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By Fiona Mullan BSc Hons RVN VPAC
With Christmas now behind us, many of us will be coming up with New Year’s resolutions, such as joining the gym, going to exercise classes and eating more healthily to lose the extra Christmas inches. With an estimated 50% of UK pets now overweight, the new year is a perfect time to include your pet in your new healthier lifestyle.
Tips For Healthier Pets
‘Know the score’! (Body condition score)
Body condition scoring is the way your vet will assess your pet’s weight and shape and whether or not they need to lose weight. A common score is a scale of 1-5 (1 being emaciated, 2 underweight, 3 being ideal, 4 overweight and 5 being obese). An ideal score means you should be able to feel your pet’s ribs under a minimal layer of fat cover, but not able to see them. They should have a visible waistline when viewed from above, and an obvious abdominal tuck underneath. If you aren’t sure what your pet’s ideal weight should be, make a free weight check appointment at your veterinary practice.
Weigh their food accurately
A ‘handful’ or ‘bowlful’ is not an accurate way of measuring your pet’s daily intake, and it’s far more likely that they will be overfed as a result. Check the feeding guidelines on the bag to work out what their total DAILY requirement is and use scales to measure out. The daily requirement is the total amount they need in a 24-hour period, so if they are getting treats, scraps from the table, this is all EXTRA calories they do not need! Again, if unsure, speak to your vet who will guide you on quantities.
Get them out an about!
It may seem obvious, but a lot of pets do not get the exercise that they require. For the majority of dogs a quick ‘stroll around the block’ is not adequate, and they will not burn off what they are taking in. Including your dog in your own work out, will make exercise more enjoyable for both of you & increase bonding.
Some cats love to engage in play, and chasing laser pens and string toys can be a great way of getting them moving.
Rabbits and cats are more tricky to exercise, but not impossible! Rabbits and smaller pets should have access to a large run enclosure where they can hop around freely. Try making their enclosure more exciting with different levels which they can climb up and down, and tunnels for them to run through.