Keeping Pets Fit

Celebrations are a time for giving and receiving gifts and, let's face it, over-indulgence. For many of us, that can mean more large meals over a couple of weeks than are really good for us – never mind all the chocolates in between.

Now the Valentine's Day and Easter are looming, Lent may help us to stave off the temptation. But what about our pets? Chances are they need to get fit too. If Christmas is anything to go by, it seems that Brits have already over-indulged their cats and dogs, according to a recent survey by AA Pet Insurance.

The research highlighted that nearly two thirds of pet owners allowed their furry friends to indulge in festive treats – including their own turkey dinner.

Be resolute

And with nearly a fifth (17%) of owners admitting that their pets were already overweight before Christmas, and another 14% thinking their cats and dogs have put on more weight, then now is certainly a time to think about getting yourself and your pet on a fitness regimen.

Karen Jakes, head of AA Pet Insurance, says that cats and dogs will quickly gain the pounds. "Dogs especially are prone to the same weaknesses for rich food as us," she points out.

"And with weight gain, health problems can develop – for instance vets report heart arrhythmia or even heart failure while obese dogs suffer joint and hip problems such as dysplasia. In extreme cases there is a risk of bone breakages and strains – all of which will be painful for your pet.

"As a quick guide to see if your dog or cat needs to go on a diet, run your hand along his or her ribcage. You should be able to easily count the ribs with only light pressure of your fingers – if you can't then perhaps a check-up at the vet is a good idea.

"Ask your vet for a target weight for your dog and advice on a diet regimen – and cutting out 'tasty treats' will certainly help get rid of the excess baggage."

Karen says that if you have a dog, regular exercise really should be top of the fitness regimen for both of you. "You can't beat a good brisk winter walk to get your circulation going and that applies whether you have two legs or four!" she says.

"Both of you will feel much better for it: but it shouldn't be just a one-off, your dog needs plenty of exercise every day, come rain or shine. Just how much will depend on the breed."

And while you can rely on the NHS to help sort out any problems resulting from your own over-indulgence, your dog or cat will have to rely on you – so good protection in the form of AA Pet Insurance is a must.