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As I became more educated about health and fitness with myself, I started to wonder about my pets. Are they getting enough exercise? Are they eating the right foods? I read labels for myself all the time, have I even stopped to look at the ingredients of my pet’s food? Eating dry pellets a couple times a day can’t be that good for them. As I did my homework and became more educated I realized that I was doing more harm than good to my furry little kids. With some research I discovered how to nurture my pets for a long and healthy life.

Pets and Nutrition

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stats from 2010, over 68% of the US is overweight or obese, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that our pets are overweight too. The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention (APOP) states that more than 54% of our pets are overweight or obese. This is because pet owners are feeding their furry loved ones too much food and the lack of exercise. It has been proven that there is a strong connection between fat animal owners and fat pets.

As pet owners we find a bag or can of food from the pet food aisle, read the fancy marketing on the package that persuades us that this is what is best for our pet, and then we buy it. We tend to buy the same brand of food day in and day out for years to feed our pets. Over time, poor nutrition and lack of variety can play a toll on our pet’s health. Not to mention I think we all have been guilty of feeding our pets table scraps because of “the stare” that melts our hearts when they look at us. This is definitely one of the worst things we can do to our pets.

Throughout my pet food research, I learn that commercially store bought food was not the best choice. Most of today’s pet food is processed and refined much like the fast food of humans today but worse. The pet food companies put chemicals in the food to get your pets addicted to their brand. Another thing I had learned, that pet food manufacturers fill their food with the cheapest protein and unnecessary chemicals and fillers. Dogs and cats are carnivores by nature. They need high amounts of quality protein to thrive. Real protein, not factory produced “meat by-products” (which means it can range from road kill to diseased livestock parts). Their bodies are not designed to break down modern man’s processed or refined foods nor will it ever.

After interviewing four vets, two holistic vets and two regular vets, this was my conclusion to what they said…

I learned that raw is optimal for healthy pets. You can find great raw food brands in the freezer sections of specialty pet stores or you can order online. Raw is great for your pet because it is 70-80% water and in its closer to its natural state. The protein is real meat not a by-product. Things to look for on the package of raw pet foods are the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). This means it has been nutritionally balanced approved for all stages of life. Also, make sure that it is made in the USA.  

The next best option would be can foods. Canned pet foods also contain about 70-80% water as well. Even though it is cooked, it still is better than dry pet food. Please read labels on canned foods. Make sure it is high in real protein, followed by fruits and veggies on the label. If your pet is overweight, make sure it is low in fat. Also, make sure it is grain-free or low in grains.

Another great option would be dehydrated. Dehydrated is dry until you add water. Then it will have 70% water. Through the dehydration process the food hasn’t been processed at high temps so some of the nutrient value is still there. This is a good option for pet owner who don’t want to buy raw or canned foods.

The last option would be dry food because it lacks moisture content. It contains about 12% of moisture. Studies say that pets who have been feed dry food have a higher change of kidney stress. Also, contrary to popular belief, dry dog food does not “clean your pet’s teeth”. This is a myth. The only way to clean your pet’s teeth is by brushing them regularly and annual teeth cleanings at the vet. Real bone for a chew can also help aid in cleaning them but make sure to research the proper bones to feed them. The wrong bones eaten can be dangerous to your pet.  

So again, much like a human, the fresher the food the better. The vets also said that if you choose to go the raw food route, make sure to add a multivitamin and a digestive enzyme to their food for optimal health.

Pets and Exercise

Today’s most dogs and cats are more like little couch potatoes. They are over fed and lack enough exercise. Just like humans, pets need to be exercised on a daily basis. Exercising your pet regularly will not only keep them trim, but will help them with muscle tone and a sharp mind.

With any exercise program, start slowly and work your way up. You can walk dogs 3 days a week for 30 minutes and work your way up to an hour. Depending on the breed, more athletic breeds like to run and they need more exercise time. If you can’t run yourself, consider biking next to them as they run. Or you can always hire a dog walker. If you have cats, you need to get creative. Outdoor cats get more exercise than indoor cats. If you have an indoor cat, you can have various toys that around the house that will catch their attention. Hiding them around the house will give them that “prey in the wild” excitement.  Also, having something for them to climb on is fun for your feline friend. Depending on how active your cat is, there is a cat wheel. Much like a hamster wheel, a cat wheel works the same principle as a treadmill.

Do not let weather be an excuse either. Dogs are smart creatures. They can be trained to do about anything. If it is too cold outside to walk them you can even put them on a treadmill.  If it is hot outside, don’t walk them at the hottest part of the day. Early in the morning or late in the afternoon would be ideal.  Taking them to a dog park and playing fetch is great exercise and bonding time too. Just make sure there is fresh water available whenever exercising.

Tips for a Healthy Pet
  1. Make sure to feed your pet twice a day. (Unless it is a puppy, they tend to eat 3-4 meals.)
  2. Make sure to feed your pet the required amount for this age, weight, and breed.
  3. Make sure to read labels on pet food and educate yourself what is quality pet food.
  4. Avoid giving your pets unnecessary snacks and table scraps.
  5. Exercise is necessary for physical and mental health of your pet.
  6. Take your pet on daily walks
  7. Monitor your animal’s weight with visits to your vet if overweight.
  8. Reward with love instead of food.
  9. Get annual vet exams.
  10. Get annual teeth cleaning.

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