The warmer weather is finally here, in most parts of the country that is, and if it hasn’t arrived where you are, it will soon enough. Nonetheless, the bitterly cold winter has passed and what better time to get outdoors with our faithful four-legged companions, than now?
Marycke Ackhurst, pet behaviour expert from Hill’s Pet Nutrition, says that just as we enjoy “hibernating” in winter, so do our pets, so they may need some encouragement to get up and go again.
Pet Obesity Month
October is pet obesity month and if you still need a bit more convincing as to why getting active is important, did you know that pet obesity is still the number one health problem pets face?
“Unfortunately, 90 percent of pet parents with an overweight pet don’t even realise it as pets gradually put on weight. It is usually only when someone points it out that pet parents realise,” Ackhurst explains.
She says that the concept of “ditching the food bowl” can help pets lose weight and keep in shape. The main principle of this concept is to make your pet work for their entire, or at least half, of their daily food consumption. Food enrichment toys such as treat balls, puzzles and LickiMats® are great boredom busters for your pet. LickiMats®, in particular, work well as slow feeders for both cats and dogs.
By incorporating games such as hide and seek where the pet parent hides the food in different locations and your pet needs to find it, helps to burn energy. “Remember to start on an easy level and then increase the level of difficulty as your pet grasps the concept. If you move too fast your pet may get frustrated and give up,” advises Ackhurst.
Helping your pet maintain their ideal weight
Below, she provides some other ways to help your pet reach, and maintain, their ideal weight:
- Your vet can advise you as to the right food that you should be feeding your pet whether it be to lose weight or to help maintain their weight if they are prone to putting it on. You can also check your pet’s body condition score on a regular basis and adjust feeding accordingly. Resources on Pet Slimmer provide guidance on how to do this.
- Accept the feeding amounts on the pet food packaging as a guideline only. Each pet is different and therefore their food allowance may differ. Lifestyle, age, health and whether they have been spayed or neutered, all play a role in the amount of food your pet should be consuming. If you aren’t sure, chat to your vet who will be able to guide you.
- Daily activity is important – whether it be taking your dog for a walk around the neighbourhood, to the park or even playing in the garden. If you are a cat parent, using boxes, a pet tunnel, a tickler, a cat tree or even a scrunched-up piece of paper are all activities your cat will love. This quality time is beneficial for you and your pet.
- Keep a check on treats – extra treats and human food can quickly result in additional calories and kilos. If you want to treat your pet, think of alternatives rather than food, such as a new toy and more cuddles.
In general, it is healthier for your pet to be a little underweight rather than a little overweight, as just a few extra kilograms put your pet at risk of health issues, including diabetes, arthritis, cancer and high blood pressure as well as a shortened lifespan.
More than half of the patients vets treat are overweight. Ackhurst says that it is important for pet parents to remember that the feeding guidelines are only a starting point. “These will need to be adjusted regularly to make sure pets stay in shape, as each pet is different and so is the amount of energy they require and burn on a daily basis,” concludes Ackhurst.