March 23, 2017

Here at Lintbells, we’re firm believers in looking at the bigger picture to help our dogs, cats and other pets feel happy and healthy. And now lighter nights are just around the corner, we’re taking time out to spring clean our routines! From brushing up on the healthcare basics to detoxing our animal diets and considering the benefits of dog supplements, it’s all her…

It’s been a long, grey winter, and dark nights (and mornings!) can see us swap long walks with our dogs for a quick game of fetch before retreating for a cuddle on the sofa. Our feline best friends tend to become less active in the colder months too, but now sunnier spring days are on their way, we thought it might be time to put together a checklist to follow for a happy, healthy 2017.

Start with a health MOT

The first place to start when it comes to happy, healthy pets has to be your vets. Though it may not lead to happily wagging tails on the day, an annual check-up is the best way to make sure your furry friend is in great health.

Because our pets can’t talk to us, veterinary expertise is essential when it comes to spotting – and treating – more major issues. To make the most of your annual check up, it’s worth having a think about what’s been happening in your pet’s life and being prepared with any questions about changes in their behaviour:

  • How is their appetite?
  • Have they been eating or drinking more or less than usual?
  • How is their skin and coat condition?
  • Are they as keen as they’ve always been to play and exercise?
  • Have they been itching, scratching, chewing or grooming a lot?
  • Has their behaviour changed?
  • Has their weight changed?

Monthly at-home health checks

Here at Lintbells, we’re big fans of the at-home healthcheck too. Our vet nurse has put together an easy checklist for you to run through once a month:

  • Run your hands over your pet’s whole body to check for lumps, bumps or sore spots – pay particular attention to ‘underarms’, inner thighs, tummy, and around the neck.
  • Check claw length – and keep an eye out for overgrown dewclaws.
  • Look between the toes and pads for signs of sore skin or wounds caused by grass seeds.
  • Pay attention to ears – a weekly clean with an antibacterial ear cleaner can help to avoid infections and wax build up.
  • Check teeth and breath – it’s a good idea to clean dog teeth every day, but if your pet won’t play along, aim for a monthly clean and check up at least.
  • Re-apply tick and flea protection – depending on the recommendation of the product you use.
  • Consider a weigh-in – if your pet is prone to putting on weight, keep track with a monthly scale session.

Top tip: The easiest way to weigh a reluctant pet at home is to weigh yourself, then pick up your pet to take a second measurement. Now simply subtract your weight from the second total to deduce your cat or dog’s weight. Not recommended if your furry friend is a Great Dane!

‘Detox’ your pet’s diet

Unfortunately, some popular pet foods contain lots of surprising ingredients – things like food colouring, flavourings and unhealthy cereals – so it’s worth checking what you’re putting in your best friend’s bowl.

What’s more as time passes, manufacturers can change their recipes and formulas, and your cat or dog’s needs can change. So even if you’re really confident in the quality of your pet’s food, it’s worth sense checking every now and again.

Things to think about

  • Is your pet getting the nutrition they need for their life stage – growing, adult and older cats and dogs all need a different balance of nutrients.
  • Are they getting the right protein and energy mix for their level of exercise and lifestyle?
  • Do they have any specific concerns – cat and dog supplements can provide great support for active and aging joints, delicate tummies, skin and coat, even help with calming.
  • Does your pet have a medical conditions that could be supported by a change of diet? There are great low-calorie, filling foods available for pets who need to lose weight for example.
  • If you feed raw or homemade food, is your pet’s diet complete and balanced?

Last but not least, when it comes to diet, we humans sometimes struggle to get the balance right (hello biscuit tin, my dear friend!) – and the same can apply to our pets. Treats and chews can be surprisingly calorific, so be mindful of how little extras can result in weight gain over time.

Our top swaps for healthier eating and treating include:

Processed chews and rawhide. Natural chews like dried tripe or fresh veggies – lots of dogs love crunchy carrots!
Pet chocolate and ‘empty calorie’ treats. Home-made treats – there’s lots of love recipe inspiration out there!
Packaged, flavouring-packed training treats. Dried liver or natural liver-based treats – low calorie, but the smell sends carnivores wild!
Packaged treats for cats Natural options like dried fish skins, or small amounts of fresh cooked fish or chicken.

Get fit together

Fitness is always so much more fun with a friend – and appropriate exercise is essential for a happy, healthy dog or cat. And if you’ve let your own exercise routine get a little lax over the colder months, now’s the time to start getting into shape together.

5K with Fido?

Depending on your dog’s age, health and breed, a fitness challenge can be a brilliant way to turn walkies into a personal challenge. If your dog is relatively fit, well trained, and has no health problems, why not try a couch-to-5K running app? Most dogs love to run and get super-excited when their ‘running kit’ comes out… which helps to keep you motivated and on track too.

Before starting to run together, consider:

  • Visiting your vet to check that everything’s OK health-wise.
  • Investing in a safe, well-fitted harness and shock-absorbing lead.
  • Training somewhere safe for your dog – park runs are easier on joints and pads than pounding the pavement.
  • Get some reflective kit – and a bright coloured or reflective lead or lightweight high-viz coat for your dog.
  • Supporting active joints with an appropriate supplement, like YuMOVE Active Dog.

If you find you love to run together, the next step could be Canicross–  a kind of trail running with dogs that’s fast becoming the new big adventure sport!

More doggie sports

If running’s not your thing, there are lots of ways to have fun and get fit with your dog. As well as enjoying walkies in new places, why not try a beginner’s agility or flyball session, or give obedience or doggie dancing (canine freestyle) training a try? You’ll both have lots of fun, whilst burning a surprising number of calories.

But what about cats?

Though there may be a cat out there who’ll enjoy joining you for a jog (let us know on Facebook if so!) most felines are rather more lukewarm about exercising together. That said, there are ways to tempt you cat to get active.

We like:

  • Learn to play fetch together – yes, you read right. With a little patience, many cats learn (and love) fetch!
  • Treat them to a Rollycat – a super-fun smartphone-controlled ball that helps you set and achieve fitness targets together.
  • There is such a thing as a Cat Wheel for indoor exercise – we’re not entirely convinced, but the kitties in the videos seem to be having fun!

Have you started a keep fit plan with your pet? Is your dog or cat on a diet – and how are they getting on? Maybe you’d like some advice or to share some top tips?  Please do leave a comment and tell us how your spring routine clean-up is going – we always love to hear from you. And if you found this article useful, why not share with friends – use the icons at the bottom of the page.