It’s a brand new year and time to make your resolutions for a brand new you. If getting back into your favorite jeans after over indulging during the holidays tops your list, you’re not alone. In fact, your canine friend might be in the same boat. So this year, why not resolve to include your pup in your “get healthy” plans. Not only will he or she benefit, but having a partner just may motivate you to keep going even after the typical January falling off. And it’s more fun together.
The Problems of a Few Extra Pounds
If the scale shows a few extra pounds this New Year, you may not look or feel as good as you normally do. But a few extra pounds on your furry friend is a much bigger deal, especially for a small or medium-sized dog. Just a 15% weight gain, which for a 10-pound dog would equate to just a pound and a half, is enough to cause harmful inflammatory changes in your pup’s body. Excess weight can cause many of the same problems you experience, such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, joint problems, and more.
Count your Calories
You probably monitor your weight enough to know when you need to shed some pounds and how many. Can you say the same about your pup? Many owners don’t realize their pet is overweight. A good rule of thumb is you should be able to feel (not see) the ribs by running your hands lightly over his or her sides. If you can’t, there is too much fat covering them and it’s time for a diet change.
Just like for you, calorie intake is the predominant factor in weight gain. If calorie intake exceeds the calories your pup burns, he or she may not fit into that new Christmas jacket. But how do you know how many calories are too much? The Pet Nutrition Alliance has a handy calorie calculator to determine how many calories will keep your dog at a healthy weight. Then find a high-quality dog food, read the label, and measure their food to make sure you are feeding the appropriate amount to maintain or achieve a healthy weight. We at Powell Veterinary Service can help you with food and diet recommendations. In some cases, a prescription dog food may be the best choice.
So while you resolve to cut out snacks, desserts and fatty foods, look at your dog’s diet as well. No, that extra piece of bacon will not make her love you more.
Get to the Gym (or Not)
The local gym may provide the tools and incentive to carve those extra pounds off your waist, but it most likely frowns on canine patrons. But that’s OK, you have plenty of other options that are perfect for both of you and don’t involve sweating alongside a bunch of other buffed and not-so-buffed bodies.
A daily walk before or after work is an easy addition to your routine. Your pet will become so accustomed to it, they will not let you avoid the excursion by hitting the snooze button, or plopping down on your easy chair after a long day. No more excuses. Depending on you and your dog’s activity levels, this can also be a run or even a bike ride for a well-trained doggy pal. If weather or other circumstances prevent outside activities, yes, your pup can learn to walk on a treadmill, alongside you or alone.
Agility training is an excellent way for your dog—and you—to get exercise. Think of it as an obstacle course for dogs. Some dog parks have a few agility obstacles. You can contact local dog clubs or training facilities to find agility training classes and courses. You can even put up a few obstacles of your own in your yard. A child’s play tunnel is an easy obstacle; a broom supported on each end makes a good high (or low) jump; and a slalom run can be fashioned out of most any type of sticks or poles that your pup can weave through. Use your imagination. Don’t forget, it’s a team effort. You have to run alongside to show them where to go next.
If your pup is a social butterfly, or wants to be, make a play date with other dogs in the neighborhood and their owners. They’ll get exercise, improve their socializing skills and have fun. It’s a chance for you to socialize as well, which is important for overall happiness and well-being.
When you resolve to get in shape, make it a joint effort with your furry friend. Exercise is always more fun with a partner. Get healthy together.
Do you and your pup a favor and make 2018 a great year for getting and staying healthy. And don’t forget routine healthcare for both of you. Make that appointment now. Powell Veterinary Service will be happy to take care of your needs—at least your dog’s.