National Pet Obesity Awareness Day is October 10, and that makes it the perfect time to talk about this growing problem. Not only is nearly half of the adult dog and cat population overweight, but a full quarter of cats and a fifth of dogs are classified as obese. Sadly, these numbers are growing every year, along with our pets’ waistlines.
Obesity in our pets is a health problem in and of itself, but it also contributes to other costly health concerns such as:
- Respiratory disease
- Heat stroke
- High blood pressure
- Cardiac problems
Some weight problems stem from underlying metabolic conditions, but the unfortunate truth is that the majority of overweight pets are overweight because of us, their pet parents. Just as with our own bodies, weight gain in pets stems from chronically consuming more calories than we burn.
If too much food and too little exercising is to blame, how can we win the battle of our pets’ bulge? By targeting both issues.
Start by talking to your veterinarian about your pet’s diet. Be honest with yourself and your veterinarian about how much you actually feed your four-legged friends. Don’t forget treats – they contribute calories to your pet’s diet and, depending on how often you treat, could be the main culprit. You and your vet can work together to devise a diet plan that is in the best interest for your dog or cat.
Now, on to that part about burning calories. Our pets need to exercise.
Too often, our dogs’ daily walks and kitty playtime take a backseat in our busy lives. It is imperative to your pet’s health to make time for walks (preferable two or three a day) and playtime. Don’t forget – playing and exercising with your pet has benefits to your own health, too!
But what about those times when you simply cannot walk outside? Whether it’s too cold, too hot or too rainy, or whether you’re physically unable to walk your dog, perhaps a canine treadmill is the answer. More and more dog owners are taking the situation by the reins and teaching their dogs how to use a treadmill.
(Note: Notice I said “teaching dogs to use a treadmill.” While some people braver than myself may be able to train their cats to walk on a treadmill, I think it's safe to say that most cats would probably object! Stay tuned for a blog specially dedicated to ways to help your cat shed some extra pounds.)
In the past, treadmills have been used with great success for canine rehabilitation. Underwater treadmills provided low-impact exercise for dogs recovering from orthopedic surgery or those trying to increase muscle tone after injury (and as an added bonus, hydrotherapy is covered by Petplan pet insurance!). The treadmill industry has grown over time, and now there are several reputable companies that make canine treadmills for home use.
Canine treadmills are easy for your dog to use with a bit of practice and guidance. They are similar to human treadmills, though their belts are longer to account for large dogs’ longer gaits, and they usually have side enclosures to keep dogs focused and moving forward. Work with your veterinarian to come up with a “workout plan” for the duration and frequency of Fido’s indoor strolls.
Not only do treadmills help your dog burn calories, but they are a great tool for burning energy as well. Exercised dogs are less inclined to direct their energy toward naughty activities, like chewing your shoes! If you find yourself unable to venture outdoors with your dog, consider a canine treadmill. It might be an expense up-front, but in the long run, your slimmer, healthier pet will thank you for it!