Pet obesity is a major health concern and can lead to very serious health problems: arthritis, diabetes, urinary tract infections and respiratory disease are just a few of the problems that can be caused by or worsened if your pet is overweight. During the holiday period, it is not just us at risk of gaining weight but our pets too! It is important to follow your pet’s regular feeding routine and closely monitor your pet’s food intake over the festive times.
The Importance of Following Regular Feeding Routines
Dogs and cats tend to be creatures of habit and a regular feeding schedule is your first step towards ensuring that your pet has healthy eating habits.
Make it a point to stick to regular feeding routines so they maintain proper weight and healthy digestion. This means no table scraps and limiting pet treats. Pet treats contain a relatively large number of calories as a percentage of a dog or cat’s total daily calorie content and very quickly add up.
Engage Family and Friends in Keeping to Routines
Remember that it’s not just you who can make an impact on your pet’s eating habits. It’s important for family and friends to know you’re on a mission during the holidays, which is to ensure that your pets remain in good health and physically fit. Politely lay down ground rules for visitors to the house to follow:
- No table scraps
- No treats without asking first
- Encouraging a game of fetch is a great idea for burning calories.
A written feeding schedule that everyone can see is a good way to ensure that your pet’s feeding routine is clear and there is no ambiguity about adhering to strict feeding times.
Choose Toys Instead of Treats
Instead of feeding your pets treats during the holiday season, here are several fun alternatives to help keep your pets active:
- Cat Teaser on a String. This is a consistent feline favourite! A number of companies make pretty feathery cat teasers in different colours and styles. They typically come with a long handle with a 3 to 4 ft. string with a playful tip consisting of feathers, fuzzy balls or tails on the ends.
- Food Dispensing Toys. Toys that you can fill with food are a great way to motivate your pet to play and keep them busy for hours. These encourage your pet to work for their food which they really enjoy. Not only does it keep them stimulated but it can help slow down how quickly they eat. Be sure to not stuff these toys full of treats that will surely add to the waistline. Rather eliminate the need for a food bowl and encourage your pet to eat their meal out of it daily
- Wading Pools. In the warmer months, providing shallow wading pools for your dog to sit in can help them cool down. For some dogs, this is a great place to play. Throw balls in the pool that can bob around to add to the fun. Ensure your dog is able to get in and out of the wading pool easily and that the water depth is very shallow at all times to keep this activity safe for your dog.
- Rubber or Tennis Balls. A bouncing ball is still top of the list for dogs. Dogs can’t resist them! And best of all, it gives you a great excuse to interact with your canine in a bonding game of fetch.
- Laser Pointer. Truth be told, these are as much fun for us as they are for cats. Dogs like this game too.
- Squeaky Toys. If you can tolerate the incessant squeaking, it can bring hours of slobbering fun for your favourite canine friend. Ensure that once the toy is broken and the squeaker is exposed that the whole toy is disposed of; we don’t want your dog eating the squeaker.
These are only some ideas for environmental enrichment for your pet. Keeping your pets healthy over the holidays is not as hard as you think, but you have to be committed, and it helps to have friends and family on your side. So remember to engage the support of your family and friends, stick to feeding routines, and engage your pets in extra playtime to keep them healthy and fit not only during the holidays but all year round.