How exercise and diet can help your pet live longer and healthier

Health is one of the greatest gifts we can give our pets and as a bonus, it’s good for our health as pet owners too! The NHS suggest that people who exercise with their dogs are more likely to stick to a fitness program. We hope this post will help kick-start your pet’s fitness journey today!

So how exactly can exercise and diet affect our pet’s health? Factors such as obesity, poor or inappropriate diet, and low activity levels have been shown to predispose our pets to, and speed up onset of, chronic diseases such as:

  • Heart Disease
  • Dental Disease
  • Skin Disease
  • Arthritis
  • Diabetes (in cats)
  • Respiratory Disease

We will be discussing how diet, exercise, and monitoring progress can help keep your pet fit and healthy. To get you started, we have put together some easy ways for you to assess your pet’s fitness, set goals, and make some simple changes.

Getting Started

Based on their body condition score (BCS), do they need to gain, maintain or lose weight/condition? There are 4 simple steps we recommend for approaching fitness for your pet.

  1. Asses fitness level/BCS with the help of your veterinarian or veterinary nurse.
  1. Establish realistic healthy BCS goals.
  1. Make a record of current BCS with photos, weight and activity monitor.
  1. Set daily exercise and food goals for the next month.

The first step is to assess their body condition (check out the charts found here). Body condition is a visual way to assess your pet’s fitness and a great way to follow their progress on their wellness journey. A consultation with your veterinarian could be useful too if you are struggling to determine where your animal sits with their body condition. Many veterinary practices offer free weight clinics where you can consult with a veterinary nurse, who can help determine your pet’s current body condition, set goals and make a diet plan. We also recommend consulting regularly with your veterinarian so that you are aware of any concurrent health conditions your pet may have or be predisposed to which could affect their fitness journey.

The next step is to assess how active they are, their age and their concurrent health conditions, as these factors will affect what options of weight management are available. Our fitness monitor, Felcana Go, has undergone extensive research and development to ensure it is the most accurate pet activity monitor as well as calorie expenditure calculator. It’s simple and easy to use!

Setting Goals & Making Changes

  • Diet There are so many things that diet encompasses! So, to make it a little more digestible, we have broken it down in to three main categories:

Quality:

Quality is really about what is in the food your pet is eating. You want to make sure they are getting all the nutrients they require and therefore a “complete” food is usually a good idea. For more information see our article on Dog Diet and Cat Diet). There are several demographic factors to consider when selecting a food for your pet: Age, Spay/Neuter status, Activity Level, Breed, current or existing health problems.

Quantity:

Many foods will have recommendations on the back of the packaging for suggested feeding amounts. You want to feed your pet for the weight they should be rather than the weight they are, however with cats it is important that if their weight goal is much less than their current weight you reduce food very gradually.

Coming soon to the Felcana App is a calorie monitor to make this process seamless. At Felcana, we have spent a lot of time researching the very best way to go about measuring your pet’s calorie expenditure in a simple easy to use feature on our Felcana Go application for Apple iOS and Android devices.

Consistency:

It is critical that we are consistent with our plan and therefore it is a good idea to weigh out the food you are feeding on a kitchen scale. It is easy to overfeed when eyeballing the cup to estimate quantity per meal, but this is where a lot of efforts fall short. Weighing food is a good way to ensure consistency and results.

  • Exercise

It is important to keep pets of all ages active, but for each animal that means something different. Knowing your pet’s current activity level and current health status (i.e. Are they arthritic?) is a good place to start! Once you know this, set a goal. This can mean adding a few extra minutes each day to your pets’ walks.  

Monitoring Your Pet’s Progress

It is helpful to know where you started so you can appreciate how far you’ve come! Any tangible parameters can be extremely rewarding. Activity monitoring, weight recording and recording food habits is a great place to start. As with any sort of long-term plan, you want to set realistic goals that are safe and healthy for your pet! With a well-tailored fitness plan, you and your pet can look forward to a stronger heart, lower blood pressure, more energy, and a mood boost. Before beginning your fitness journey together, consider purchasing an activity monitor and fitness monitoring software (free App available with Felcana go) to begin your journey with confidence and style.

If you are a dog owner either starting out or already on your fitness journey, check out our top tips for running with your dog!

This post was written by Lane Simonin from The Royal Veterinary College, London.

Check out first-hand reviews of how Felcana Go can help your dog keep fit at: http://missdarcy.org/lets-get-fit/. May, owner of Cockapoo Darcy (@missdarcysadventures) said: "We don’t usually feature products on our blog except when we are excited about something – and this is bigger than just promoting a product. I can’t wait to start wearing this Felcana Go pet activity monitor."