How To Keep Your Pet “Fit”

Did you ever wonder if “pets” would be healthier if they were not subjected to their humans’ lifestyle? Interestingly, nature does really well without man’s advice.

Animals in the wild had to stay “fit” because if they didn’t they couldn’t capture their next meal, couldn’t escape the predator and wouldn’t win the best mate to perpetuate their lineage. They stayed fit by engaging in natural behaviors like running, playing, climbing (if appropriate) and mental stimulation.

AND…they ate their species appropriate diet!

It isn’t a big shock that as man became more dependent on tools of convenience (cars, machines that replace man labor) and our day-to-day lives became more engulfed in “tasks”, there became less time for physical activity. What was natural for our ancestors (who did manual work every day), we have to schedule time to accomplish and we give it a name….exercise! Bad enough we forfeit a healthy lifestyle for ourselves, but we do it to our fur kids too!

Over 40% of the pet population is obese

Animal diseases related to chronic inflammation is rising at astronomical rates. Cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and chronic skin disease… the list grows daily.

Pet owners have created artificial environments that don’t support the natural behaviors of dogs and cats to run, play, hunt and think. Our household pets don’t “work” for food, there is little “play” unless the owner engages them or there are other pets in the household that offer stimulation. Many horses are boarded in stalls, having little time to graze and move naturally outside. Reptiles are confined to aquariums.

Bored Dogs Are Destructive Dogs

Destructive behaviors like digging and chewing are one of the leading causes of animals being abandoned. Worse still is the rising number of animals suffering from separation anxiety!

If your pet is overweight, exhibits destructive behavior, is at risk for arthritis or other inflammatory dis-eases,

then life style changes are required. Changes include diet (to species appropriate), digestion, reducing or eliminating toxins in the environment and getting adequate exercise.

Whether you are looking to share your home with a dog, cat, bird, reptile or pocket pet, seriously evaluate the pet’s needs (research the species and breeds). Commit to provide a healthy lifestyle for them. This includes a good species appropriate diet, the time and space for adequate training, exercise and attention, along with a budget for emergency health care if needed.

If you’re pet is overweight or has some of the challenges discussed above, you need to take action now!

Where to start:

Use Common Sense

New to exercise? Start gradual and build strength and endurance. Slow and steady is safer and more enjoyable. “No pain no gain” does NOT apply to your pet!

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over

expecting different results

and expecting different results

How Do Animals Stay Fit … WITHOUT MAN?

Dog Exercise

Most dogs should get 60-90 min daily

Avoid exercise in the hottest part of the day. Stay off hot pavement (it can burn their pads) and provide plenty of water. There are special shoes made for dogs, like Muttluks® dog boots ( to protect their feet.

Dogs eliminate body heat by panting (they have some sweat glands in the footpads which help with heat dissipation,
but only minimally.) When panting isn’t enough, their
body temperature rises. This can be fatal if not corrected quickly. Their core temperature should remain under 103 degrees (normal resting core temperature is 100F-102F).

Clicker training: (also great mental challenge)

Fetching: toys (balls or frisbee)
Boomer Ball® and the Best Ball®, are made for soccer- style play.

Laser light tag
Bubble chasing
Hide and seek: with you or toys

Build a Tunnel or Maze: – Using cardboard boxes or sheets and chairs with twists and turns. Let your dog follow you, then you both have fun!
Dog Parks

Doggie day care Pet sitter

Mind toys: include KONG toys® and Busy Buddies® (food stuffed and the pet has to get to the food)

Cat Exercise

As predators, cats naturally sleep a lot, but they have bursts of activity. They are more like sprinters, not marathon runners. Exercise ideas include:

Consider age and health challenges before embarking on an exercise plan!

Walking: pavement gets burning hot. Stay on grass or get booties.

Running: Don’t overheat, take water, protect the feet and avoid being in the hottest part of the day.

Biking: (helpful to attach a Springer to the bike. The leash attaches to the Springer which has a coil spring designed
to absorb and reduce the force of the dog’s sudden tugs, helping the rider keep balance and preventing the dog from pulling the bike over.)

Swimming: Supervise always and teach how to find the stairs.

Agility training: (great for giving smart dogs lots of mental challenge)

Climbing and perching posts

Scratching posts

Interactive toys: (where a small meal of freeze dried raw is stuffed inside, requiring the cat to roll and manipulate the toy to get the food)

Frolicat: make toys that play with the cat!

Hide: freeze dried food around the house (remember where you put it!)

Throw: freeze dried pieces for kitty to pounce and chase Interactive toys: such as feather wands, kitty “fishing poles” and laser lights

Self-entertaining toys: that hang Ping-pong balls or wadded paper balls

IPad games: Yes there are apps for this! (my kitty loves to pounce on the moving fishes)

Follow the leader: Walk around holding their bowl, getting them to follow

Feline agility training: (Cat Fanciers’ Association offers some really excellent tips on how to get your cat involved in agility training).

The one game I discourage is getting kitty to attack your hand under the sheets. It is NOT fun to be sleeping and have kitty attack your foot or hand!

So take some advice from mother nature, turn off the TV and the computer, get off your duff and go play with your fur kids! Proper exercise in combination with a species appropriate diet, clean green environment and good thoughts are the formula for a longer more vibrant and abundant life!

Dr. Marlene Siegel
Pasco Veterinary Medical Center 813-973-2929    to read the magazine on line

pages 24-26 is the pet article I wrote

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