Exercise partners provide a powerful combination of support, accountability, and motivation. More than half of U.S. household pets are considered overweight. While one or two pounds may not seem like much weight to us, with smaller and more delicate spines, those pounds can make a huge difference in the health of your animal.
To help motivate you to keep this year's resolutions, try having your pet as your accountability buddy. Pets On Broadway has also started a Run Club which meets twice a week, so we can be your accountability buddy too!
Setting manageable goals is a great way to achieve them without feeling overwhelmed. Reward yourself when you hit mini-milestones, and reward your pet for their progress as well!
The amount of exercise your pet gets per day should determine how much food they are eating. Food is fuel, whatever calories they intake and do not burn off turns into fat in their bodies. Dogs going on long hikes or runs throughout their day need more food than a dog who takes moderate walks twice per day.
Every bag of food comes with a feeding guideline for your pet, but these are a general guideline and should not be treated as an exact amount. Start by feeding the suggested serving size and keep a close eye on your pet's weight. As it fluctuates, adjust the portion size.
**Remember to always cut the daily serving size into at least two meals. If your pet tends to beg for food in between, try splitting their portions into smaller, more frequent meals.
If you feed mostly kibble, try swapping some out for wet or raw food. Often when our animals think they're hungry, they're really thirsty! Pet water fountains are also a great way to encourage hydration.
You can get your pet to the weight that's desired. Reduce the amount you are feeding slowly to let their body adjust to the smaller portion sizes. Drastically cutting their portions can have adverse side effects.
There are lower calorie foods made with a lower fat and higher fiber ratio; however, you can also reduce the amount of food you are feeding and have the same effect.
Meal preparation can be a huge time saver when you are changing a dog's food or switching to frozen raw foods (most of which are designed to be thawed out ahead of time). Most people develop a simple system of having two fridge storage containers, one for each meal time. Each time you feed your cat or dog, simply replace the nuggets with new frozen nuggets, place in your fridge and rotate the containers.
**Thawed raw food stays fresh in the fridge for up to three days. For those who do not wish to feed frozen food, freeze-dried raw food provides a convenient and healthy alternative.
There are plenty of healthy frozen supplements that can be added to any dog's diet. Raw goat milk is a universal small animal milk and provides your pet with live digestive enzymes to help tighten up their digestive track. Thaw out for 12 hours on the counter or for 24 hours in the fridge. After thawing, it stays fresh for two weeks.
Have you heard of Green Juju? This super healthy vegetable blend is the perfect addition to any dog's diet! Freshly-juiced vegetables, bison bone broth, and turmeric are slowly blended together to create the ultimate super-food smoothie. Invented and made in Seattle, this blend has become a Pacific Northwest (and staff) favorite!
Treats should only make up 10% of your dog's diet. Training treats can add up quickly, especially when you are training a new dog or puppy. Try a low-calorie option, or a treat alternative like Leanlix. Clicker training is also calorie-free!
Dogs have a natural urge to chew, so giving them healthier treats to satisfy that craving with is a great way to cut down on extra fat. Treats should only make up 10% of their daily diet and we often forget to calculate chews such as bully sticks or pig ears into their food intake.
Working For Their Food
Cats and dogs are descended from fierce hunters, and they carry those instincts with them. Animals are naturally curious, and their brains need exercise too!
For both cats and dogs that eat kibble, putting their meal into treat balls (such as the Kong Wobbler, or Cat It Treat Balls) makes them work for their meal. It automatically slows them down while they eat, and working for their food engages their brain.
Treat balls are an excellent way to monitor how much your pet is eating, and extend the amount of time it takes them to eat their meal.
Walks are beneficial for your dog's health, and they are great for yours as well! It's easy to fall into a routine on our daily walks, so try switching up the route, adding in an extra hill, or adding an extra walk to let your dog see some new sights.
Want to make your walk a bit more fit? Walk one direction at a faster pace, and encourage your dog to walk on and not stop to sniff along the way. Walking at a brisk pace is often the best pace to burn fat. On the way back, take your time and let them stretch and sniff to their hearts content!
Playing with your dog is a great way to get them moving. For dogs that love to fetch, Chuckits or frisbees are a great way to get your dog running without hurting your arm. During the rainy months, a muddy field can feel like the last place you want to be. Try playing tug-o-war or try a wand toy instead. Also, check out our article on how to bring your dog with you on a hike, if that's something you like to do.
If you have an indoor cat who paws at the window and seems to long for the outdoors, try taking them on a walk! Our handy guide to getting your cat used to their harness can take the guesswork out of taking them outside. Let them stretch their legs without worrying about their wellbeing.
For cats that are more comfortable indoors, try exercising them with wand toys or a simple peacock feather! Having them jump up on beds, run up stairs, or climb their cat tree is a great way to improve their strength and agility.
You know your pet best. Start slowly and set incremental goals.
Puppies need shorter bursts of exercise, and their little bodies get tired much more quickly. They also sleep much more than an adult dog--they've got whole bodies to grow!
Older dogs often have more joint and bone stress and hard exercise can be damaging to their health. If you have a pet-friendly pool or can take trips to a calm ocean, working with dogs in water can be hugely therapeutic to their joints.
They are able to exercise without the stress on their bodies. Some vets in Portland even have hydro-therapy available for dogs recovering from surgery or who are arthritic.
Portland is a pet city. There are local companies like Sit Stay Fit that are dedicated to pet health and training. There are services that will take your dog running, and dog walkers are abundant for those who do not have the schedule to allow an extra walk or two!
Focusing on your pet's health creates a stronger bond with them. It allows them to live longer, happier lives and spend even more time with you.