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The Importance of Exercise

Posted on 11 January 2013

Over indulge over Christmas?? Chances are we all have and unfortunately our pets tend to be over indulged too with lots of juicy leftovers and off cuts from the numerous BBQs and roast dinners. So, now is the time to make that New Year’s resolution for your pet. Somehow I think it’s a little easier to stick to these for our little mates than stick to our own resolutions and with a few simple changes you can make a world of difference to your pet’s health.

Here are a few tips to help you, help your dog, to lose weight. Remember, our pets are in our care and we are responsible for their state of health……ultimately we can’t change what we’ve done but we can change what we’re doing…….!!

Stop feeding treats

I had a client and his dog come in a few months ago for a yearly check-up. The family had welcomed a new baby in the last year and everyone was very happy and healthy, except for the family retriever who had managed to put on 10Kg ( a massive 33% increase to his normal optimal weight) because he was allowed to clean up under the high chair and was given all the leftover baby food!!
In another case, an owner had organised a friend to take her little overweight terrier for a walk every day. The friend had her own dogs as well and so it was a great opportunity for the terrier to exercise and socialise. After a few weeks however the owner could not understand why her dog was not losing weight….on further questioning we discovered that the friend walking the dogs, dropped in on another neighbour on her walk who fed the little dog half a scotch finger biscuit every day as a treat for her efforts!!

It is very easy to ignore little ‘titbits’ on a daily basis but over a year this is a big increase in the calorie intake of your pet. If your dog is on a good quality, complete and balanced dog food then this is all it needs to stay healthy and happy, don’t be tempted or let your children or others be tempted to give them more, even if they are staring at you with those…I adore you, please feed me, eyes!!

Take your dog for a walk, run, ball chase or book a dog walker

Exercising your pet is really important not only in reducing the incidence of disease such as heart, kidney, joint and skin disease, but in their continued socialisation with other people and dogs.
The increased abundance of dog friendly parks, beaches and cafes now make exercising your pet even more enjoyable and achievable. If you can’t exercise your pet for work related or other reasons then ask a relative, or pay the kid next door to walk or play fetch with your dog for ten minutes, a few times a week. Once you get into a set routine it is much easier to stick to it. For this reason a Dog Walker is a great way of making sure your dog gets regular exercise. Just one 30 minute walk a week can make a difference to your dog’s health and happiness and it may help decrease other unwanted behaviours associated with boredom such as plant chewing, hole digging, barking and general nuisance behaviour.

Change the way you feed your pet

This doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy the most expensive prescription dog food but it does mean you have to think about how you feed your pet in relation to his breed, body size and metabolism.
Some breeds such as Labrador and Golden Retrievers are more food driven and therefore more prone to weight gain compared to other breeds such as Greyhounds and Whippets. As a result you need to adjust their food intake accordingly. Often you can split meals into a morning and night feed so that they are burning calories through the day. Alternatively you can hide food in food toys or bury it in a sandpit so your dog has to search and dig for their food thereby satisfying two needs; hunger and exercise.

Many people fall into the trap of changing to a light or mature diet to help their dog lose weight. Remember many of these diets will slow down or stop weight gain but will NOT help your pet actually lose weight. Reducing your dog’s calorie intake (i.e. feeding less) and increasing exercise is still important. For example: If you give your dog a raw meaty bone then don’t give the same amount of dry food on that day that you normally would, reduce the amount by ¼ to a ½. Similarly, use kibble from his daily food ration to use as treats and rewards or reward him with a walk or play time instead.

There are many ways to reduce and control your pet’s weight and of course it will depend on the age and any ailments your dog has as to how much you can do. Talk to your vet about weight loss in your pet and they can help you come up with strategies including what to feed, how much to feed and how often to help optimise weight loss.

Good luck, fingers crossed we can all stick to some of our New Year’s resolutions!!

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