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How to help your pet stay healthy during COVID-19 lockdowns

Are you guilty of giving them 'too much love?'

My dog was due for her yearly check-up the other day, so knowing health care is still an essential service, I took her along for her planned appointment. I thought everything was fine.

Then I heard the dreaded words none of us wants to hear…

'Hmmm, she seems to have put on a little weight during lockdown!'.

I was so embarrassed for her! My poor dog had no idea what was being said about her, but I knew it was time I looked at what I was doing.

I was guilty of committing some iso pet crimes

With many of us working from home, our pets are now with us 24/7. And they love it. They've probably never had this much love and attention in their whole lives!

That's all fine. Giving your pets love and attention is warranted and much needed. Have you noticed how they can help alleviate your stress and boredom in iso too? But I digress…My guilty iso crime was giving my dog extra treats. And I bet you’re committing the same crime.

You may not even notice you're doing it. You're eating a biscuit at morning tea and get those puppy dog eyes so flick them a bit. You're eating your sandwich at lunch, and hate crusts so pass them onto your dog. They're cuddling on the couch next to you as your watching a movie, and they get a sneaky bit of popcorn.

But snacks are bad for our pets.

To give you an insight on their badness, did you know that one potato chip for a cat is the caloric equivalent of half a hamburger for us? That's huge. One chip for a cat (or dog) is like giving them an entire lunch serving! From one chip.

Couple this with being stuck inside with bad weather during winter, and without realising, your pet's weight could be creeping up.

Here's why our pets need to keep their weight maintained

Pets are similar to us. They need to eat right and exercise to stay fit and healthy. And yes I know this hasn't been the easiest to do during lockdown and winter, but here's what happens to your pet if they're overweight:

1. Lifespan decreases: You'd love your pet to pieces, and the last thing you want is for your pet to pass on before their time. It's hard enough when they go naturally, let alone thinking you could have prolonged their life. It's been proven that overweight dogs live at least 10 months less than their healthy buddies. When you think about that in dog years, that's a bit of time!

2. They can get diabetes: Did you know obese animals can get diabetes just like a human? Obesity increases insulin resistance which your pet's body needs to break down sugars. Vets tell us that every 1kg of excess weight leads to a 30% reduction in insulin sensitivity. If your pet is overweight and develops diabetes, you'll need to be prepared to give them ongoing treatment.

3. Moving will get hard: Most overweight pets will end up with some form of musculoskeletal disease. The increased weight their little bodies need to carry lead to things like ruptured ligaments and osteoarthritis. These conditions will be extremely painful for your poor pet, and they will need treatment and ongoing medication to help relieve their inflammation.

4. A range of other diseases: Obesity in pets can also lead to a variety of other diseases including hypertension (that leads to conditions of the eyes, heart and possibly a stroke), heart disease, liver disease, back problems and skin problems. To this effect, they are very much like us!

What you can do to keep your pet healthy during COVID-19 lockdown

If you're reading this and had a look at your pet wondering if you've been guilty of the COVID snack epidemic, the first thing you should do is visit your vet for a check-up. They’re meant to go every year anyway, so this may be the perfect time to do so.

They can weigh your pet and give you expert advice on what you can do to help keep (or get) their weight under control.

Some suggestions include:

· Measuring the amount of food you're giving them – making sure you're sticking to the required daily amounts and not going above this

· Trying to get in a daily walk even if you've pumped out a session in your home gym setup – a quick 20-minute trot around the block is better than nothing

· Keep a weight loss diary – this will make you conscious of the extra bits of food you've been slipping your pet, and you'll soon learn how to say no to those puppy eyes

· Offer them smaller meals during the day – split their food morning and night, so they aren't scoffing all their food at once, then begging you for more when they get hungry

· Stop sharing your food – this is the biggest iso downfall as we're eating at home more and it's so tempting to share it with our pets

And if you've been feeling a little overindulgent and under-exercised during COVID lockdowns, this could work to keep you healthy too! Cut down the snacks and go for a walk.

What if you can't get out for a walk?

Under the current conditions, I am allowed to operate as a dog walker safely. If for some reason you can't get out during the day, I can pop past your house and take your dog for a walk. They'll love getting out into the fresh air just as much as I do! I'd like to help you, and your pet out and get that much-needed exercise to combat the COVID lock


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