New Year's Resolutions for your pet
After all the festivities and excitement of Christmas, this is a good time of the year to plan for the future and check that your dog or cat is in good health.
This article was written by a FirstVet vet
Did you know that FirstVet offers video calls with experienced, UK registered vets? You can get a consultation within 30 minutes by downloading the FirstVet app for free from the Apple App Store or Google Play.
✓ Included free as part of many pet insurance policies
✓ Help, treatment and if you need it, a referral to your local vet
✓ Open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year
Health and wellbeing
Getting your pet used to being examined is really important and can help them to feel relaxed whilst being examined by your vet or handled by a groomer, for example. It can also mean that you might pick up on early health concerns that might otherwise not be noticed until they have their annual health check and vaccination at your veterinary clinic.
Read about what to check for and our advice to help you do a simple clinical examination at home.
Do you know how to body condition score your dog or cat?
As well as hopping on the scales regularly, this is one of the best ways to see if your dog or cat is gaining or losing weight. It is something that you can easily do at home. iCatCare have a description and a chart on body condition scoring cats.
I am sure that you will have heard vets talking about concerns over obesity in cats and dogs but do you know why we get concerned about this? Feline Friends Academy have produced a webinar series for cat owners on a range of topics. One of them is called ‘Flabby Felines and Cuddly Kitties: The growing problem with feline obesity”, and aims to inform owners about the risk and what you can do at home to try and either prevent the issue or manage the issue.
Although, we often find it easier to control our dog’s weight than our cat’s weight, dogs can still get a little bit on the chunky side. We need to check them regularly, otherwise the weight creeps on and we don’t notice it. Here is a handy guide to to help you check if your dog is a healthy weight and what your dog should look like
Be exercise savvy! Whether you have an old dog or a young puppy, you need to make sure that they are getting the right amount of exercise. It can be hard to know exactly how much exercise to give puppies but the main rule is that they should not be over exercised. This means that they have to be encouraged to rest too, even if it means separating them from other dogs for a time and giving them something to chew, like a Kong.
Hartpury University recommend that, for puppies up to six months of age, exercise focuses on strength activities such as short walks or swims, and gentle play tugging. Large breed dogs should be treated as puppies for longer than small dogs. This is because small dogs are often fully grown by 6 to 8 months, whereas large breed dogs are often still growing at 10 to 12 months.
Using interactive and stimulating games such as hide and seek, for objects around the house, is better for puppies than running off the lead for extended periods of time. Dogs Trust have an enrichment advice that might give you some inspiration. Puppy and junior dog training classes, or play dates with friend’s dogs, is perfect exercise as well. Doing classes, such as Hoopers, which is low impact exercise, can also be a good way for a growing dog to build up strength without the risk of long term damage to their joints.
Ball throwing has had some negative press recently. You can read more about it and the best way to do it safely for your dog here.
In older dogs, we recommend trying to keep their exercise levels consistent. The aim is for them to enjoy themselves without letting them get fatigued. You should also try to reduce repetition to avoid strain injuries. Owners often expect a dog to stop playing when they have had enough, or cry out when their legs are hurting. However, they don’t often show any signs signs at all! Dogs are very loyal so they will keep walking with you, and not think logically about how far they have walked or how far it is back to the car. Follow this link for more advice about managing a pet with arthritis.
What can you do to make your cat more active?
It's easy to talk about exercising your dog, but what about your cat? Vets often talk about the sedentary lifestyle that many cats live and the webinar mentioned above discusses this. Weight gain happens when cats eat more calories than they use on a day to day basis. This can easily happen during the colder Winter months when cats may be less active.
Try hiding food in multiple locations around the house. If your cat is younger and more agile, you can use different rooms and encourage them to go up and down the stairs. You can scatter-feed their dry food or kibble, or throw the kibbles for cats to chase. We talk a lot about puzzle feeders for dogs but cats often like them as well. You can either purchase one, or make your own. Use a variety of different toys. Cat’s often like toys that mimic their prey, that they can manipulate with their paws or mouth, or that can contain small pieces of food. Let your cat catch a toy on the end of a rod to simulate them to chase and capture it. Try to encourage your cat to be more active by hiding toys in puzzle boxes or other locations that require searching, locating and capturing. Make sure that you use your cat’s toys on a rotating basis to prevent habituation and boredom.
International Cat Care have put together a feeding plan for cats ('Five-a-Day Felix' plan) which involves making a few simple changes to the way owners feed their cats: feeding cats little and often, using puzzle feeders, varying the location in which a cat is fed, and feeding both during the day and the night. Most cats are fed from a bowl in the same place every day, so little or no exertion is needed in order to obtain food. Whereas, capturing and killing their food takes mental and physical exertion. Cats who are only walking to their bowl for food are probably eating more calories than they use for exercise, resulting in weight gain. This plan, based on scientific evidence, can help improve the health and welfare of cats by helping cat owners to mimic the conditions cats with which cats get their food, thus providing both physical and mental stimulation.
Still have questions?
Book a video appointment to have a chat with one of our vets.