It’s all too easy for your dog to snuggle next to you on a blanket, snooze all day and enjoy table scraps at dinner. What he loves and what’s good for him aren’t always the same things, however. Just like people, dogs need daily exercise, a diet of nourishing nutrients, and routine medical attention to enjoy a happy, heart-healthy lifestyle.
And with Valentine’s Day just around the corner, his heart should be the focus all month long. Show him you love him in one of the best ways possible: by keeping him healthy and active.
Here are four tips to promote his heart’s health:
1. Food Matters
The food you feed your dog affects his health just as much as the food you eat affects yours. If you’re welcoming a new dog into your family, never give him food from the table — not even once. Not only will he never know what he’s missing, but you’ll also protect his heart.
Human foods often contain too much salt, extra fat and lots of sugar that are dangerous for dogs. Choose a healthy diet for your dog that includes food and treats formulated only for dogs. You’ll help him avoid problematic weight and health issues, and you’ll also reduce annoying begging and whining at mealtimes.
2. Love Your Dog, Love Your Vet
If you’re a dog owner, having a close relationship with your local veterinarian is essential for protecting heart health. Your vet can inform you of the right food and treat choices, and he’ll also monitor your dog’s overall health — which can save you from more expensive visits down the road. Just like with people, your dog needs preventive care and maintenance to live a long and healthy life.
3. Regular Exercise
You already know that gaining too much weight is bad for your heart, so it’s no surprise that it’s also bad for your pet’s heart. Although it’s tempting to let your dog outside to do his business and let him back in right away so he can resume his afternoon snooze, it’s much better for him if you take him for a walk. You can also head into the yard and play a rousing game of fetch or hide-and-seek.
If your neighborhood isn’t suitable for dog walking, take a trip to your local dog park or beach. Not only will regular exercise keep your dog active and trim, but it can also reduce or eliminate problem behaviors that result from boredom.
4. A Heart-Healthy Bond
A heart-healthy regimen benefits your dog, but it also benefits you! Regular exercise and play strengthens the bond you and your dog share, and as any dog owner can tell you, that’s reward enough. But regular exercise also reduces unwanted behaviors such as digging, jumping, chewing on furniture and excessive barking.
Exercise also helps with crate training, reduces the problems associated with separation anxiety, and improves digestive health. If your dog plays too rough, engages in play biting or constantly explores your garbage for treasures, try exercise.
Before You Start
Keep in mind that each breed will have its own limitations when it comes to exercise. Active breeds, such as a German Shorthaired Pointer, can withstand at least an hour of vigorous exercise every day. Small, companion breeds, such as the Shih Tzu, may not require as much exercise to stay healthy. Your vet can help you determine how much exercise is right for your dog.