(BPT) – The beginning of the year is a popular time to build good habits and work on life goals. If you’re making plans to improve your life in 2022, think about setting health goals for your dog as well. Dr. Brian Zanghi, research nutritionist at Purina, shares five ways below that you can invest in your dog’s health this year and strengthen your bond with your furry friend.
1. Create a daily exercise routine
Daily exercise is essential to maintaining your canine companion’s physical and behavioral health. Beyond the obvious health benefits of weight management, daily exercise will help curb destructive behavior from excess energy.
How much exercise is suitable for your dog? Factors like age, size and health can help you determine the appropriate activity level for your pup. “Ideally, a dog should get 30 minutes of mild to moderate activity three times per week,” said Zanghi. “For most dogs, this can be accomplished by a comfortably paced walk.” A leisurely walk is ideal if you have an older dog, while a puppy or younger dog will need longer and rigorous workouts to burn off their energy.
Creating an exercise routine for your dog is also beneficial for you. According to The New York Times, most dog owners spend 300 minutes each week walking their pets, about 200 minutes more than people without dogs.
If it’s been a while since you’ve regularly exercised your dog, begin with short periods of activity at slow speeds and gradually increase the time, speed and distance. At your pet’s annual checkup, ask your vet about appropriate exercise routines for your dog.
2. Incorporate supplements
Once you’ve incorporated exercise into your pet’s daily routine, add in supplements to help ease joints that are stiff due to normal daily activity and exercise. Even dogs as young as a year old can experience joint stiffness. Products like EverRoot Dog Hip and Joint supplements deliver omega-3 fatty acids from wild-caught Alaskan salmon and cod that help support healthy joint mobility at any age. These supplements are also made with organic peanut butter, making this a tasty daily supplement for your dog.
Many different supplements support several aspects of canine health. For example, EverRoot Dog Skin and Coat supplements are a proactive way to provide support for dogs with sensitive skin.
If you’re curious about dog supplements but don’t know where to start, you can obtain some personalized suggestions from a supplement recommendation tool based on your pet’s information and your preferences to help you determine what supplements may help your furry friend.
3. Make time to bond
Bonding with your pet is good for your relationship and positively impacts their holistic health. For example, playing with your dog builds their social skills, and it’s beneficial for your pet’s mental stimulation, which may improve their mood and behavior.
It can be as simple as grabbing a ball and playing fetch or, if your dog needs more mental stimulation, you can teach your pet new tricks. If your pup has a knack for retrieving, place some objects around the house and teach them to bring them to you. For a food-motivated canine, you can hide treats in their kennel or other areas indoors and outdoors.
Don’t forget that physical affection is an essential aspect of their well-being. Physical touch helps increase your dog’s release of oxytocin, the “love hormone” found in humans and dogs that reduces stress, promotes relaxation and creates feelings of trust. A recent Purina study found that 15 minutes of petting significantly reduced stress in shelter dogs. Make sure to block out some time every day to cuddle your pup.
4. Prioritize dental health
Just like you, your dog needs daily dental hygiene. To make teeth brushing a positive experience for your pooch, introduce dog-specific toothpaste with your finger and progress to a toothbrush once your pet becomes comfortable.
Brushing a dog’s teeth daily isn’t feasible for everyone, but you can still prioritize your dog’s dental hygiene with functional chews. Products like DentaLife ActivFresh chews have an active-ingredient blend of honey and natural spirulina that fights bad breath at the source.
When you brush your teeth in the morning, give your dog a dental chew so you can take care of your teeth together.
5. Evaluate diet
Last, but not least. The beginning of the year is a great time to make sure your dog is getting the proper nutrition and enjoying their food. This is especially important if your pet is entering a new life stage that could affect their diet.
Keep an eye on your puppy’s development. Puppy food is formulated to support a young dog’s rapid growth, development and high energy. If you continue to feed your dog puppy food past the point of maturity, it could result in weight gain, which can lead to other health issues. Once your dog has reached adulthood, you can transition to an adult food that meets their nutritional and caloric needs.
Regularly check your dog’s body condition to help you know when to adjust your pet’s food portion size, if needed. Three easy ways to assess your dog’s body condition and bond at the same time are described. For an ideal body condition, 1) feel the ribs as you pet them, you should be able to feel each individually and depending on their hair coat, you should be able to slightly see the ribs when they breathe, 2) their body should have an hourglass shape when viewed from directly above and curving in at the belly, and 3) when viewed from the side, their belly should have a slight tuck and curve up compared to the bottom of their rib cage. These physical signs are a good indication that your dog has an ideal body condition, and is getting an appropriate daily portion of food to meet their life stage and physical activity needs. Consult your veterinarian for additional information on how to assess your pet’s body condition and any recommendations to gradually make changes to their food portion, if needed, to get them to a more ideal body condition.
Many dog owners are unaware that a 7-year-old dog is considered a senior. As dogs age, their needs change, so make sure to consider a diet that helps keep dogs active and energized in their senior years.
Start 2022 on a positive note by investing in your dog’s holistic health. Whether you start by engaging in a more rigorous exercise routine, spending more time cuddling, promoting dental and joint health or switching diets, every change counts. Start small and build on these healthy habits for lifelong benefits for you and your pet.