Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Practicing a healthy life style for the whole family? Remember, pets are family too.

People are without question becoming more and more health conscious these days. Therefore it is just as obvious that concerned pet owners should start to place the same emphasis on their pets eating and lifestyle habits, as they do for the rest of the family.
I always say, our pets are like children. And just like children pets learn by example. Just as parents to their children, it is the pet owners who are responsible for teaching their pets healthy eating habits. After all it is the pet owners who are feeding the pets.
Just as you wish for your family members, wouldn’t you want your dog to be healthy, obedient and live to a good old age? Well, here is something for, this time you and not your dog, to chew on: Scientists have determined that dogs have the potential to live to 20 years. However, in reality, most of our canine companions struggle to survive beyond their 10th birthday. Veterinarians are reporting an increasing number of heart and respiratory disease, joint problems, diabetes and countless other diseases. Almost in pandemic dimensions. Animal shelters are full of dogs that come from their originally planned "forever” homes because they exhibit hostile and even violent behavior. To me it is certain that most of these health and emotional issues (except violent behavioral issues) could have a solid basis in the type and quality of food these dogs have been given. It's not enough to merely fill up a bowl with any dog food so your pet doesn't go hungry. Dog owners need to evaluate what is going into their dog's dishes. After all those ingredients can mean a better life or one that is filled with specific health conditions or plain illness.But what entails making sure a pet eats healthy? Here are a couple ideas:
Purchase only food made with the best natural ingredients. Buy a premium dog food. Generally, this type of food is not sold in mass merchandise supermarkets, grocery stores and not even at your vet´s office. There are a very few top quality foods that you will find at these sources, if any at all. Meats, fruits, vegetables and grains free of chemicals, preservatives and other chemical additives will ensure your pet stays healthy and lives longer. Make sure, when you are planning health conscious meals for your pet, that you understand the importance of wholesome, natural ingredients. Only those make for healthy food and therefore a healthy life. And as we ask over and over again with so many choices out there, how does a pet owner select the best natural pet food? Start by looking for food that meets the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) standards. By AAFCO standards, the term "natural" requires a pet food to consist of only natural ingredients without chemical alterations.
Before making a selection of dog food read the ingredient list. Check out the first 5 ingredients since they make up the bulk of the dog food. If more than 2 of them contain grain products, like corn or wheat, the food is mostly vegetable protein and provides low nutritional value. Dogs being fed this type of food will have more bowel movements because their bodies are not absorbing a high level of nutrients. As a result these ingredients are processed as waste. Look for real meat sources like for example “chicken meal" or “lamb meal" since they are a great source of animal protein. Avoid foods that contain preservatives, like BHT or BHA and other chemicals or additives. They can be harmful to your pet's health. Canned food often contains more preservatives because they are needed to keep the food fresh.
Like their owners, pets also love natural, wholesome ingredients that taste great and keep them healthy. The right natural pet food is gentle on their stomachs, helps maintain kidney and bladder health, provides balanced nutrition and supports a healthy immune system.
Often overlooked, yet so simple: Portion control. An alarming number of 54 Million obese pets live in the United States. That is 40% of the pet population! Obesity is when your pet exceeds its ideal body weight by 15 or more percent. Female pets are more prone to obesity then their male counter parts. Why is there an obesity problem? One of the biggest feeding mistakes pet owners make is portion control. Recent weight management studies concluded that compared with cats of optimal weight, overweight cats are more than twice as likely to develop skin conditions, 4 times as likely to develop diabetes and finally 5 times as likely to develop lameness, all conditions requiring veterinarian treatment. Overweight leaves pets at a greater risk than ever before for type-2-diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, many forms of cancer, especially intra-abdominal cancer, osteoarthritis and potentially a shorter life expectancy.

Controlled "Treat"ments: Keep treats to a minimum. Treats are okay here and there, but try to provide a healthier alternative. Treats are great rewards and training aids. Your choice is seemingly endless. Make sure the treats you offer to your pet are not just all about fun. Look for functional treats, meaning they are made using healthy and palatable main ingredients providing many health benefits. As wellness products they are supplementing your healthy food. "Treat" treats as what they are: They are not a food item. Dogs appreciate a thumb nail sized bite as much as they like a 2 Lbs. bag of biscuits, the latter not being helpful in you solving your pet's obesity problem. As with everything in life, remember the word "moderation". If you want to give your dogs treats, the same selection rules as for food apply. Check the list of ingredients. Cheap treats with no nutritional value don’t do your dog any good because that may make it difficult to offer a premium dog food that is not artificially enhanced with flavor additives.
Finally, instead of rewarding good behavior with food, go for a walk or play a game with your pet. Regular exercise: Following are just a few ideas to inspire your creativity. Change your walk with your dog into intervals of jogging and running. Cut down on the typical every 2 minute sniffing and marking breaks. Change the pace from 20 to 25 minutes a mile to 12 to 15 minutes. Don't worry, dogs are built to run anywhere between 0 and 100 miles an hour with very little risk of injury. After all, you're not doing an all out sprint. Be consistent. Let the dog know you're not on a stroll and have other places to go too.Move the food bowl as far away as possible to force the dog to walk. Don't let them sleep right next to their food.Play, chase, fetch, catch. Combine exercise with play time. Get moving toys. Get busy. And do it regularly. Use your fantasy and be creative. But always remember (dogs are like children, everything becomes unattractive very quick), to your dog, what's fun today may be boring tomorrow, so be innovative as well.
In conclusion: Whether it is nutrition in form of food or rewards, health management or exercise and fun, treat your pets as you treat the rest of your family. Make sure your furry friends are getting the best that nature has to offer. In return they will thank you with a happy, healthy long life.

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