Written by Amber Burns
So you had a recent appointment with your veterinarian and they used the dreaded word, obesity, when describing your beloved pet. How can that be? You follow the feeding label. You play with them as much as you can, but sometimes they just don’t want to do it. What can be done? Well, this is certainly not an uncommon scenario. With our busy schedules, we can often fall into a routine of feeding our pets and not really thinking about their overall physique. Pet food label feeding guidelines, are just that, guidelines. For many pets, they can be too much. However, that is another blog post altogether. It is a good idea to talk to your veterinarian about how to adjust food amounts to be more appropriate for your pet’s lifestyle. But what are better ways to exercise your pet and how often should this be done? You may see advertisements for toys for your dog and cat and that might be a good option, but you can also try simple things at home first.
Dogs are can be walked or can accompany you on a run. If they are not at that level yet, try just getting them up and down stairs or going around the back yard. If no back yard, try up and down a driving area or a parking lot perimeter. Chasing balls, Frisbee’s and other toss toys are often helpful for short bursts of exercise and may hold interest for a few minutes or longer. In warmer weather months, swimming is a great help for those that you know enjoy it. If they have never been in the water before, do not introduce them abruptly. If a dog is tougher to motivate, you can use a portion of their regular food ration as an exercise tool as well. There are all sorts of toys that can have a hidden treat inside that they can then chase after. It is very important, though, to make sure it is not added food beyond their regular daily portion as this will compound the problem and not improve it. If snow and ice is a problem, you can do a smaller range of exercises in a single room environment. Chasing a ball, playing with a rope toy or even training your dog to use a treadmill are indoor options.
Cats are not as easy as dogs to motivate. They too can use toys such as strings with feathers, play mice or even balls with bells. You can also make your own. Balled up aluminum foil is a favorite for many (Supervision with toys is always recommended). Cats are not straight runners, but pouncers and like multiple levels. Hiding behind a chair or door and using stairs as part of their play area is ideal. Laser pointers are also fun to chase for short bursts. Cats can also be food motivated and those that are will often follow food in a toy or chase down a single kibble. Cats will often prefer shorter periods of activity, though, as compared to dogs. Thus, multiple play times through the day are ideal.
Most of all, our pets need us to be interacting with them. Having daily play time is the key to the solution. The amount of time is what will be determined based on what you already do and the degree of your pet’s weight problem. Talk to your veterinarian to determine an exercise regimen that is appropriate for your lifestyle and your pet’s needs.