When we say fit and healthy, we mean physically, emotionally and mentally. Here are 8 ways to get your dog fit and healthy!
Regular Vet Visits
Number 1 in 8 ways to get your dog fit and healthy is making regular vet visits. Well, you might be expecting that exercising and eating healthy food would come first. No, because we acknowledge that a vet visit is the best starting point. So, before you have your dog try a diet fad, a sport, or an exercise program, go see a vet first to help you determine if it’s good for your dog.
Also, if your vet tells you to bring your pet for a check up once or twice a year, even if your dog is perfectly healthy (or seemingly so), JUST GO. Regular vet visits are actually really important, especially for dog breeds that are at risk for specific health conditions. This will also save you from unexpected expenses in the future when worst case scenario actually happens. If you have a puppy, you might wanna consider a dog insurance.
Typically, vet visits would include preventive health care like parasite control, dentistry, vaccinations, grooming, proper nutrition, and routine blood tests. Routine blood tests help vets evaluate the overall health of your dog. It helps detect diseases and conditions and helps check the function of organs. If something is wrong, getting your dog the right treatment asap will help them stay healthy.
A balanced, nutritious diet
Number 2 in 8 ways to get your dog fit and healthy is feeding your dog a balanced, nutritious diet. When we say balanced, nutritious diet, we mean the right portion of nutritious food.. and a little bit of treats. Like humans, nutritional needs are different for male and female dogs, dogs with medical conditions, age, and physical activity levels. Generally, it should include:
- Proteins– Derived from plants and animals, proteins supply your dog with amino acids required to build hair, skin, nails, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage and make hormones
- Fats– are a major source of energy for dogs as it provide 2.5 times as much energy as carbs and play a key role in your dog’s body functions and nutrient absorption and help to reduce inflammation
- Carbohydrates– Come mainly from plants and grains and provide a quick boost of energy for exercises and other physical activities
- Vitamins– are the foundation of balanced animal nutrition, essential to maintain normal physiological functions such as growth, body development and reproduction and overall health status
- Minerals– help keep your dogs bone and teeth strong, particularly calcium and phosphorus; the deficiency of essential minerals can cause a bone to become weak, which can lead to bone deformities and fractures
- Water– helps with digestion by breaking down the food and nutrients and making them absorbable for the body and aids in the secretion of enzymes and acid essential for digestion
It’s important to note that dogs are omnivore animals. Their diet must have a good combination of plant and animal food. To meet their energy needs, dogs must eat food that offers a good amount of fats and proteins. Also, dogs are also better off eating cooked foods as raw versions may contain harmful parasites and bacteria.
Keep in mind that dogs have different nutritional requirements. They may get all the nutrients from commercial dog food. However, your dog may need a special diet or may be suffering from an illness that may require him to eat more or less of the nutritional content of commercial dog food. Consult your doctor to get more information.
- Choose commercial dog foods that contain real whole-food ingredients that are familiar to you.
- Find a low-calorie diet. Most dogs need about 25-30 calories per pound per day. If you have a 20-pound healthy lean dog, he may need 500-600 calories. However, if your dog is overweight, he may need a relatively small number of calories, ideally less than 350. If you are unsure, find your dog’s lean weight and base the calories on it.
- Make sure your dog is always hydrated.
- Dry and canned (wet) dog food are the same. Your choice must be based on your lifestyle, preferences, and budget.
- Metabolism and nutrient requirements vary within breed. To optimize your dog’s health, find out about his origins as it can be a determining factor when selecting the right diet for your dog. For example, dogs that were developed in Arctic Circle may need a specialized diet that is common in their place of origin.
- Besides your dog’s breed, consider the physical activities that your dog does daily. Hunting dogs, field trial dogs, and herding dogs require different ratios of proteins and fats. Lap dogs and sedentary house dogs require a bit less of proteins and fats.
- Nutritionist recommends that diet must suit the stage of life (puppy, adolescent, pregnancy, adult, senior) that your dog is in now to keep your dog at healthy weight and improve his quality of life.
Interactive play and daily training
Number 3 in 8 ways to get your dog fit and healthy is engaging your dog in interactive play and making sure he doesn’t miss his daily training. Generally speaking, both play an important role in building human-canine bonding. It improves verbal, physical and on-leash communication. It also improves your dogs social skills, reducing their agonistic behavior.
When it comes to health and well-being, both are also beneficial. Play improves your dog’s physical and mental health. It does so by using natural stores of energy (from fats and carbs!), honing your dogs locomotor skills like running and jumping, promoting better eating and sleeping habits. There’s a hypothesis that games are especially beneficial for puppies as it helps them develop the skills necessary to survive their adult life like mating, appeasing, dealing with social conflicts, and so on.
How About Trainings?
Trainings are the same but they’re more intended to keep your dog out of troubles like ingesting non-food stuff, getting hit by a car and dog bites. These may cause serious injuries that can seriously affect your dog’s health… and even death. Or, these might aggravate a pre-existing medical condition or may reveal a medical condition. Yes, like a blessing in disguise kind of thing but that rarely happen. So, as soon as you bring your dog home, teach him RIGHT from WRONG. If your dog frequently forgets his training, maybe a playtime after a training session might help. That’s what the research said.
Number 4 in 8 ways to get your dog fit and healthy is engaging your dog in dog sports like agility and flyball. Dog sports helps dogs become physically and mentally tough and healthy. However, for dogs that are naturally quiet and… lazy like Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and English Bulldog, dog sports might not be a good idea. But if you’ve got an athlete one like Australian Shepherd, German Shorthaired and Pointer Border Collie, dog sports is perfect! However, it may be best to consult a vet FIRST before starting any dog sport.
Here are some of dog sports that your dog can try:
- Canine Agility
- Canine Freestyle
- Disc Dogs
- Dock Jumping
- Herding Trails
- Lure Coursing
What do I do if I have a lazy dog?
Like humans, dogs are not always motivated to move. That is the case sometimes or it can be a sign of a medical condition like arthritis or hip dysplasia. If your dog is showing other symptoms like limping, difficulty getting up and down or lameness, consult your vet to get medical diagnosis. If ever your dog was diagnosed with any of the two, do not fret.
Contrary to recommendations, dogs with arthritis or hip dysplasia do not have to limit their activity. If they do so, their inactivity could actually make their condition worse. It could lead to gain weight, stiffer joints, muscle loss, and decline in physical and mental abilities. The American College of Rheumatology actually prescribes dogs to move and do modified cardio exercises and muscle strengthening to manage symptoms naturally.
Socialization with other dogs
Number 5 in 8 ways to get your dog fit and healthy is encouraging socialization with other dogs. Dogs with healthy outlets to expend their energy are much healthier, both physically and mentally. Socialization with other dogs is one of those healthy outlets that both work your dog’s body and mind. There’s a saying, “a tired pup is a good pup”. If you have a dog that is very social like Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and Spring Spaniels, this rings true.
There are many ways how to socialize a dog like a daily walk in the park with other dogs. You can also ask friends to bring their dogs with them over your house. Pack walks are also great especially if you have a shy dog. You can do this by taking your dogs to walks with other group of people. Monitor your dog and the distance he needs from other people and dogs to make sure that he stays relaxed and calm.
What To Do With an Anti-social Dog?
Just like us, dogs have days where they just don’t feel like socializing. This doesn’t necessarily make them antisocial. Sometimes, they just don’t have the energy for it and sometimes, they just prefer to spend time alone. However, in the case of shy and introverted dogs, this is just a normal occurrence or could be a sign of anxiety due to certain experience in the past. If the latter is the case, being physically near them can help them feel safe. Daily exercise, play sessions and positive reinforcement can also help.
Walking has a lot of physical benefits too. And yes, it also counts as exercise. Walking strengthens bones and muscles, lowers blood pressure and reduces stress and anxiety. According to Better Health, walking also prevents obesity which is a major cause of a lot of diseases like cardiovascular diseases, liver diseases, osteoarthritis, and insulin resistance.
Walking also allow dogs to explore their environment and be exposed to new sights, smell new sights, sounds, smells, humans and other animals. At least 20 minutes of sensory stimulation a day is recommended along with 1-2 walks. Highly active dogs will require more but this will be determined by your dogs preferences or your veterinarian.
- Warm up before walking.
- Bring a litter bag and scoop for poop disposal.
- Carry water for both you and your dog.
- Monitor you dog during any interaction with other dogs or people.
- Avoid walking in extreme heat.
- Make sure your dog is properly identified.
Healthy Snacks & Treats
There’s really not much difference between humans and dogs. Most dogs are motivated by food. Well, 90% of dogs to be specific. That is why treats are the most effective reward for desired behaviors. It is the ultimate feel-good hormone booster. And aside from toys and praises, treats create positive reinforcement. However, excess of anything in life is poison. That includes treat if not taken in moderation.
We’re not gonna tell you to skip out on all those dog snacks and treats, obviously. We’re here to tell you to make the treats yourself and use lower calorie ingredients like fruits and veggies rather than buying commercial dog treats. There are recipes available online that you can use for reference. Tasty commercial dog treats are like extra icing. It’s good to take it once in a while but not everyday!
Vaccines are essential lifeline for dogs. It helps prevent many illnesses and helps dogs live a long, healthy life. If you have a young puppy, you need to wait until he turns 8 months before you can start vaccinating him. Certain vaccines like canine parvovirus, distemper, canine hepatitis and rabies need to be repeated annually. Some vets however may shift the vaccination to every 3 year schedule once your dog turns 2, as per the American Animal Hospital Association’s (AAHA) Canine Vaccine Guidelines.
Still, you might wonder about the benefits and risks of vaccines, particularly in senior dogs. Generally speaking, vaccines are safe for senior dogs. However, considering other factors like lifestyle and health, the risks and benefits can be relative. There are different vaccines for different diseases. Also, there are different types and combinations. Consult your vet to determine the best vaccination regime for your dog.
Helping your dog get fit and healthy is a commitment that you really have to make everyday. Just like people, dogs have different personalities. Genetics aside, it’s something that is influenced by a lot of factors like breed, age, lifestyle and experiences. Some dogs are binge eaters while some are not. A lot of dogs are very sociable but there are some that just want to be left alone. What we’re trying to say is there’s no one size fits all when it comes to this stuff. So, consult your vet, observe your dog and adjust accordingly!