As this year comes to an end, many of us will be looking forward to the coming year and what we hope to achieve (or avoid!). Thoughts are often about a new diet and getting more exercise, to make up for any holiday indulgences, or making more time for ourselves and our families. Here are some ideas and tips to enhance the health and wellbeing of your pets.
Routine and Preventative Health Care
Annual health checks with a vet are important to ensure that your pet is healthy and in good condition. You can also have a chat with a veterinary nurse about ongoing preventative healthcare such as flea and worming treatments to protect your pet and your family from pesky parasite infestations. Remember to make a note in your new diary of the important healthcare dates for your pet such as booster vaccination date and parasite treatment application dates.
Get into the habit of examining your pet regularly for any signs of problems or illness.
- Grooming and gently stroking your pet is a great way of bonding, but it also gives you the opportunity to check for any lumps or bumps that may have appeared. If you do find anything, it is a good idea to have it examined by the vet, but also make a note of exactly where it is and, if you can, measure the lump so you know if it is getting larger or staying the same size.
- Your pet’s teeth should be nice and clean with little or no plaque on them and healthy gums should be pale pink. Brushing your dog’s or cat’s teeth can really help keep them in good condition, although we appreciate that not every pet will tolerate this! If you cannot brush your pet’s teeth, have a chat with one of our veterinary nurses about suitable alternatives, we offer free dental check ups and advice on pet care. Remember that although there are a wide variety of ‘dental’ chews and treats on the market, many of them don’t do much good at all and are very high in calories (some making up 1/3 – 1/2 of a pet’s daily calorie needs!).
Playtime and Exercise
Try to find time each day to play with your pet and ensure that he or she is getting enough exercise to meet their needs. Not only is this great for keeping your pet fit and providing mental stimulation, but it will also strengthen the bond you have with your pet.
Rabbits, Guinea Pigs and Ferrets can be encouraged to exercise and forage for tasty food quite easily by hiding tasty treats around their hutch and exercise area. Tasty treats and veggies can be suspended from the top of the hutch or enclosure to provide tasty and stimulating entertainment (this should be done under supervision to ensure your pet doesn’t get tangled in any string).
Plastic tubing and cardboard boxes can be used to provide stimulation and encourage exploration and play. Many of these pets will also enjoy walking on a harness if you introduce it slowly and carefully, but be mindful of other animals that may be around such as cats and dogs.
Cats can take laziness to dizzying heights; snoozing in the afternoon sun, taking cat naps after strenuous activity such as visiting the food bowl or the litter tray, and helping you watch the telly while curled up on your lap! There are however, plenty of things you can do to encourage your feline friend to exercise, but remember that cats prefer short, frequent periods of activity, usually limited to 5 minute bursts.
Good cat toys include empty cardboard boxes (some with cat-sized holes and some without) to encourage play and exploration or some paper bags with treats inside. Climbing towers and scratch posts can be made at home or purchased from pet shops and cats love to be up in high places, so even providing access to a shelf or the top of a cupboard can help them achieve this. Dangling toys attached to string or ribbon and batting toys, such as rolled up paper and ping-pong type balls, also work really well and can encourage even the laziest cat into activity.
You can also train your cat to perform tricks if your cat is willing and you can find the right food motivation.
Dogs can be great fun to exercise and their enthusiasm will encourage you to be more active too. Exercise for your canine companion will greatly depend on what you and he can cope with, but can be anything from leisurely walks in the park or around the block, to racing after a ball or a frisbee and playing with other dogs. If your dog isn’t used to lots of exercise, build up slowly over a few days to avoid any health problems or injuries. It is a good idea to warm up your dog’s muscles properly, with at least 10-15 minutes on-lead walking, before allowing him or her to race about.
For extra mental stimulation and boredom prevention, try changing your walking route occasionally to keep things varied and interesting for your dog. If you can’t get outside with your dog a 10-15 minute training session, teaching a new trick or improving an old one is really good mental stimulation for your dog.
Other than walking there are plenty of other activities you can get involved in to improve your dogs fitness including swimming, agility classes, obedience training, rally O and heelwork to music.
For playtime, hide and seek games with people, toys or treats always go down well and will encourage your dog to use his or her senses. Fetch is popular with most dogs but it is a good idea to make sure your dog has had a bit of a warmup before you start throwing their toy as far as you can. Always use a dog toy for fetch games rather than sticks which can be dangerous.
Small Furries such as rodents and other other small pets can be encouraged to exercise using wheels or exercise balls, where appropriate. You can also provide small cardboard boxes or tubes for them to climb in and out of or chew and treats can be hidden around their cage to encourage exploration. Investing in some rodent safe plastic tubing to run around the outside of their cage, will also allow more space for exercise.
Remember that rodents such as rats are highly intelligent and can be taught many simple tricks, using food rewards, that will keep you and them entertained.
Useful Links For Play & Exercise Ideas
Agility clubs This website has information about agility and lists of local clubs
Pets In Practise Our local dog training club offers dog training, kennel club good citizen scheme, and Rally classes
The Kennel Club Offer lots of information on dog related activities
Cat Clicker Training A good article on training your cat
Cat Entertainment How to make a box tower for your cat
The Hay Experts Some ideas on activities and equipment for small pets
Help Your Pet Lose Any Excess Weight
Obesity is on the rise in the UK pet population and it is not just a cosmetic issue. Being overweight, even by a small amount, can affect your pet’s long-term health and well-being and put your pet at risk for developing some serious medical conditions. Some of the most common disorders associated with excess weight include Diabetes, Arthritis, Joint and mobility problems, High blood pressure, Skin and coat problems, Cystitis and Breathing difficulties to name a few. Overweight and obese pets usually have shorter lives than fitter pets and tend to interact less with their families.
Losing weight and getting in shape can vastly improve your pet’s quality of life, help your pet live longer and may reduce those vet bills!
If you think your pet may be overweight, help is at hand and your veterinary practice will almost certainly have special clinics for discussing and monitoring weight loss with a veterinary nurse.