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We have three family pets – our 3 year old Lab puppy Dobby, our 7 year old Siamese cat Jules, and our 16 month old long-haired kitten Zelda. If your family has any pets then I don’t have to tell you how hard we fall in love with them and how they become a part of our family. Just like our human family members, we would like to see our furry family members live a long life. How can we help our pets live as long as is possible? By helping them live the healthiest life possible, of course.
There are different things we can do to help encourage a healthy lifestyle for our pets. Just as is the case with people, different pets have different needs. Last week I was able to participate in a YouTube Live chat with Purina veterinarian Dr Kurt Venator. Purina aims to drive the health and well-being of pets and their owners so they can live bigger, healthier and happier lives together. During our conversation, we had the opportunity to discuss the current state of pet health and things we can do to improve our the health of our own four-legged family members.
We play a big part in keeping our pets healthy. After all, we make or facilitate many of their decisions. Food? Activity? We are a part of all of those things. Let’s take a look at three things we need to do that can help make a difference.
You might not realize it, but pet obesity is becoming a very big problem (no pun intended) in our country. According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP), an estimated 58 percent of cats and 54 percent of dogs in the United States are overweight or obese.As is the case with some people, some pets are being fed the wrong foods. We need to be selecting the correct foods for our pets.
The diet you feed should be well-balanced and developed to be suited for your pet’s life stage (puppy, adult, senior) and lifestyle (active or sedentary). Puppy food should be given to puppies until they are 12 months of age, which is when most puppies are considered full-grown. If the puppy is a large or giant breed then puppy food should be fed for up to 18 months. I didn’t realize there is something called a bright mind diet, which is for dogs 7 years or older and helps with cognitive abilities. There are many choices out there. If you aren’t certain about what to feed your pet or how much to feed, discuss it with your vet. Purina recognizes the importance of a well-balanced diet for pets and has a dedicated team of more than 500 scientists, including veterinarians and nutritionists paving the way for innovative nutritional discoveries that better the lives of pets.
Keep in mind that treats should be exactly that – an occasional treat. Treats should not be overused or considered part of the diet. Limit what treats you give and how often you give them. Your pet’s treat intake should only be ten percent of their caloric intake. Also, your leftovers should not be your pet’s reward or treat. People food and table scraps are not appropriate for your pet’s diet.
Whether we realize it or not, our pets play a big part in helping to keep us healthy. Did you know that 85% of pet owners find exercising more enjoyable with a pet at their side? With the arrival of milder temperatures, many folks are heading back outside for fun and exercise. Why not take the dog with you! Incorporating routine exercise can be beneficial to pets and their owners.With routine exercise, pet owners can help reduce the risk of health issues in their pets and help them live longer and healthier lives overall.
Dr Venator recommends the following amounts of activity for pets:
- 30 minutes of activity per day for small dogs
- 30 minutes of rigorous activity per day for large dogs as well as 1-2 hours of other activity
- 20 minutes of activity per day for cats
Here’s a tip for walking with your pet during the summer. Asphalt and sand can get very hot. Be sure to keep your pet off of those surfaces or get them booties. If it’s too hot for your bare feet then it’s too hot for their feet too.
Before you create a customized fitness routine, consult with your vet. For safety reasons, when a person first goes to a gym they gradually make their exercise regiment more challenging. Implementing exercise into your pet’s life should be a gradual process for those same reasons.
In addition to activities like walking and hiking, play can also be considered exercise. One of Dobby’s favorite things to do is play with us in the backyard, with either a ball or flying disc.
Other forms of play stimulate the mind, which is also a part of good health. For cats, try using mice, feathers and “fishing pole” type of toys because they allow the cat to be curious and exercise their natural hunting behavior. For dogs, work on commands such as fetch. Food puzzle toys help stimulate the brain and keep your pet busy. Dr Venator recommends rotating your pets toys, limiting them to one or two per day. This helps them stay interested and engaged in their toys. I’d never thought of this and can’t even think of how many times we’d leave all of Dobby’s toys out for him.
Not up for hours of walking? Let your dog play with some friends! Arrange a play date with a friend that has a dog. Or, take your dog to a dogpark where they can socialize and play with other dogs. You’ll have a blast watching them have fun and you might even make a new friend too.
Remain aware of your pet’s weight the shape they’re in. There are three views you can use to gauge your pet’s body condition – rib check, profile and from above. Keep an eye for changes in weight, energy and health. Be sure to consult your veterinarian if you notice any sudden changes or areas of concern.
Having a pet can really enhance your quality of life. Along with the physical benefits, there are many mental and emotional benefits as well. More than half of pet owners think that one of the best perks of owning a pet is that pets help boost their mood, while 43% think that owning a pet improves their mental health. You can find more information on pet foods and leading a healthy pet lifestyle at www.purina.com and petcentric.com.