Exercise for Every Pet
EXERCISE FOR EVERY PET
Let’s face it – not every furkid conjours up visions of athleticism. But looks can be deceiving. Recently we’ve featured Scottie agility champions and a group of English Bulldogs who are pro-surfers and skateboarders on the Twisted Whiskers facebook page! Where there’s a will, there’s a way. The point is that ALL pets need exercise, whether they end up being sporty, or it’s all just a bit of fun with their humans.
October is Pet Obesity Month, and together with our partners in the fight against pet-flab, Hills Pet Nutrition, we’re making it our mission to help every podgy Petunia and flabby Fido to reach their ideal weight and enjoy many more years with their families, free of obesity-related health problems. Bring your dog or cat to a Twisted Whiskers store anytime for a free weight check, body condition assessment and diet and exercise advice from our trained staff. We’ll introduce you and your pet to the Hills Pet Slimmer Programme and get your pet on the road to looking and feeling great. And we’ll teach you some handy tips along the way to prevent the pounds from piling back on.
WHAT ROLE DOES EXERCISE PLAY?
Much has been written about the role of diet in weight loss for pets, and with good reason. By far the biggest factor in losing pounds is the correct weight-loss diet. Exercise is the other vital piece of the puzzle and this is what we’re going to be focussing on here.
A common concern of parents of sedentary pets is that they battle to get them moving at all. The truth is that an overweight animal very likely suffers some kind of joint pain or stiffness, as fat tissue, itself, is a source of inflammation in the body. So it’s not just the extra weight that makes moving painful; the problem is two-fold.
Our advice in these cases is to start the Hills weight loss programme and get some of the excess weight off first. The low-calorie, joint-support diet, Hills Metabolic + Mobility helps pets with joint problems to begin light exercise. You’ll be surprised at how much keener your furball is to follow you out to the garden when he has less weight to drag there with him!
Initiating that movement can be as easy as placing his kibbles in a line leading away from his resting place, so that he has to move around to finish his meal. Rather like Hansel and Gretel following breadcrumbs in the old fable. Then call him to follow you each time you move from one room to another. Animals respond well to a system of reward, so use a low-calorie treat such as Hills Metabolic Treats or grated carrot or apple for dogs, or maybe a catnip biscuit for kitties, to encourage and reward them for getting up and moving about.
As movement becomes easier, introduce a favourite toy such as a ball or plushy for dogs or a laser light or feather dangler for cats, to engage them in short games. From here you can progress to brief, low intensity walks around the garden on a lead, or around the block. Gradually add time and distance to the walk, as your pet becomes fitter. For cats, build up to longer and faster games of chase with their toys, gently encouraging them to jump on and off of furniture, low counters, etc. It’s vitally important not to push your pet too hard, too quickly. Allow older pets, or those with joint problems, to show you when they’re tired. And don’t confuse reluctance with laziness. Make exercise as much fun as possible and soon your pet will look forward to being able to move around and share activities with you.
WHAT OTHER EXERCISE OPTIONS ARE THERE FOR PETS?
The sky is literally the limit when it comes to exercise and outdoor activities one can participate in with pets. Social media is peppered with stories of people who take their pets (even cats!) mountain climbing, surfing, or hiking. Provided your furbaby is properly secured, eg. in a suitable harness or life-jacket and eager to join you on your adventures, simply strap him into his car safety harness or car crate and off you go!
It’s a good idea to ensure that places you plan to visit are pet-friendly. The South African Pet Friendly Directory (https://www.petfriendly.co.za/) is a wonderful resource, listing accommodation and restaurants, nature trails, etc. that welcome furry visitors. Remember to pack all your pet essentials: collapsible water bowls will squeeze into the tiniest corner of your bag, and the non-spill variety are fab for the car. Ball launchers are a must and don’t forget the all-important treats and poop bags. And a comfy blanket or travel bed to sprawl out on.
Join local breed groups on social media – many advertise organized events specifically for different breeds. Hunting and herding breeds, for example, find drag hunting (together with horses and riders, where dogs follow an artificial scent laid down in advance by a runner and no animals are harmed), or sheepdog trials hugely stimulating. It’s a great day out for you and your dog to catch up with like-minded individuals. What could be cooler than seeing a Gathering of the Clans at the annual terrier club get-together? Or a perfect pack of Pointers at the local gundog outing?
There’s plenty of fun to be had in your back garden at home. Many dogs (and even some cats) enjoy swimming, and this is an excellent form of exercise, particularly for overweight pets, as it burns plenty of calories, but doesn’t place the stress on sore joints that walking does.
Ensure pets only enjoy the water under supervision if they cannot get out of the pool easily on their own.
Swimming harnesses sport a convenient “handle” on the back so that you can monitor your pet’s movement in the water, and are ideal for smaller pets. Get your animals used to the water when they’re youngsters and invest in a Skamper-Ramp so that your pets can always get themselves out safely if they fall in by accident.
If you’re a keen runner and would like to take your dog out with you for exercise, check first with your vet what distance your running buddy can manage. If the two of you run often and your pet is at ideal weight, it might be worth looking at a sporting dog diet that includes joint support. Eukanuba Premium Performance Working and Endurance, or Hills Performance Adult are superb options.
Twisted Whiskers stocks hands-free, shock-resistant leads that are perfectly suited to runners’ needs. Or check out the Gismo range, which features a comfort grip handle with attachments for all those must haves out on a run with Max: poop-bag holder, flashlight for night runs, treat-dispenser, multi-lead anti-swivel carbine for a comfortable outing with more than one dog – all on a single item to hold!
Large or giant breed puppies should not be taken on runs until their growth plates have closed at around the age of 15-18 months, as this can irreversibly damage young joints and set your dog up for a lifetime of pain and discomfort. Always pay close attention to brachycephalic dogs like Pugs, Boxers and Bulldogs and check for heat stress when doing any form of activity with them. They should only be exercised in the cool of the day, and remember to take plenty of water with you. A cooling collar is a super idea for them, or a cooling mat to chill out on as soon as they get back home.
Cats aren’t exactly “sporty”, but this doesn’t mean that they don’t enjoy bounding around and burning off energy, albeit
informally. Outdoor cats tend to amuse themselves all day, stalking, hunting and climbing, but if your kitty is an indoor child, ensure that he or she has plenty of exercise options like cat trees, shelves placed at different levels along the walls for aerial entertainment, and perhaps an enclosed outdoor area (fondly known as a “catio”) to be able to appreciate the fresh air and sunshine. We stock beautiful ranges of kitty fur-niture, as well as “entertainment stations” like CatIt, for hours of feline fun indoors. And your purrson will enjoy the boxes they come in just as much!
Whatever outdoor activities you plan to enjoy with your pets this summer, Twisted Whiskers has the goodies and gadgets to get you going. We stock the Ezydog and PetBound Julius K9 ranges, offering stunning heavy-duty harnesses, life-jackets, reflector lights and everything your pet needs for über outdoor adventures. And don’t forget those car-comfort items, essential for your own peace of mind when travelling with the hounds: seat protectors, window-spacers, and car harnesses that secure your dog safely and prevent him from distracting you as you drive. What about a “booster seat” for the little furries so they get to peek out of the window and watch the world race by? Our range of toys, training treats and travel accessories is second to none and our friendly staff will help you select products that will really blow your furchild’s whiskers back!
The bottom line is that our animals enjoy being with us. They like to be involved in all that we do, and this includes sharing our active lifestyle.
Provided they’re healthy and fit for the activity (a veterinary check-up is recommended for older pets), and you’re set up with all the fun gear that you need, your favourite furball can accompany you just about anywhere and will love the chance to experience new sights, sounds and smells.
Get out there and get moving with your pets. Allow them the opportunity to explore the world with you.
Written by Twisted Whiskers
Thank you to Hills Pet Nutrition SA and
EzyDog for the images.