January is not only Train Your Dog Month, but also National Walk Your Pet Month, so it seems that those health-based New Year’s resolutions you made in January should include your furry friend. With more than half our nation’s pets overweight or obese, National Walk Your Pet Month was created to help raise awareness of this “growing” problem. With the help of a built-in exercise buddy, commit to getting fit with your pet this year by keeping these five tips in mind.
#1: Start off easy with your pet’s exercise routine
If your pet—or you—aren’t used to daily exercise, start slow and easy with a quick stroll around the block, and gradually build up to longer, faster hikes. As your endurance level increases, get your pet’s heart pumping with quick speed bursts, such as a brisk jog or a sprint or two, that will help keep your pet engaged and focused on you during your walks, and also burn extra calories.
Pets who are overweight or who have reached senior status may struggle with the demands routine exercise places on their bodies, so ensure you move slowly when implementing their new exercise regimen. Puppies and kittens are still developing their joints and muscles, and can easily injure themselves if they exercise too strenuously or for too long, so treat them carefully also.
#2: Avoid the temptation of skipping a day of activity with your pet
In the depths of winter, it’s nice to sleep in, lazing in your cozy warm bed. But, when that cold snout reminds you it’s time for your daily walk, don’t cover your head with your blanket—lace up your running shoes and hit the pavement with your pooch to get a burst of feel-good endorphins, burning calories along the way. You’ll feel much better with your daily dose of activity, and your pet will be content to snuggle with you after releasing some extra steam. Routine physical activity is excellent for banishing boredom and preventing problem behaviors, so for your pet’s mental and physical health, avoid the temptation to skip a day.
#3: Spice up your pet’s normal exercise routine
Plodding around the same old neighborhood block gets boring for you and your pet. Spice up your walk by hitting a new trail, exploring a different city section, or including a doggy pal in your daily stroll.
If cold weather traps you inside, break out of your doldrums by encouraging new play styles inside your home. Dogs—and cats—can easily be lured around an indoor agility course. Create weave poles and small jumps for your pet to navigate, coaxing her along the path with a tasty treat. With enough repetition, your furry friend will be bounding along the course faster than you.
#4: Ditch your pet’s food dish
Nothing contributes to pet obesity more than an always-full food dish. Remove this never-ending buffet and make your pet hunt for her meals, encouraging physical and mental activity. For example, place your pet’s kibble inside puzzle feeders, and then watch her decipher the best way to reach her meal. Or, hide small portions of your pet’s meal throughout your home, bribing her to hike up and down stairs and explore for her daily rations. For food-motivated pets, replace the treats used during training sessions with normal kibble, and slowly dole out snacks throughout your daily training and play.
#5: Clear your pet for exercise
Not every pet can withstand a rigorous exercise regimen, no matter how beneficial cardio workouts are for every creature. Clear your pet for your new exercise protocol by scheduling a wellness workup at our veterinary hospital. We will check for any orthopedic issues, cardiac conditions, or breathing problems to ensure your pet is fit enough to be your workout buddy.
If you’re ready to make the most of the New Year by being active with your furry pal, give us a call to schedule a wellness visit.