Fitness, It’s not just for people anymore.
When January rolls around, our New Year resolutions usually center around self-improvement. We think about shedding those unwanted pounds gained during the holidays, learning a new skill or language, or just becoming an all-around better person. Did you know your pets have those same resolutions? Okay, they don’t, but fitness and basic training can certainly benefit our furry friends. Fitness and wellness shouldn’t be overlooked if we want them to have longer, happier lives.
Weight gain during the winter is common for cats and dogs. Our life becomes so busy that we may not walk or play with them as much. Extra treats, left-over turkey and longer naps by the fireplace, contribute to the problem. In the wild, extra weight is a good thing, it helps them survive the cold and more difficult access to prey. However, too much fat can be extremely dangerous to our companions and shorten their lives by adding extra stress on their hearts and joints.
Innovative fitness programs for dogs and cats are becoming more and more popular and often recommended by Veterinarians. There are now numerous programs designed to keep your dog fit physically and mentally stimulated. A doggy treadmill is one way to get those extra pounds off. Because they’re striding on four legs, these are longer and lower to the ground than a traditional treadmill . Fitness apparatus designed exclusively for dogs is also now available. This can include wobble boards, balance discs and a variety of fitness balls. FitPaws® sells a large peanut-shaped ball and ‘Fit Bones’ that help balance, muscle tone and core strength. Dogs get to have fun and shape up at the same time!
A hydrotherapy water treadmill is another way to provide exercise and better cardio-health with less pressure on our pets’ joints. Walking in a hydrotherapy treadmill, under professional supervision, can help drop weight. This is especially valuable when their joints no longer allow for long walks or hikes. In a hydrotherapy treadmill, the water is heated to 85-95 degrees. The warm water keeps joints supple and moving smoothly. Buoyancy allows for low-impact exercise, similar to walking in a pool or the ocean. Safe exercise and rehabilitation after surgery are two of the main hydrotherapy goals.
Play-training in small groups is an ideal way to keep your dog active, confident and fit. Training classes should be fun and positive, where you can develop a trusting relationship with your dog. Reward-based techniques are vastly superior to training by punishment, such as with the use of shock or choke collars and fear. A well-behaved companion is worth the effort in providing your dog training classes. It will make for a calmer household, and impress your friends and neighbors too! For puppies, socialization in small groups is invaluable for developing a calm, well-adjusted dog. Puppies will also learn to be around other dogs and unfamilar objects at an early age.
Agility classes, dog sports and many other specialty training is available to keep you and your dog fit, healthy and happy during the new year and beyond.
Tips for making your home healthy for your pets
For pet owners, keeping up with the pet hair and other pet mishaps in our home is an every day chore. Why? We want to enjoy a clean house… but did you know that keeping a home clean for our pets is just as important for their health and quality of life?
The most important thing we can do to keep our homes healthy for our pets is to keep up the daily brushing of their coats. This applies just as much for cats as for dogs. Grooming is an important part of a cat’s life. We see them grooming, often several times a day, but we forget to help them with that grooming. Start young and they will learn to look forward to that daily brushing. Keep nails trimmed too. Nails can carry debris on or under them. For both dogs and cats, wipe their paws when they return from a walk or stroll in the garden. This reduces the danger of bringing in contaminants which could infect older or sick animals in the home. Special pet wipes are available to make this task quick and less stressful for both pets and humans alike. Professional dog bathing and grooming on a regular basis simplifies the process as compared to home bathing. With daily hands on your pet, you’ll very quickly know if something is amiss, a new bump, scratch, allergy or illness.
Does your pet have a favorite place to sleep or nap? Do you find that your pet loves to lay on freshly laundered items? Well, of course! Who doesn’t love that clean fresh smell. Place a pet bed, towel or sheet on that napping spot. Then, when its time to clean it up, shake it out and toss it in the wash. By having a place that pets can claim as their own and keeping it clean for them cuts down on having to fight hair build up on couches, carpets and chairs.
Let’s talk about cat trees. Those old carpet-covered trees that look like they have been shredded by a tiger? Those trees hold germs, bacteria and who knows what! Time to change to new, easy-to-clean cat trees like a modern CurvyNest designed for easy cleaning and to be aesthetically pleasing in your home.
Food and water. If you free-feed (leave food out all day) STOP. For so many reasons, leaving pets’ access to unlimited food all day is never a good idea. The least of which is the mess and the possible bugs and rodents. Food areas need to be wiped and cleaned after each feeding. This will maintain a healthy eating environment for your pet and reduce the likelihood of bugs, flies and even illness. Food that sits out all day can spoil or become contaminated. Most importantly, by feeding at specific mealtimes you’ll know if something is not right with your pet. Bowl choice is also a factor to consider. Food-grade stainless steel bowls are your best choice (304 or 316). Ceramic bowls may contain lead paint, they can flake, crack or chip leaving food particles to build up even after washing. Plastic bowls can breakdown and the plastic could contaminate the food. Fresh, clean water is a must. A water fountain with a filter is the best option for all pets. The circulating water is less likely to become foul and flowing through a filter removes any particles that fall in the water. Regular cleaning is still necessary to insure there is no excessive scale or slime build-up in the bowl. If a fountain is not an option, then bowls must be cleaned thoroughly at every few days and water changed frequently.
Keeping our homes clean for our pets may not be high on your list, but when you consider the health benefits, it matters greatly. Cleanliness becomes just as important as the food you select for your pet or the exercise your pets receive. A clean home for pets reduces allergies, illness, stress and anxiety, yours and your pets!