Don’t let the recent cold fronts derail your fitness goals for the new year, especially if those goals include your pet. Now more than ever, many canines are considered overweight. In fact, the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention estimates more than 50 percent of dogs in the U.S. are overweight, and almost 60 percent of cats are considered overweight. The risk to our pets includes diabetes, osteoarthritis, hypertension and many forms of cancer.
You can combat obesity with diet, but exercise is a great compliment to that. An active dog or cat is going to burn more calories and stay in shape.
Before you start an exercise plan with your pet, the Houston Humane Society has a few of the following recommendations:
- Check in with your veterinarian. Have your dog in for a general health exam. Your veterinarian can help you establish a target weight for your pet and examine them to make sure they are ok to start exercising.
- Keep safety in mind. You wouldn’t show up to the gym in high heels or a suit. You wear running shoes and the right clothes. Same thing goes for your dog. Make sure you are using the right collar and leash combo. If you have a dog that pulls, consider a harness or even a slip leash that will give you more control. And if you plan to run at night, consider investing in a leash and color combo with reflective strips.
- Start slow – especially if you have a young pup, elderly dog, or a pet that has had little to no exercise before. Try a moderate pace for 10-15 minutes and build up to more.
- Consider the type of surface you are running on. Concrete can be brutal on the pads of your pooch’s paws. In cases of extreme heat or cold you might consider booties for your pet.
- Always take water along for you and your pooch. Even in cool weather you want to make sure your dog always has access to fresh water. Consider a pet bowl or water bottle that clips directly on the leash for easy access.
- Stay close to home – a game of fetch in the backyard or tug in the house are also great ways to work in quick exercise for your dog.
- Cats need a workout too! Sometimes a second cat is the best thing to get your cat playing. Games of chase and wrestling can really wear them out. Be sure to keep plenty of toys around, consider laser pointers and cat wands for interactive toys or go all out and build an obstacle course in your house…a few empty boxes and strategically placed cat toys can turn your house into a fun playroom!