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People and Pets Win Together in 2010

Chances are, some of the resolutions you’ve made for yourself in 2010 will benefit your pets too! After all, we both could stand to be more active, watch what we eat and make new friends.

Interestingly, many of the resolutions pet experts recommend for our best friends are the same ones we make for ourselves. Perhaps working together with our pets will enhance our success in developing healthy habits for 2010. 

Get trim in 2010  

A recent national study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) reported that more pets than ever are overweight or obese – over 44 percent of dogs and 57 percent of cats. And we pet parents have ourselves mostly to blame!

“The easiest way to help shed pounds off your pooch or kitty is to stop giving too many treats – table scraps, cookies, soft chews, etc.,” explains Veterinarian Autumn McKenzie at Oakhurst Veterinary Center in Seminole, Fla. “Each cookie is like a chocolate bar!”  She suggests limiting pets to two or three treats per day and asking your veterinarian about “low fat” treats.

Another tip: cut back on the amount of food you offer your pet to reduce its calorie intake. Don’t always follow suggestions on the bag of dog or cat food – they may be wrong for your pet’s body size, stage of life or metabolism. Instead, contact your veterinarian to determine the appropriate amount to feed your pet each day.

McKenzie also says to try meal feeding as opposed to buffet-style feeding. Offer your dog or cat two meals a day, and if Fido or Fluffy does not eat its food within an hour, take it away. If necessary, your veterinarian may recommend placing your pet on a prescription weight-loss diet that contains plenty of fiber to make him/her feel full on fewer calories.

 

Scamper and Pounce More

Fortunately, dogs love to exercise – er, I mean to play! Up the ante on your dog’s activity by taking an extra walk, doubling the length of your normal walk or finding a new dog park nearby for a special outing a few times a week. Your dog will love meeting (and sniffing) new dogs and you might make a new friend or two to boot!

Cats can be a bit more challenging when it comes to exercise, so you’ll have to be persistent and creative. “Find or create things for kitty that will be environmentally stimulating to reduce boredom and increase activity,” suggests Dr. Sonja Olson of Florida Veterinary Specialists in Tampa.

Olson adds that playtime is great bonding time for you and your pet. For best results, play with your cat. Just tossing kitty a toy and leaving the room is likely to result in a catnap instead of a calorie burning session!

Some pets make ideal exercise buddies, especially those that enjoy routine and have a fitness level compatible with that of their owner. However, not all pets are suited for extensive exercise. Be safe and schedule a visit with your pet’s vet before embarking on a fitness routine.

Mind Their Manners

If you need to polish your pet’s manners or spice up their command repertoire, talk to a trainer.  Ask friends, family or your veterinarian to recommend a good one – one that uses positive techniques and positive reinforcement.

“Make some rules and be consistent,” says Bark Busters’ master dog behavioral therapist and trainer Jeff Drier. “Dogs, being dogs, expect and thrive on rules.”

Consistency is key. Don’t let Fido get away with something today and then correct him for it tomorrow. Dogs are life long learners; they love learning and will do so quickly if you make it fun and communicate with them on their level.

Cats respond to positive reinforcement as well. If your kitty can’t keep its claws off the living room furniture, try distracting him/her with toys or posts that are designed for scratching. Place scratching post or toys in areas your kitty loves to spend time. If your cat responds to catnip, sprinkle it on designated scratching areas to make them even more enticing. Be sure to praise your cat when he does scratch on an appropriate surface!

This year, make a New Year’s Resolution you can keep. Help your pet live a healthier, happier life.

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Written by:
Kristen Levine

January 01, 2010

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