With summer now in full swing around us, chances are you’ve thought about getting more active. One of the very best things you can do to maintain your precious pet’s health- as well as motivate yourself- is ensure they, too, have all the benefits of a fit and active lifestyle. We at Ou Kaapse Vet have already looked at why their weight should matter to you- now it’s time to look a little bit further at how to keep your pet loving life alongside you for as long as possible.
Summer heat matters
Of course, while activity is a lot more appealing now it’s warm, summer isn’t without trials of its own for your pets. Your doggies- and even kitties- don’t have the benefit of foresight to always exercise and play safely when it’s super-hot outside, but fortunately they have you looking out for their best interests. Remember that animals don’t lose heat as efficiently as we do- mostly they cool off through the feet and through panting activities, so they can overheat much more easily than we can. Never leave them in a hot car, no matter how quick your errand, and make necessary trips to the vet in the morning or evening! While you should always ensure your animal has easy access to fresh, clean water, you may need to check in several times a day now [especially if your animal is a little goofy and prone to spilling] and ensure they are drinking well to avoid dehydration. Some dogs may paw at their drinking bowls to splash themselves with cooler water, so ensure all dishes you use are appropriately deep, stable and secure them where possible.
A shallow ‘kiddie shell’ makes a great doggie paddle pool for them to cool off after playing if you want to give your pooches an extra treat. Shade access- or better yet, access to a cool room in the home- is essential all day, and ensure outside kennels are insulated to stay cool, and that your animal can always move away from the worst heat. Damp, wrung-out towels, ice mats or ice collars can be put down for your animals if the weather gets unusually hot outside, but make sure they can always move away from the cold area too once their temperature adjusts. There’s also a range of icy ‘treats’ you can make for cats and dogs alike to encourage play, avert boredom and keep them cool.
It doesn’t matter if your furry buddy is a massive Great Dane or the smallest pocket pup, nor if they are a cat or smaller mammal or bird. They all need to stay fit, active and engaged in life to stay healthy. While spacious outdoor runs and carefully supervised ‘cageless play’ can be enough to keep a smaller mammal like a bunny, guinea pig or rat healthy, cats and dogs will need more engaged fitness time and the opportunity to bond more extensively with you. This goes for smart birds like parrots and parakeets as well. This will truly meet their physical and emotional needs.
Keep it interesting
Consider adding some enticing activities and toys to your bird’s cage to keep them distracted when you aren’t around, and always use an appropriate cage for the bird. This keeps them pecking and climbing, promoting safe activity and good health. Cat’s will always enjoy structured access to the outside through a special ‘catio’, but even the smallest apartment can become an exciting wonderland with some ‘cat trees’, scratching posts and kitty-designated spaces to spice it up. Remember that cats should always have an escape route to a secure hiding place, especially if you have active little ones in the family who may get too exuberant for kitty at times, and the whole family needs to understand that kitty should be left alone while there.
Even the most luxe play area won’t compensate for time spent with your animal, however. Both large birds and cats enjoy bonding through play with you. From chasing a string or ‘feather on a stick’ through to play with a laser light and simple tricks, be sure to spend some time together with them daily. Not only does this keep their body fit and mind engaged, but fulfils their emotional needs too.
Keeping your dog fit in summer
Dogs are one of the best fitness buddies around. Rare is the hound who doesn’t enjoy a chance to stretch their legs off the property with you, so even if you have a small or old dog be sure to get some appropriate walkies time in. Older, small, flat-faced or overweight dogs may slow down a little, but they will still enjoy a gentle stroll appropriate to their needs. ‘Inexhaustible’ dogs can be exercised safely from a bicycle, skateboard or roller skates with some careful training, or can learn to use a treadmill indoors, but a dog whose energy never runs down may need something more ‘exciting’ to stimulate their mind instead. Frisbee, fetch, rolling balls, hiding treats, interactive toys and many more games should do the trick. Remember that you cannot safely ‘walk’ a dog from the comfort of your car- it’s time to put on those walking shoes and get hands on! Nor should you ever allow your dog to ‘free roam’ unsupervised outside the gate, nor assume that having a doggy buddy is enough for them to meet their exercise needs. You are their people and they treasure their bonding time with you more than the activity itself.
No matter what pet you own, ensuring they keep their fitness up safely through summer is a critical part of the pet-owning experience. Remember, if you have a ‘difficult’ animal, one with age-related issues or special needs, or just want some hands-on personal tips for keeping your buddy fighting fit, the team at Ou Kaapse Vet love hearing from engaged animal owners.