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Living that pet slimmer life

While it may not feel like it now, before we know it summer will be here, meaning there’s no better time than the present to get yourself and your furry friend into shape.  As the weather gets warmer many of us will be focusing on our diet and exercise regime.  “So, if your pet is carrying a bit too much winter weight, why not join the petslimmer.co.za programme for eating guidelines, weight-loss assistance and exercise tips for your furry friend,” says Marycke Ackhurst, pet behaviour expert from Hill’s Pet Nutrition .

“Pet parents take pride and joy in knowing that the love and attention they give their pets can be seen by others,” says Ackhurst. Hearing your pet is overweight can be more heartbreaking than hearing it about yourself. When it comes to loving our pets, we often think that the more we treat them, the more we love them. “However, when that attention is too much food and not enough exercise, then it can become a weight problem which can lead to serious health issues.”

The challenge can lie in trying to schedule exercise time into our already jam-packed lives. Exercising your pet doesn’t have to be time consuming though and can very easily fit into your daily life, says Ackhurst.  She recommends trying to incorporate the following:

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For dogs:

  • Instead of a leisurely stroll, why not pick up the pace a little and get your and your dogs, heart rate going, which will help the extra-layers melt away? Adding a little “resistance training” by walking on different surfaces or climbing over tree trunks or benches is also recommended.  Remember to be responsible when walking your dog – pet parents should always ensure that they walk their dogs in an area that is dog friendly and if your dog does not play well with others please ensure that he is on a leash.
  • Do you have stairs at home? Get your dog to follow you up and down them a few times a day. If they need some persuasion, throw their favourite toy up and down the stairs, creating a fun game. Remember to alternate arms so that you can get a good arm workout in the process.
  • If you have access to a swimming pool, dam, river or the beach, and your dog is water happy, this is a great way to get them to exercise and have fun at the same time. Never leave your pet in water unattended and ensure that they know how to get out by themselves should they need to. Swimming is great exercise for older pets, as it puts less impact on their joints.
  • If your dog is a good walker, why not take him with you when you go jogging or cycling as long as it is in a safe environment for him to do so.
  • If your dog’s fitness is a little questionable, why not build them up to a jog or cycle with you by increasing distance and speed over time? Always make sure this is done in a safe environment and don’t allow your dog off his leash in traffic-heavy areas. Even the most well-trained dogs can take fright.

For cats:

  • Cats love toys and playing, so having these easily accessible encourages her to play and keep active.  Some great options are – balls, ping pong balls, or even a scrunched-up piece of paper. A wand, cat tickler and high scratch post encourages hunting, running and jumping.
  • Boxes are also entertaining for cats.  You can place these around the house and encourage them to climb in and out of an empty box.
  • Many cats love playing hide and seek. Hide their toy and have them run through the house to find it. Your cat will love this quality time with you and won’t even realise that they are exercising.
  • When feeding your cat, change her feeding place on a regular basis so that she can ‘hunt’ for her food.  Placing the food on a raised area will also make her work that little bit harder.

What you are feeding your pet, and how much, plays a pivotal role to their weight. 68% of pet parent don’t follow feeding guidelines, which is frightening as this is integral to weight loss and weight management.  If you are unsure of how much you should be dishing up, ask your vet who can guide you on the correct quantity for your pet.

Exercising your pet means that you are dedicated to their health, spending time with them, and their overall wellbeing. However, before you start any new exercise regime be sure to consult your vet and start your pet off slowly to ease them into their new active lifestyle. “There are many factors that need to be taken into consideration before adding new exercises, such as their age, fitness level and breed. Some pets are not able to handle certain types of exercise, but will thrive on others,” says Ackhurst.

October is Pet Obesity Month and Hill’s Pet Nutrition will once again be running their Pet Slimmer Programme. Start your pet’s slimming journey by visiting any participating vet and have your pet undergo a free weight check during the month of October. While on their weight loss journey, pet parents can take their pets for further weigh-in appointments and receive rewards at certain points in their pet’s progress including bowls, vouchers for food and treats. Once your pet’s target weight has been achieved, they will be eligible to enter the Pet Slimmer competition.  This year the Hill’s celebrity pet judges will choose the top three entrants who will win great prizes and recognition for their commitment and achievements.

Visit www.petslimmer.co.za for more information and details of how to get your pet in shape this summer.

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