Health: Fitness routine for owners and their pets

Feb 09, 2016, 08:40 IST | Suprita Mitter

After learning that UK's pets are falling prey to obesity, a British Olympian has devised 'the petcercise' fitness routine for pets and owners. Will Indian pet parents get on board?

Recently, British Olympic medallist Louis Smith launched the world’s first celebrity workout video for both, pet owners and their canines after coming across a report, which revealed that one in three dogs in the UK is overweight.

“It is estimated that over 44% of dogs in developed countries are overweight or obese. The cause of obesity is a mismatch between calorie consumption and energy expenditure, which is influenced by diet, feeding behaviour and the owner’s attitude to their pet’s nutrition and lifestyle,” informs veterinarian Kallahalli Umesh, adding that India too, is seeing a rising number of obese pets.

“The current urban lifestyle has put pets at the risk of becoming overweight. Junk food and plenty of treats available in market add to the problems,” adds Umesh.

He shares that especially in metros like Mumbai and Bangalore, there is a lot of emphasis on pet grooming. “While people tend to send their dogs to look good, they forget that health factors are most essential,” he points out.

“Most people are strapped to their schedules and do not have time for walking their dogs which may lead to several weight, health and temperamental issues. A dog, who is confined to the boundaries of a house for the whole day, not only becomes overweight due to lack of exercise but also uses bundled up energy for destructive purposes like destroying furniture, books and anything it can get a hold of. Working out with their pets is a good idea for owners and their pets,” shares Kruti Parikh, founder, Petsville, a boarding, day care, grooming facility, which also houses a pet store in Mumbai.

Sweet nothings for Scottie
According to Dr Umesh, most pets must have a routine walks exercise and play. This must match with food / energy intake. “Feed the recommended quantity of food as two meals and 10% of energy requirement as treats; no other junk food or snacks,” he shares, elaborating “Ideally, the initial target body weight should be 15% of the current body weight. It is very important to set realistic goals for weight loss in order to maintain client compliance. New target body weights can be selected once the current target body weight has been achieved until the dog has an ideal body weight. The amount of calories to feed the dog is determined on the basis of the target body weight.”

Parikh believes that building a routine for a pet enforces discipline. “In addition to fixed routines for walks, feeding times and potty breaks should also follow a schedule. Designate an area in the house for his sleep time. Different breeds have different sleep requirements.

In reference to the walking schedule, try and take them for walks two-three times a day. Typically, they prefer to step out again after they are done with their meals to attend to nature’s call. Puppies need to be fed three-four times a day. As they grow up, meals can be given twice a day. Large breed puppies experience orthopedic issues.

Thus, they should be fed the right nutrients, according to the vet’s advice,” shares Parikh who owns a five-year-old Neapolitan mastiff, Fido. “Wrong diet can lead to health issues in a pet. We recently saw a Dalmatian who was on dog food and had to be shifted to a prescription diet in order to tackle his gastro issues. The pet parent should always consult their respective vets rather than surfing the Internet in case of any signs of the pet feeling unwell,” she adds.

According to experts, two to four meals per day are adequate for a pet. Dr Umesh suggests a simple method where one member of the household should be selected to feed the dog.

This will reduce inadvertent over feeding by additional family members.

The owner should be instructed to either eliminate treats

completely, or if this is met with resistance, limit the number of treats to less than 10% of the daily caloric intake. Ideally, low
calorie treats should be selected.

According to experts, pet owners should also restrict dogs from stepping into the kitchens during cooking and meal times. This may also reduce the likeliness that the owner will offer snacks meant for humans, which are generally high in calories, to the pet.

What's ideal?

Target standard initial reduction for obese dogs should be 15% reduction from current body weight in 10 to 15 weeks.

Celeb Speak
>> Tanisha Mukerji, parent to two Cocker Spaniels, (Bianca and Flash), two Lhasa Apsos, (Leonidas and Leah), Lhasa Apso Puppies, (Prince William and Prince Harry). “Good nutrition is most important. They are constantly running around and playing, and that’s their exercise happens; so balancing the food is key to keeping them fit. I ensure that I mix their food with, packaged dog food pellets, freshly cooked food which is rice, vegetables and chicken with pet- specific nutrition.”

Tanisha Mukerji with her Lhasa Apso
Tanisha Mukerji with her Lhasa Apso

>> Dog behaviourist Nita Joshi, who has five large breed dogs including a Siberian Husky and a St Bernard, says, “People think a dog can do with just a half-hour walk. That’s not true.  My Husky needs at least 15 kms of walking every day. He does the first four kms every morning and then I put him on a treadmill. If you don’t do that, it causes restlessness in them. Large
breed dogs are usually working breed dogs. They need to run, play, chase squirrels, not remain confined in apartments. Dogs need mental stimulation too. In the wild they find their own food. As pets that trait doesn’t change.

>> In addition to reducing the daily calorie intake, every effort should be made to increase the daily energy expenditure by encouraging exercise. This could be in the form of walks or, if the dog has concurrent arthritis, swimming. The causes of obesity include decreased daily exercise as a result of confinement to the house and overfeeding by owner.

 Breeds including the Labrador Retriever, Collie, Cairn Terrier and Basset Hound seem to have an increased likelihood of obesity.

 Additional risk factors for obesity include age (increased risk with aging), sex (females have higher risk), and neutering.

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