Pets don’t get old – at least they don’t know it. Yesterday, we talked about the importance of nutrition in senior pet health. Today we look at diet and exercise.
Rule 3: Less Food Equals Longer Life
Turns out you are how much – not just what – you eat. And for pets in the senior stage, less is more when it comes to a long, healthy life. In a benchmark study, researchers found that Labrador retrievers fed 25% less food than the normal guidelines lived about two years longer than those fed the “normal” amount.
More surprisingly, they found that 77% of the “normal” Labs developed radiographic evidence of arthritis at age eight compared to only 10% of the calorie-restricted dogs. And 38% of the calorie-restricted dogs were still living after all the regular-diet dogs had passed. The study concluded that dogs fed fewer calories lived longer and had fewer health problems.
Now, the best person to consult with concerning your pet’s diet and caloric needs is still your veterinarian, and this is not to say you should be putting your dog or cat on some kind of crash diet. The reason this is a rule for the over seven set is that many of us overfeed our pets, and as our furry friends experience the effects of aging, packing on pounds is the LAST thing we want them to do.
When your pet approaches middle age, ditch high-calorie treats with unhealthy sugars and processed ingredients in favor of fruits and veggies that will pack a low-calorie punch of vitamins and minerals needed for optimal health. If you’re sharing table food with your four-legged friends, stop. Keeping obesity at bay is one of the best ways to make sure your senior pet stays on all four paws for years to come.
Rule 4: Exercise More
Nothing stalls the progression of time better than exercise. Regardless of your pet’s current physical status, daily walks or play can rewind years’ worth of damage and boost your pet’s mental and physical health.
For dogs, a brisk 20- to 30-minute walk once or twice a day is just what this doctor orders. For cats, interactive toys such as feather dancers, laser lights or remote-controlled toys can get even the laziest cat on its feet.
Whatever activities you choose, just do it. You know that saying, “Use it or lose it?” Well, that goes for our pets, too. Keeping consistent with cardio can help improve sleep, digestion and mobility – not to mention keep your pet happy!
They may move a little slower than when they were younger, but there’s no question that regular exercise benefits older pets. Get out there and get moving.