Pet obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S.
In 2014, the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) conducted its annual National Pet Obesity Awareness Day Survey which determined that 53% of dogs and 58% of cats are overweight or obese. That’s nearly 100,000,000 cats and dogs, which is an unacceptable reflection of how we treat our beloved pets. Many health problems, some of which are irreversible and all of which compromise quality of life, affect pets that are overweight and obese.
The good news is that the opportunity to be healthier through weight management exists every day and pet owners don’t need to wait until January 1st to start better lifestyle habits. Besides enforcing calorie restriction for your pet, partaking in daily exercise is the best way to promote weight loss and improved whole-body health.
January is Walk Your Pet Month, so it’s time to get moving. Here are my top 10 reasons why walking your pet is a simple and important aspect of promoting his mental health and well-being.
When a dog is continuously confined to one location and not given the opportunity to be exposed to new environments, behavioral problems can ensue. Just like people, dogs frequently need a change of location to stimulate their brains and senses. Dogs that get insufficient exercise are prone to behavior problems like separation anxiety, including vocalizing, destructive tendencies, inappropriate urination and defecation, and attempts to escape captive quarters.
I firmly believe that well-exercised dogs are better-behaved and recommend that my clients exercise healthy dogs every day to a point of physical fatigue.
Getting out and about to walk your dog permits both humans and canines to potentially interact with other humans and domesticated animals (avoid wildlife please!).
Dogs are social animals and are biologically programmed to be part of a pack. You are part of your dog’s pack and hopefully serve the role of the leader, but he can also fit into that group of dogs you meet for your walks around the neighborhood. Plus, you may develop new friendships through interactions with your neighbors that are prompted through dog-walking.
Due to the pet obesity epidemic, my primary recommendation for regularly embarking on walks with your dog is to promote your pooch’s best health. This includes weight loss and management. Not all dogs need to lose weight, but going on a minimum of one daily walk of 30 minutes or more is a good place to start. Make sure to engage your veterinarian in the plan so that your dog’s weight-management goals can be safely attained.