Get fit with Fido

Published Dec. 3, 2013

While a pudgy poodle or round Rottweiler might seem cute, those extra pounds can go a long way in affecting their health. In fact, an extra 5 pounds on a medium-sized dog is equivalent to 25 pounds on an adult. And that extra baggage not only causes health problems, it can ultimately shorten a dog's life by 2 1/2 years! Here are some tips for keeping your pet and you healthy and active this fall.

Set daily activity goals: The key to any health regimen is consistency. Vets recommend dogs get 30 to 60 minutes of exercise daily, based on their breed, size and age, so determine your pet's ideal range and stick to it. Not only will Fido stay fit, he'll also behave better at home. A well-exercised dog is a well- behaved dog.

Alternate food based on activity: Many pet owners feed their pets the same amount day and night regardless of activity level, but the truth is, pets are just like us. On days that they're more active and thus burning more calories, they need more food. So next time you hit the beach or park with them, be sure to dish out a bit more food afterward to compensate.

Make them work for it: Cats, and indoor-only cats in particular, have a tendency to pack on the pounds. Rather than sleeping, eating and repeating, make them work for their food and treats by using a foraging ball that encourages exercise in order to chow down. Dog behaviorists similarly recommend "Nothing in Life Is Free" (NILIF) training: Before giving Spot a treat, give him a command and wait for him to complete it.

Schedule a playdate: Whether you're doing it indoors or out, playtime is always more fun with a pal. Schedule a trip to the dog park or even a game of tug-of-war in the back yard. They're bound to get in a better workout when they have some friendly competition. And what pet parent doesn't want to socialize too!

Whether you're a one-pet household or you're running a small zoo, keeping your pets healthy will extend your happy years with them. It's all about making every day count when it comes to their health and wellness.