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According to APOP, the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, an estimated 54% of dogs and cats in the United States are overweight or obese. That’s roughly 93 million American cats and dogs that need to move! Simply put, this makes me sad. We live in a world where nutrition and exercise take a backseat. Obesity in adults, children and pets is increasing rapidly. I’m not going to give a lecture on eating right and exercising, but it’s definitely relevant. The trend seems to have happened like this. First, our health slowly took a backseat, then our kids pick up our bad clothes, and now the pets in the home are overweight.

I know it’s hard to find the time to run with our dogs, but it’s our responsibility. Most breeds need plenty of exercise and stimulation. They need to run, not just walk, and they need challenges to overcome to get them physically and mentally out of the way to be healthy. Cats can even be encouraged to exercise more with toys and games. The only key ingredient these animals are missing is you. You can always hire a dog runner, not just a walker, but someone who can run short bursts with your pet to really deplete his energy. Also, it should be someone who knows breeds and pet first aid to make sure your dog is in good hands. The benefits of exercise are endless and virtually the same for dogs and cats as they are for humans. The most important is the fact that it helps prevent overweight. Excess fat puts your loved ones at increased risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, respiratory problems, joint and skeletal disorders, and early death. Regular activity tones muscles, strengthens bones, improves circulation, and lifts your mood by increasing levels of “feel-good” chemicals in the body. Dogs don’t do well in a yard all day because they don’t run laps like you might think. Wait until you get home to receive stimulation. Fit dogs, just like fit humans, feel better and sleep better. This makes people and pets happy with less medical expenses.

The next step is the food they eat. Every animal is different just like people. For example, some dogs benefit from eating scrambled eggs and others can’t stand it because their stomachs are too sensitive. Think about this when choosing food for dogs and cats. Is your pet getting enough nutrients? Is your pet’s food too high in fat? Does your pet need a supplement? All of these questions can be answered by a veterinarian. I also suggest cutting out people food for a while and reaching for organic and/or low-fat treats. Get treats that are very soft and squishy so you can break them into small pieces. Trust me, your pet doesn’t care how big the treat is, just that she gets one. In this way, your pet will not feel deprived and you will still be able to fulfill your desire to give it to her because she deserves it only with tenderness. I get how it is. Sometimes when I’m cooking, all it takes is a cute little turn of the head and before I even think about it, I’m feeding my dogs part of my dinner. But it is a bad habit. Even if it’s your favorite food. Everything is there favorite! I once knew a woman who gave her cat chocolate milk every day even though she made him sick. She said that she couldn’t help it because she was Fluffy’s favorite. Please don’t be that person. The next time you feel the urge to feed Fido from the table, grab a squeaky toy or ball of yarn and toss them around to play. You should feel better thinking about the fact that they will live longer and happier lives, they will give you more company by being at a healthy weight.

Things always seem to happen that keep us from going for a run with our dogs. That shouldn’t stop you from doing other activities that can stimulate your pet. Cats are easy, they cut down on their extra food and treats and then move something furry around until they get bored. There are even tricks you can teach your cat, just Google to learn how.

The dogs are more involved. They still need to exercise just like you do, so take turns on the treadmill when the weather is bad outside. Do intervals with your pet. For example, start with a warm-up and two minutes of intense running or on an incline with a minute of rest. Get down and put on the dog for a while while you do twenty sit-ups, twenty jumping jacks, push-ups, squats, etc. Then get back on the treadmill for two or three more intervals. You get off and repeat the floor routine while Fido jogs. He repeats as many times as he wants and this is just to give him an idea to think outside the box. If you want to watch a TV show, put the treadmill next to the couch and watch it while Fido works out. Make sure he is always supervised. Some dogs are quick to accept it and others need encouragement and guidance. There are also fun dog games that you can play around the house to drain energy like the ‘find it’ game. Obedience can also be worked on at home. Teach something new or refine skills at home where your controlled environment is perfect. This way, your pet will have fewer distractions and won’t be able to run while she practices off-leash techniques. Always look for ways to exercise your pet in your area. There are always walks, marathons with dogs, agility classes and more to look for.

After reading this article, I can trust that you have been influenced and will spend more time exercising your pet. Take care of yourself, your family and your canine children.

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