Did you know that more than 50% of New Zealand pets are considered overweight and that many pets have seen a dramatic increase in their waistline throughout 2020?
A recent study by premium pet nutrition brand, Royal Canin found that one in two cats and dogs in New Zealand are considered overweight. From handing out treats with every “good boy!” through to being limited to our backyards or local areas for exercise throughout COVID, and spending more and more time with our furry friends (cue the treats!), both our cats and dogs have piled on the COVID-kilos, and sadly, it’s a serious issue for our loveable companions.
So what can we do to help our best furry friends? Dr Corey Regenerus from Royal Canin Veterinarian has shared with us his top five tips to keep your pets healthy.
1. Choose the right nutrition
The right nutrition plays a really important role in keeping your pet healthy, right from the start. There are a lot of options on the market for pet owners, so it’s important for them to do their research and speak with their veterinarian about what is the best diet recommendation for their pet.
Pet owners should look for a premium, nutritionally balanced diet that is scientifically formulated for their pet’s size, breed, or life stage. This ensures they’re getting the right mix of nutrients to keep them at optimal health and performance. For example, a puppy and an adult dog have very different nutritional requirements. Just as a small breed dog like a Jack Russell will need different energy and nutrients to that of a giant breed such as a Great Dane.
So, it is important to tailor what you feed your pet to ensure they’ve got the best chance to be as healthy as possible.
2. Keep track of their weight
Globally, more than 50% of cats and dogs are considered to be overweight. Pet obesity is one of the greatest challenges facing pet owners, and luckily it is one of the easiest issues to treat.
Monitoring and keeping your pet’s weight in check will significantly decrease their chances of developing serious health issues such as joint stress and osteoarthritis, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. One of the easiest ways to keep your pet’s weight in check is to weigh their food (compared to a scoop or measuring cup) before feeding them and keep their treats and supplements to less than 10% of their overall diet. Making sure they also only eat food intended for them, as pets are not tiny people and human food can have a large impact on their daily calorie consumption.
3. Exercise and keep them mentally stimulated
Exercise is not just a healthy activity for our pets to undertake, it also helps to keep them mentally stimulated and engaged. Think about your last visit to the dog park, no doubt your dog wanted to smell different trees, fences, and patches of grass; this is a social and mentally stimulating activity for them, and an important part of ensuring their overall health and wellbeing. Similarly, cats need the same sort of stimulation in their day-to-day lives. Creating a cat-friendly environment around them including items such as cat climbing trees, interactive feeders, scratching posts, feather teasers and engaging toys will keep them mentally stimulated and physically active.
4. Visit your vet, regularly
Your vet will play an important role in your pet’s life. Visiting your vet regularly will not only ensure the ongoing overall health of your pet, but it will also enable you to pick up on any health issues early, giving you the best chance at treating and managing these successfully.
50% of cat owners do not take their cat to the vet regularly enough. This is often because visiting the vet can be seen as a stressful experience for a cat, but this doesn’t mean that the vet should be avoided altogether. There are a number of ways of making your visit to the vet more stress-free for your cat, including:
- Choosing an adapted carrier with access at the top and the side of the carrier which will enable you to get your cat in and out with little trouble and effort
- Leaving the carrier out around your home so your cat can become used to it and access it throughout the day. This will soon become a familiar and safe place for your cat which will make transporting them to and from the vet much easier.
- Place a blanket or towel in the carrier that is familiar to your cat (and smells like them), and cover the carrier with a blanket when transporting.
There are cat-only and cat-friendly vet clinics around the country that will work with you to ensure your cat has a positive experience or there are the options for at-home vet visits which removes the stress of travelling for your cat.
5. Reward your pets with things other than treats
It sounds crazy, but getting into the habit of rewarding your pet with things other than food will help you set up your pet with a healthier waistline but also healthier behaviours. Rewarding pets as reinforcement for a positive action or giving in to any begging behaviours will encourage them to continually seek these rewards. So, swapping out food treats for a special toy that they get to play with for short periods, or even just a good belly rub as a reward will still reinforce their good behaviour without adding to their waistline.