It's was a real eye opener to see that 53% of dogs and 58% of cats in the United States are overweight or obese! That works out to nearly 99 million pets are living an unhealthy lifestyle.
Much like we owners need to pay attention to our own health & fitness needs, we also need to do the same with our four legged friends. It's very easy for people to slip into unhealthy habits and pack on the pounds and those habits and sedentary lifestyles can be passed on to our pets if we're not mindful.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has shared some great tips on what we can do to make sure our beloved fur-babies stay in shape and, if necessary, shed some of that extra weight so they can live the happiest, healthiest life possible.
Top 5 Tips for Getting Pets in Shape
1.) Limit the amount of food you give them. This doesn't mean you should give them less than they want to eat, but often times pets will just eat...and eat....and eat...even if they're way past the point of being hungry if there's still food in their bowl. Pay attention to the serving size recommended on the food's label and try not to put a huge pile of food out for them at a time.
2.) Avoid giving them too many treats. Just like us, pets love receiving a little treat or snack here and there. It's a great way to reward good behavior, but those snacks have a lot of calories (just like human snacks) - and it can be very easy to overindulge if we treat them often & over the amount suggested.
3.) Never give your pet people food. It's really hard to resist those cute little faces looking up at us when we have some delicious goodies on our plate. Then the begging starts. Often, it's easier to just give them a nibble here, a bite there..I mean we love seeing them happy, right? Certain human foods, like onions, cheese, and chocolate, can be deadly for dogs. Even foods we would consider healthy like grapes & certain types of nuts can not only add extra weight to our pets, but can also damage their health. When the puppy dog eyes come out or your cat breaks out the sweet looks, resist the urge to give them some of your food. <---this is one of those "you'll thank me for this later" talks you'll have with them!!
4.) Have them eat their food slowly. I've seen pets who scarf down their food like they're in a Fourth of July hot dog eating contest (then look up at you like "keep it comin', mama!!!") --- and, just like humans, animals can put on weight if they speed through their meals. You can help break your pet from that competitive eater mode by feeding them in smaller increments over a period of time. Grazing will help keep their metabolism working steadily throughout the day and help them keep additional weight from creeping on.
5.) Exercise - and lots of it. There's no two ways about it, your pets will be healthier and happier if they get to move around & exercise. Dogs can be walked or taken to the dog park, but cats need to move too! It's important to take a little time out of your day to play with them and get them moving too! I love the red laser beam to get them racing around and the toy/feather dangling from the pole to get them moving!
6.) Vets are your pets' best friend. So important! As a pet parent, we should take all our pets to the vet at least once a year for a check-up. No one is more qualified to get advice from or help you get your pet on a healthy track!
Isn't it funny how we can literally take this same advice and use it on ourselves too? Well, maybe not the vet check-up....that would just kind of be odd!
I know I'm as guilty as the next person for giving a few more treats here and there, especially to the bunny - this was a good reminder that their health is really in our hands and what may seem harmless at the time can end up hurting them in the long run.
Do you have any tips you use for keeping your pet healthy & active? What's your favorite way to give your pet a work out?
About the AVMA: The AVMA has been making sure our pets get the best care for over 150 years. You can find out more info on how to keep your pets happy and healthy by visiting them at www.avma.org