If your dog could talk, he would probably say, “Let’s get more exercise and eat better in 2017! And let’s do it together, because I love you.” That’s right! Just like you would set a New Years Resolution to get healthy, you can also set a resolution to get healthy with your pup. Healthy eating and regular exercise are important parts of taking care of your body. Arguably, when you take care of yourself and your four legged best friend while having fun, your accomplishments will feel all the more rewarding.
“Just like you and me, a fit dog is a happy dog, and is more likely to live a longer life,” says Dr. Linda Randall, the owner and veterinarian at Cloverleaf Animal Hospital. “I find that the easiest thing for me to do is to think what I like to do to keep active, and then include my dog in that activity. This can work the other way around, too. What does my dog love to do? And then I come up with a way to include myself in that activity.”
While there are yoga-with-your-dog classes and agility and obedience courses that will keep both you and Fido having fun and moving, activity can be as easy as taking a hike. Randall explains that she loves to take advantage of the Medina County Park District’s vast collection of local scenery. She loves to challenge herself by setting personal hiking mileage goals and has even made it a goal to visit all of the county parks this year.
Come summertime (or, perhaps some of those rare warm days in spring), swimming may be an activity that your dog will enjoy. Tossing retrieving dummies into the water makes it feel like more of a game than a workout, even though it will help you and your pet get in shape. However, fetch alone is actually not as good a workout as one might assume.
“A dog that is not fit is also more prone to injuries with the twisting and turning involved in chasing and catching balls and Frisbees,” says Randall. “Instead, I recommend that you teach your dog tricks and use the ball as a reward for doing the trick. Mental fitness is a component of physical fitness.”
How much activity is needed is dependent upon your dog’s condition, weight, breed, age, and any existing physical concerns. It is always wise to visit your vet to go over exercise plans, nutrition, and to make sure your dog is medically sound. Still, it is a good idea to start learning about your pet’s nutrition needs.
For treats, Randall suggests starting with simple foods that have only one to three ingredients and no additives. Sweet potato and chicken or beef and rice are healthy and tasty treat for your pup. The dog should be able to consume the treat easily and quickly, so a soft treat is usually the best. Name brands are usually more expensive because they are made of better ingredients, and as a result, are better for your pet’s overall health. It is possible to research treats that can be made with your pet’s favorite foods.
It is important to avoid providing your pet with access to foods like grapes, fresh onions, fresh garlic, chives, chocolate, raisins, macadamia nuts, rising bread, and coffee, as these may cause mild to severe problems for your dog.
In truth, keeping active with your pet is easy because you both love each other’s company. Just make sure neither of you does too much too fast. Just do a little more each day, or do it at a faster pace. With the current developments in the research regarding benefits of nutrition and excersize, there are even FitBit devices for your dog that can hook up to an app on your computer and smart phone.
“Anything we can monitor in people we can now monitor in our pets,” explains Randall. “A Voyce collar is the perfect addition to your pet’s healthy lifestyle. A Voyce collar will help you keep your dog in condition by monitoring cardiac and respiratory rate. It can also help you determine if your dog is in pain so that you know when you should stop, especially with a dog with orthopedic or aging issues. We all know sleep is an important aspect of improved physical and mental health, and a Voyce collar will also monitor your dog’s sleep habits.”
There are many ways to help you and your furry best friend in shape throughout the year. Your resolution can be as small or big as you would like, as long as it is realistic.
“One person was determined to teach her pigeons to land on church pews and then take off together for a dramatic finale for her wedding in the coming year,” says Randall. “An outstanding animal trainer I know just did the same thing with 10,000 butterflies.”
Though you may and your pup may be doing something as small as taking a class on how to encourage leash manners in a positive way (I recommend classes at The Agility Underground!), setting goals and working together is the most important thing. The New Year is the perfect time to start getting active, and it is important to keep your loved ones active with you. After all, love is a four-legged word!
To schedule your dog for a wellness visit or classes at Cloverleaf Animal Hospital, contact Dr. Randall at 330.948.2002.