Does my pet’s diet need to change with less activity?

While we all want to do our bit to ‘flatten the curve’ of COVID-19 infections, it’s very frustrating to not be able to take Womble and Max for their daily walkies. It means that we don’t get our daily walkies either! You may be able to join an at-home exercise programme to prevent sedentary boredom, but are you giving your pets the option as well? Here are a few tips on how to keep your pets active indoors.

The other factor to consider is nutrition: if your pets aren’t getting the same amount of exercise as before the lockdown, should you change their diet?

Calories in, calories out

Animal energy expenditure works the same as humans’: your food fuels your body’s activity. If you don’t use up all the calories you consume, your body will store that extra energy in the form of fat. So if you took Womble and Max for twice-a-day walkies before the lockdown, but during the lockdown they don’t get as much exercise, you should probably reduce their feeding amount or feed them a lower calorie diet if you don’t want them to gain weight. While it may seem cute that your fit Frenchie is turning into a fat Frenchie, it’s not very good for his health, so his diet needs to be managed… rapidement!

Watch the treats!

If you being at home has inspired your dog to give you puppy dog eyes in the hope of getting more snacks, we hope you are falling for his charming allure. However, keep an eye on the number and quality of treats you are feeding him. At least make him perform commands and tricks instead of mindlessly giving him treat after treat. And remember to balance his feeding based on the number of treats you give: reduce his kibble and meal volumes if you are treating him more than usual.

Calorie quality vs calorie quantity

Most high quality dog food brands will have a range of food varieties to suit the ages, lifestyles and specific health conditions of dogs and cats. The food variety for active breeds will have a higher calorie count (including more carbohydrates and fats) to give your working or active dog more energy to burn during his activity-intense day. Ask your vet if they recommend switching his diet to a low-calorie variety during lockdown, to account for your dog’s lower activity levels. If your dog eats a mid-range diet with no special variety, ask your vet for a recommendation: to lower his feeding quantities or to feed him the same amount, but of a low-calorie diet.

What about cats?

Cats are pretty much independent in this regard. A topical joke doing the rounds during lockdown is:

“My cat just asked me if I want the radio on while he goes out.”

Cats should be getting more or less the same amount of exercise during lockdown as before, but keep an eye on your cat’s diet anyway. If you’re around more often now, you may be giving your cat more treats, but also playing with her more often. Just ensure there is enough of a balance that she doesn’t gain too much excess weight.

A vet visit

If necessary, make an appointment with your vet to discuss your pet’s diet during lockdown. Your vet will use the Body Condition System (BCS) to gauge your pet’s weight and fitness level and to determine if you should make any feeding or exercise changes to their lifestyle.

Lockdown has imposed some challenging changes on all of us. Keep track of your pet’s eating and exercise habits in the same way you would be aware of your own. If you’re feeling blue, it’s possible your pet is also mirroring your mood. On the upside, you’ve got each other, so spend some good quality, active time with your four-legged stress relief system and the both of you should feel better in no time!


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