet, with the added bonus of physical and mental health benefits for you both. Start off slowly by taking a short daily walk with your pooch. As she becomes used to the activity, you can increase the intensity by taking longer, brisker walks. Eventually, you can advance to jogging together. Setting a fun goal, like participating in a pet-friendly 5K during the spring or summer, can keep you on track.
- Find creative ways to incorporate activity into playtime
Once you and your pet are on a regular exercise schedule, you can add in activity-based play sessions. A game of fetch or frisbee can provide exercise for you and your canine companion. You can also visit a dog park together; interacting with other dogs and their owners provides beneficial social and mental stimulation. When the weather warms up, take your pet along on fun spring and summer activities, like camping trips or short hikes.
Although exercising with your cat may not be as easy, there are ways to get your feline friend up and moving. Laser pointers or even a simple feather on a string will stimulate her inner predator. There are also many devices available that make pets hunt for their dinner or solve a simple puzzle to access it, providing important enrichment for indoor cats.
Questions about keeping your pet at a healthy weight? Call our office.