By Natasha Polak
For Local Pet Services
If you are an active person, you may not have a hard time helping your furry or winged friend stay within his weight limits by keeping him active. But if you are away from home a lot, or have more of a sedentary lifestyle, it might pose more of a challenge.
What is “fitness” For Your Pet?
Your pet’s ideal weight is calculated by height, breed, and species. When you take him to the veterinarian’s office for regular check-ups, you will likely be given information on the range at which his weight should be. This does not take into consideration his metabolism and temperament, which can make it easier or harder for him to achieve that target number.
Ways to Prevent Pet Obesity
As the caretaker for your friend, there are many things you can do to help him be as healthy as he can, even if you have a busy schedule or limited budget.
Get Moving, Run Free!
Your four-legged pet will love to chase you around the house, if you give him a chance. When outdoors, you can play catch with a frisbee, ball or stick for him to retrieve, or clip on the leash and go for a walk together, allowing him to do “his business” as well as get fresh air. Being cooped up inside all day can make anyone depressed and sick, even our pets. If your dog is already an outdoor pet, he will still enjoy the change of scenery, while interacting with you.
If you live by a body of water, or have a pool, your dog can have some water fun! Swimming is a great exercise for humans, so why not let Fido benefit from it, too?
For your feline pet, outdoor activity might not be suitable for him. To keep him active, have him bat at a moving toy, provide a cat tower for him to climb on or into, and have a scratching post at the ready for exercising his paws and claws.
If you have a pet bird, you can encourage him to stretch his wings by giving him ample time outside his cage. Give him enough space to fly around the room, or hop up or off of perches (or your arm or shoulder) and play gyms. He may amuse you with his varied antics, and may even hang like a bat, flailing his wings around as his method of exercise, or even dance if you have music playing in the background!
Food and Water
Just like humans have diets, your pet should have one too! It is irresponsible to expect your pet to eat table scraps every day or indulge in frequent treats. There are specific foods made for your pet’s species and activity level, so that your pet can function and keep up with you. Don’t overdo the amount of food you give him, and take it easy on fatty foods that can make him pack on the pounds or get sick. Worse, he could develop more of a taste for table scraps or an increase in his kibble, making it even harder for you to break him of the habit you allowed him to form. Water, clean and pure, is also a must. Being dehydrated is just another way of allowing your pet to gain unnecessary pounds while depleting his body of the nutrients he needs.
Pets might seem like they sleep all day (and maybe at night, too), but they really only sleep a few hours at a time, with breaks in between for eating, drinking, and having to “go”. But there should always be a special spot for him to lie down to get the right amount of sleep he needs. Have regular quiet times in your home, so that he can relax. After all, if you get keyed up from over-stimulation from sounds and sights bombarding you if ever you are sleepy or sleep-deprived, think of how much worse it can be for your pet! So if he’s sleeping, try not to bother him too much to wake him, unless he suddenly is spending more time sleeping than eating or drinking, which could indicate other problems.
In all, if despite your earnest efforts your pet still shows little or no improvement, there may be underlying illnesses such as depression, kidney or liver disease, tumors, and thyroid imbalances, that will require the vet’s intervention to diagnose and treat.