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We all know it’s not healthy for our pets to be overweight and in extreme circumstances like these, it could be easy to fall into bad habits by giving your pet extra treats or naughty snacks.  Advice on how to keep your pet at a healthy weight whilst in isolation.

Managing your pet’s weight at homeWith the ongoing uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 (Coronavirus), knowing how to keep your pet happy, healthy and at an ideal weight in lock-down may help give you peace of mind that you’re doing all you can for their wellbeing too.

We all know it’s not healthy for our pets to be overweight and in extreme circumstances like these, it’s easy to fall into bad habits.

Here’s some advice on how to keep your pet healthy with their weight in mind which could reduce their risk of weight related illness in the future...

Avoid giving your pet human food

  • A biscuit or a piece of cheese may seem like a little treat, but it’s like a whole meal for dogs. Did you know… just one biscuit is the equivalent to one and a half burgers to a medium sized dog. And just one small cup of whole milk is the equivalent to 3 burgers to a medium sized cat.
  • Feed a specifically formulated weight management diet to help keep your pet satisfied between meals, where possible.
  • It can be easy to give food to a dog begging, but this can easily lead to overfeeding and in turn lead to obesity. Rather than giving in, it’s important to understand the reason your pet is begging. This could be due to them wanting your attention or fuss, wanting to play or for grooming.  Next time your dog is begging, try a different tactic rather than giving food.

Make mealtimes fun!

  • Scatter feeding using dry food can be done indoors or outside in the garden which will slow down their eating and encourage them to be more active. You can also use slow or puzzle feeders to make mealtime last longer which also helps to keep them stimulated.
  • You could even set-up little treasure hunts for your pet to find their feed.
  • Splitting their food into smaller more frequent meals helps to prevent hunger.
  • The use of digital scales will help ensure accuracy of their daily feeding allowance. Measuring cups can lack accuracy and cause unintentional over-feeding.
  • Some of their daily allowance could be saved for treats instead.
  • Vegetables such as carrots are good alternatives to naughty snacks for dogs.

Involve all the family and keep active…

  • Make sure the whole family are on-board with the new feeding regime, including children.
  • Ensure regular exercise or activities in the home or garden. Click here to read more about keeping your dog active in and around your home.
  • Cats can be harder to encourage to exercise, however the use of wand toys can be a good way to encourage play with your cat. Also ensure they have toys for independent play such as ping pong, balls, mazes and catnip toys.

Please ensure you call us or read our latest guidelines in case of an emergency.

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As well as looking out for our own mental wellbeing, it’s also important to keep an eye on your pet’s behaviour and look out for signs of anxiety.  Our guide to supporting your pet’s mental health may give you some ideas about how to keep them calm and happy.

How you can support your pet’s mental healthThere’s been a significant increase in the amount of information published on the impact coronavirus news is having on people’s anxiety levels and mental health challenges – and, with many of us unable to leave our homes, social isolation is likely to have a further negative impact on our mental health.   

But what about our pets? Their routine is also going to be heavily impacted – reduced exposure to sounds and smells which stimulate their senses, less exercise, and fewer opportunities to interact with other animals will all take a toll on their wellbeing too. You may notice that you pet’s behaviour changes, showing signs of anxiety and frustration as they’re not able to leave their home to explore and play. Being patient and understanding, while testing various interventions to address the concerns may make a period of isolation more manageable.   

So, how can you provide additional stimulation at a time when outside access is restricted?

  1. You can exercise with your pet at home.
    There are several different techniques which can be used to exercise your pet at home – setting up agility activities, teaching your dog something new or buying a new, stimulating toy. Playing with your cat will be essential in reducing their anxiety and stress if there’s a need to keep them indoors.
  2. Play games with your pet.
    Interacting with your dog or cat will help stimulate their mind. Using a toy, which you can both engage with, will also help you form a stronger relationship with your pet. Consider something you could throw, drag or swing to get their attention and maintain their interest. It will also help keep them active if you’re stuck indoors.    
  3. Buy new toys and rotate with their existing ones
    There are lots of interactive toys available for both cats and dogs which you can order online and have delivered. By rotating the new and old toys you will keep your pet interested in what they’re playing with. Whether a hide and seek mouse game, or an IQ treat dispensing puzzle – there’s bound to be something available for your pet.  
  4. Play hide and seek
    Stimulating their senses is important for both dogs’ and cats’ wellbeing. Hiding treats and toys around your home will not only provide mental stimulation but also important exercise at a time when outside access is restricted. You could be the one to hide. Encourage your dog to stay in one room while you hide in another.   
  5. Access to light and a window
    If you have access to a garden, your pet can continue to get fresh air, light and exposure to different sounds and smells. However, clearing space for them by a window will allow them to watch what’s going on outside - other animals, changes in the weather or traffic passing by. All of this should provide stimulation if you confined to your home. However, you should monitor your pet’s behaviour, as this may heighten their anxiety and frustration at not being able to go outside. If you notice this behaviour start to emerge you may need to change tactic.
  6. Play Pup Fiction
    Spotify have launched a ‘My Dog’s Favourite Podcast’ – which has up to 5 hours of ‘soothing sounds and friendly chat’ which is an ‘aural treat’ for your dog. Check it out.   

There is lots of evidence that a mentally and physically stimulated pet is happier and healthier. By knowing your pet and observing changes in their behaviour, you will be able to spot whether their mental wellbeing is being impacted by the period of isolation. If you’ve tried several of the techniques we’ve suggested and are concerned that your pet is exhibiting signs of worry or stress then you should contact your vet who will be able to provide you with more advice.  

Please ensure you call us or read our latest guidelines in case of an emergency.

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During this period of uncertainty and with many of us self-isolating and in lock-down, some of our clients have been asking questions about COVID-19 in relation to their pet and also how to manage their mental and physical wellbeing.  We have pulled together this guide which we hope you’ll find useful.

Keeping your pet happy and healthy

With our movement currently restricted, you may also be wondering how to keep on top of your pet’s usual routine and health needs.  Here are a few things to consider that may help to keep your dog or cat happy and healthy during this unsettling time. Click on the links below to find out more.

Medication

If your pet has prescribed long-term medication and you are concerned about obtaining this, perhaps ask a friend or relative to help.  If you are concerned about repeat prescriptions for your pet, please call us for advice.  In most cases, we are able to continue to provide a supply of medication which we are monitoring on a daily basis.

Meal planning

Ensure you have a reasonable amount of your pet’s favourite healthy treats and usual diet at home and plan ahead if at all possible.  If you usually obtain this from your veterinary practice, please call ahead to check opening hours and availability of stock. Please be mindful not to stock pile and to only buy what you need.

Toileting

With the current requirement to stay at home, you may be in a situation where you are unable to take your pet outside to the toilet, especially if you live in an apartment with no secure garden. You may want to invest in a litter tray for them to use or try grabbing their usual lead and poop bag and direct them to the desired spot to let them know that it’s ‘business as usual’.

Our commitment to you

As a group of practices, we are committed to delivering exceptional care to your pets despite these unprecedented times. The health and wellbeing of our patients, clients and staff is our number one priority. We are taking precautions to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and to protect our clients and dedicated staff.

Please ensure you call us or read our latest guidelines in case of an emergency.

You may be wondering how you are going to be able to exercise your dog if you are unable to leave your home.  There are many ways that you can keep your pet active whilst at home and keeping them mentally exercised will help to balance this.

Exercising your dog at homeThere’s no substitute for getting out in the fresh air and walking your dog. Whether you take your dog out around your neighbourhood, walk them to the nearest park, or find a totally new place to explore on foot – walking them everyday will provide them with an all-round workout.

However, there will be times when you just can’t get out. With ongoing uncertainty around COVID-19 (Coronavirus), and with many of us unable to leave our home, knowing how to keep your dog fit at home could really help keep them healthy and happy. Keeping your dog in the house or garden for a long period of time, without being able to explore new places, interact with other animals or put their senses to good use, will impact both their physical health and mental wellbeing.  

As with any exercise, the amount and type of activity will vary according to the age, breed and general health of your pet. If you’re unsure, please contact your vet.

Here are a range of ideas for how you can maintain their fitness at home:

  1. Focus on agility by creating your own obstacle course:
    This clearly depends on the space you have available, however creating something for your dog to jump over, run through or skip around is a fun way to introduce exercise at home – either indoors or in the garden. You don’t have to have professional equipment, using soft items such as cushions can provide them with a low-risk obstacle.
  2. Play hide and seek:
    Tell your dog to stay in a room, go and hide and then call them. They’ll use a range of their senses trying to find you – plus providing additional joy when they do. Just don’t get overly excited and give away your hiding place too soon…
  3. Playing games to earn rewards:
    By hiding their treats around the house, you can make them earn their reward – not only allowing them to exercise but keeping them mentally active in the process. There are also a range of interactive toys available which will stimulate both their mind and body.   
  4. Try and teach your dog something new:
    If you never have the time to try and teach your dog a new trick or an activity – now might be the ideal time. Just remember to not overly-reward the activity, otherwise you’ll defeat the object.  You could use a proportion of their daily food allowance for treats.
  5. Get some new toys:
    There’s lots of research that suggests that dogs love new toys. If they’re bored with the old ones, why not put them away and give them something new to play with. By rotating which toys they have available – it will maintain their interest and keep them active.
  6. Play fetch:
    Do you have the space to play fetch with your dog? If you can find a space to throw a ball or toy, your dog will love to return it… or maybe now is the time to try and train them to return it? Maybe down your hallway or from inside the house to out?  

Rewarding behaviour is a good way of encouraging your dog to participate in activities. However, overfeeding your pet could result in obesity – which can result in greater stress on bones, heart, lungs and other organs. With a period of isolation now ongoing, controlling your dog’s calorie intake may become even more important. Reducing after-dinner scraps and reducing treats in-between mealtimes will help. 

Please ensure you call us or read our latest guidelines in case of an emergency.

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