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Helping Pets Get Fit & Healthy in 2018

It's not unusual for New Years resolutions to include diet changes and exercise plans to get more fit and healthy. Perhaps your pets also could benefit from slimming down the pudge, or revving up the activity. Remember, just as with people, the key to changing habits and making permanent improvements is making a long-term plan that's reasonable--and fun.

Forget the crash diets and sudden marathon routines. A crash diet can kill a cat, and isn't healthy for dogs, either. Use these tips to help your dogs and cats get fit and healthy in the new year.

7 NEW YEARS FIT & HEALTHY PET TIPS

  1. Pets love treats, but feeding them on top of the regular diet can pack on extra pounds. Instead, set aside 25 percent of your dog or cat's regular food and feed that as treats. When the kitty meows for yummies, or the dog paws your leg for more munchies, toss him a kibble. You can scatter the food up a staircase, for instance, to inspire natural foraging and get your pet exercising running up and down the stairs.

  2. An always full bowl works for some pets, both others turn into gluttons and gobble it all at once. Measured meal feeding is healthier and spreads the calories out through the day. Divide the daily amount into five puzzle toys, for example, and hide them around the house. You'll need to show kitties how to make some of these work, but dogs tend to catch on quickly.

  3. Hide surprise bonus kibble inside cat tunnels or at the top of cat trees. That encourages cats to move and explore more, while being rewarded for doing so.

  4. Water fountains are a big hit with both dogs and cats. Placing them in several locations around the house encourages better hydration habits. Cats especially are attracted to water fountains, because the turbulence adds flavor by aerating the liquid.

  5. If your pets dislike puzzle toys, check out automatic food dispensers that open compartments with measured portions when YOU decide. For pets that eat canned foods, there are also refrigerated feeders or insulated bowls that help keep it fresh. Multiple small meals increase the body's metabolic rate, so she burns more calories faster.

  6. Schedule at least two daily exercise sessions for your pets. Make dog walking fun for you both, by adding a session of fetch or another favorite game. Changing up the walking route encourages your dog to sniff out all the new smells, and burns extra calories.

  7. Cats tend to be more reluctant to exercise regularly. A leash trained kitty may enjoy exploring the back yard or wandering around the house. Fishing pole style chase games, interactive laser toys, or even battery powered motorized "rats" can tickle Kitty's fancy, and keep her moving. Remember that simply staring and watching is part of the cat's normal stalk-and-hunt behavior, and exercises the feline brain as much as climbing the drapes.

Being fit and healthy impacts more than looks. It also helps cats and dogs live longer. I'm waiting for them to create a "puzzle toy feeders" for me!

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