- Check your pet’s weight regularly. You can check your pet’s weight at home by gently running your fingers along their rib cage. At a healthy weight, their ribs should be felt easily and have a thin, silky layer of skin moving over them. If you feel your pet is overweight, make an appointment with your vet to discuss an appropriate action plan. You can read more about how to conduct the “feel test” here.
- Portion control. Pet obesity is largely due to the overconsumption of commercial food and treats. Feeding guidelines are usually based on a “healthy adult pet” and one size does not fit all. There are many factors used to determine how many calories your pet needs, like life stage, reproductive status, physical activity, and disease conditions, so be sure to speak with your vet to determine what daily caloric intake is right for your pet. This is what we call “target weight,” or the ideal weight for your pup or cat. And while we love to feed our pets treats, these added calories can push your pet over their target weight – so treat with caution!
- Read labels. Cats and dogs are natural carnivores and thrive on fresh, meat-based diets. Many traditional shelf-stable pet foods are carbohydrate-based and contain fillers like corn, wheat and soy, which are harder for your pet to digest. Instead, look for all natural food that has meat as the first ingredient, like Vital Beef & Bison or Freshpet Select Chunky Chicken & Turkey slice & serve rolls. A protein-dense food will also help your pet stay fuller longer and provide longer-lasting energy.
- Avoid table scraps. Human food is not appropriate for household pets in most instances. A complete and balanced food made especially for pets is recommended, just like all of the recipes you’ll find with Freshpet.
- Regular exercise. Keeping your pet active will help them burn calories and gain muscle tone. For a list of fun ways you and your pet can exercise together this year, visit my blog post on 10 fun ways to exercise with your pet.
This time of year, it can feel like we’re being pulled in a thousand different directions.
There’s holiday shopping, the end of year blitz at work, managing your busy schedule, managing those of your kids (furry ones included), and prepping for the New Year. It can be exhausting. Then, there are so many things that we feel like we should be doing as well: volunteering, giving to charity, going to visit family, etc. With all of that going on, we can forget to take care of ourselves.
There’s a known term for letting our hearts get too big and actually causing stress: “Compassion Fatigue.” Whether you’ve got a house full of pets, kids still at home, or are responsible for the well-being of others as part of your career, when you focus on others too much without practicing self-care, that’s when a healthy adjustment might be necessary. While there are many lessons we can learn from our pets, taking time for ourselves to relax is one of the most important and healthy.
As an emergency veterinarian, I have certainly experienced “Compassion Fatigue” in my career. There are days in this job where it seems like everything I see is in critical condition, and every owner has a story that pulls on the heartstrings. Some days, all I can do is stay compassionate and supportive for them and their pets. But when I have my own things to worry about, taking on someone else’s can be draining.
While caring for the needs of others is extremely important, balancing their needs with your own is critical. If you’re not happy and healthy, it’s hard to care for someone else! Thus, prevention of emotional, physical and spiritual burnout is key. Here are my tips for surviving the busy (and sometimes overwhelming) holiday season and heading into the New Year with you on your mind:
- Carve Out Time for You: I know, easier said than done; but as a multi-career working mother, wife, entrepreneur, volunteer, daughter, friend, etc. let me assure you that it can be done. Be sure to make yourself as much a priority as you do everyone else.
- Get Some Rest and Manage Your Intake: Beware of yummy “feel good items.” It’s okay to have that delicious Gingerbread Latte occasionally, but having to have one can become a problem. Caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol can make you feel better temporarily, but are not the answers when experiencing burnout. Instead, make sure to get into bed earlier to wake up feeling well rested and with a more positive outlook.
- Spend Time With Your Pets: Loads of research over the last 25 years has shown us that living with pets provides numerous health benefits, both physically and mentally. In an article I wrote recently, I mentioned that spending more time with our pets could lower our blood pressure, lessen anxiety, reduce allergies, encourage healthy socializing, and boost our immunity. So, there’s a great excuse to build in more time with your pets, even if it’s just a quick walk together or extra few minutes of giving them affection.
- Get Some Exercise: Just a 10-minute walk around the neighborhood with your furry friend can make a healthy impact. Exercise releases endorphins, which are natural “feel good” hormones. This way, you’ll be doing your body and mind a favor, while helping your pet experience the same. Here are some great ways to get exercise in with your dog or cat, whether at home or on vacation this holiday.
- Ask for Support from Those Closest to You: It’s never a sign of weakness to tell those you love that you could use a hand. Perhaps you can delegate a few responsibilities, or ask for them to help you get something done. Or, sometimes just having someone to listen can make us feel so much better. It’s important to be sure to ‘escape’ from the busy lifestyle every once in a while and, sometimes, doing so with a close friend or loved one is the best way!
By taking a little time for yourself, you strengthen your own ability to give to others by making yourself a happier person. As we enter the thick of the holiday season and begin to think about the New Year, it’s important that we remember these important tips to take care of ourselves.
Happy Holidays to you and yours, and I can’t wait to connect with everyone again in the New Year!
- Try and Keep Your Suitcases Closed: As we know all too well, our pets can be bad decision makers when it comes to eating things – and your suitcase can be a hot zone for unhealthy temptations. If you have medications, vitamins or cosmetics, be sure to zip them away in your suitcase as they can be very dangerous if ingested by your pet(s). In fact, the number one call to animal poison control every year is for human medications. Even dirty laundry full of smells, especially socks and underwear, can be enticing for pets. If they decide to eat them, this can lead to intestinal blockage and even (expensive) surgery. So do your best to remember to keep those suitcases closed and zipped.
- Handbags Should Be Out of Your Pet’s Reach: All female pet parents out there know that our handbags are full of wondrous items! While the sugar-free gum that we love so much is yummy to us, it contains a compound called Xylitol that can be deadly to pets. Snacks, especially those containing chocolate or nuts, can also be a major problem, especially for dogs. For those of us that like to keep hand sanitizer in our purses, keep in mind that the rubbing alcohol in those bottles can be extremely dangerous for our pets if they somehow manage to ingest some. So keep the handbags on your arm or up high so your pets don’t accidentally harm themselves.
- Keep An Eye On Doors and Windows: Thanksgiving often means having a lot of family around. While it’s great to have everyone together, this can create much coming and going, and thus doors opening and closing. Whether you are heading outside to greet, or for the Thanksgiving family touch football game, be sure you and your guests keep an eye on the door so that your furry friend doesn’t run outside without proper supervision. When in doubt, you can always put your pets in an animal-friendly room with plenty of food and water, litter, and toys to make the foot traffic less of an issue.
- Update Microchip Information: In the event that your pet does slip out of sight, it’s always a great idea to have your pet’s microchip information updated and the most current information on his/her collar tags. I’d recommend registering your pet’s microchip and information online with a service like HomeAgain. Checking that this information is up to date can help keep the entire family together (pets included) this Thanksgiving.
- Feeding From Plates or Tables Should Never Be Allowed: What can start out as an innocent treat from the table can turn into something much more serious. While you may be aware of your pet’s allergies and sensitivities, visiting guests may have no idea how much harm some of the Thanksgiving feast items can pose to your furry friend. Be sure to let your guests know of any specific intolerances that your dog or cat may have so they, too, can be cautious with food around your pets. Try keeping your pup satisfied while everyone else is eating by having a bag of Freshpet Dog Joy Sweet Potato Chews handy. After all, they’re in the spirit of Thanksgiving, too!
We brought the Freshpet Truck with us, which is always a big hit with human kids and fur-kids alike. With pet statues on top and huge pet stickers, it’s becoming a My Dog Loves Central Park Fair icon. Between 11am and 3pm, pet parents and their pups walked up and tried free samples of our delicious food and treat recipes. Each pooch that stopped by got to take home one of our one pound Freshpet Select Slice and Serve rolls to try at home – talk about lucky dogs! We also brought boxes and boxes of our Dog Joy Chicken Treats, Dog Joy Beef Treats and Dog Joy Turkey Bacon– the pups were gobbling them right up.
I am blogging on behalf of Freshpet and I received compensation for my time for sharing my experience and views on the Freshpet Fridge Challenge; all my views are my own.
Yummmm! Not the healthiest meal, but I’ll take a couple bites. Just not 2x a day, every day.
Over on Keep the Tail Wagging, I’ve been writing about the Freshpet Fridge Challenge that I’m participating in. Thankfully, today is the last day and I can go back to eating fresh food. The one thing that I took from this challenge is that with kibble, our dogs are eating a fast food diet.
Today marks the end of our seven-day #FridgeChallenge, the challenge put forth by Freshpet to bloggers to live without the refrigerator for seven days. (Pets were exempt from the challenge but we weren’t allowed to use the refrigerator for our own items.)
This past week I’ve been sharing insights from my participation in the Freshpet Fridge Challenge. The challenge was established to bring attention to the importance of fresh foods in your dog’s diet. And while my dogs didn’t go without fresh food for the length of this challenge, I did, and let me just say, it really drove home the importance of fresh for all!
With so many great questions about pups and kitties from Monday’s Mini-Challenge, Dr. Katy has answered three more below.
If your question was chosen by Dr. Katy, please send us a private message on Facebook to receive your Freshpet goodie!
Freshpet parent Tiffany asks… Dr. Nelson, I have a neutered male cat and understand that urinary tract infections are common. I feed him only Freshpet. Do you have any recommendations as to how I can prevent a future infection?
Actually, urinary tract infections are not as common in male cats as they are in female cats. If your cat has appeared to have a UTI in the past, what you are more than likely seeing are occasional flare-ups of Feline Idiopathic Cystitis, or Feline Lower Urinary Tract Disease (FLUTD).
At times of flare-ups, treatment should be instituted by a veterinarian to control symptoms and prevent them from progressing. A variety of therapeutics have been found to be effective, so work with your veterinarian to determine the therapy that is right for your kitty.
But as you pointed out, an important part of treatment of FLUTD is prevention of further episodes. Diet plays a huge role in this. Cats typically do not drink a sufficient amount of water to keep their urine diluted. Therefore, a fresh, moist food is considered ideal as these foods are higher in water content than any kibble alternatives and tend to lead to more diluted urine.
Freshpet parent Aejin asks… What can I do to improve the condition of dog’s teeth?
Just like in people, there is no substitute for brushing your dog’s teeth for prevention of periodontal disease. Studies have shown that a minimum of three times a week is needed to prevent tartar build-up, but daily brushing is required to reverse gingivitis. There are numerous products out there to make the process easier for you and your pet: finger brushes, regular soft-bristled brushes, flavored toothpastes (do NOT use human toothpaste with fluoride), etc. Chew toys vary in effectiveness, and with severe dental disease are not advised, as teeth can be weakened and could potentially break. Bones and other hard toys are discouraged in these situations, as well.
Regular, anesthetized prophylactic cleanings done in your veterinarian’s office are the very best way to get a thorough cleaning of the teeth, and are the only way to clean below the gum line, where the most dangerous bacteria tend to gather. Talk with your veterinarian to learn more about this process, and to have a dental exam done on your pet.
Freshpet parent Rob asks… My cat can only eat food without wheat in it. I feed him Freshpet, but he’s having trouble with hairballs. Is there a supplement I can give him to help with this issue? Something natural, perhaps?
Without having additional information, I can advise only up to a point. Hairballs are often blamed for a variety of actual diseases, and the reason so many hairball remedies are considered “ineffective” is because frequently they’re being used to treat something that is a symptom, rather than addressing the real problem.
In my opinion, it’s a lot easier (and cheaper) to start by giving your kitty a lion cut. Should the hairballs continue or begin to worsen, perhaps resulting in an upset stomach, it is likely time to talk with your veterinarian about instituting a work up to find what is troubling your kitty.
IMPORTANT: Please note that in-person veterinary recommendations are always the most appropriate way to deal with questions about your pet. Dr. Katy’s answers are well-informed, however, it can often be difficult to determine the best course of action without her seeing your pet in-person. As such, we recommend that prior to taking action, please visit your personal veterinarian to determine what’s right for you and your pet.
The following is part of a series of content in partnership with Freshpet! Opinions are my own. Awhile back, we told you about our dead fridge and how we were going to be taking a week with no cold food. Well, that week turned into a week and a half. I was not happy.