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Study reveals COVID-19 is fueling pet obesity

Surprisingly, the majority of pet parents (52%) think it is easy to help their dogs or cats lose weight, but veterinarians disagree, with 91% saying it’s harder than owners think. However, those with overweight pets (31% with overweight dogs and 24% with overweight cats) feel it’s harder to help their pet lose weight compared to before Covid-19, and 49% of veterinarians agree it’s harder for pet parents to keep their pets at a healthy weight during the pandemic than before.

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While the Covid-19 pandemic has significantly impacted everyday life this year, it’s also taken a toll on our furry best friends’ eating habits, activity level and weight that could affect their quality of life.

Insights from a new survey from Hill’s Pet Nutrition, conducted in partnership with Kelton Global, reveal that while overweight pets and pet obesity has been on the rise for years, Covid-19 has intensified this issue. According to veterinarians, more than 71% of pet professionals say the pandemic has impacted the way pets eat.

OVERWEIGHT PETS: EVOLVING DURING COVID-19

Since the start of Covid-19, one third (33%) of pet parents with an overweight pet say their pet became overweight during the pandemic. While a majority of pet parents (73%) say they would feel confident in knowing their pet is overweight without professional guidance, veterinarians state that only 12% of pet parents proactively flag concerns with their pet’s weight. Moreover, nearly two in three veterinarians say pet parents act surprised (64%) or defensive (64%) upon learning about their pet’s weight issues.

IRONICALLY, TOO MUCH ‘TREAT LOVE’ DURING THESE DIFFICULT TIMES IS THE MAIN CULPRIT

With people spending more time at home over the last nine months, treats are often given as a form of love, with more than half (53%) of pet parents saying they’ve been giving their pets treats for no reason. Now with the holiday season in full swing, it’s likely going to get worse before it gets better, with nearly 64% of pet parents admitting they spoil their dog or cat during the holidays. As a result, six in ten veterinarians say they anticipate the dogs and cats they see in January are more likely to be overweight or obese.

HOLIDAY SEASON MAY MEAN MORE POUNDS

Knowing that pet parents admit to spoiling their pets around the holidays, making people more aware of this change in behavior could help to manage their pet’s weight problems. Approximately 36% of pet parents say their pet normally gains weight over Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s, and 44% say they expect their pet (and themselves!) to gain weight this season. Veterinarians admit that giving treats in moderation is not an issue, with 56% advising that the occasional treat is fine, however 91% recommend giving fewer table scraps.

MANAGING A PET’S WEIGHT IS HARDER NOW

Surprisingly, the majority of pet parents (52%) think it is easy to help their dogs or cats lose weight, but veterinarians disagree, with 91% saying it’s harder than owners think. However, those with overweight pets (31% with overweight dogs and 24% with overweight cats) feel it’s harder to help their pet lose weight compared to before Covid-19, and 49% of veterinarians agree it’s harder for pet parents to keep their pets at a healthy weight during the pandemic than before. Ultimately, veterinarians overwhelmingly recommend giving fewer treats (92%), more exercise (91%) and fewer table scraps (90%).

IT’S EASIER SAID THAN DONE TO CHANGE BEHAVIORS

Most pet parents know monitoring treats is a key way to help their pets lose weight. Nearly half (49%) say giving fewer treats would help their dog or cat lose weight, just ahead of exercising more (48%) and giving less food during meals (41%). Pet parents are even willing to make sacrifices themselves, or even give up things they really enjoy if it would help their pet lose weight, with nearly half (49%) saying they’d be willing to go on a diet to help their pet have a healthy weight. They are also willing to give up technology, with 31% saying that they would stop checking social media for a month to help their pet lose weight!

For more resources and education on pet weight management, and to view new animated mini-movies sharing the weight loss journey of ‘Poochini ‘and ‘Moto’, visit www.EndPetObesity.com.

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Pet Care

5 Ways to give your cat a purr-fect life

For all the companionship, humor and happiness cats bring, they deserve a purr-fect life, full of tasty treats and quality time with their favorite humans.

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Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock

With playful and spunky personalities, cats are known for keeping people entertained. Whether they’re breaking the internet in the latest viral video or making pet parents smile with a spontaneous snuggle, feline friends can be a constant source of joy.

For all the companionship, humor and happiness cats bring, they deserve a purr-fect life, full of tasty treats and quality time with their favorite humans.

For more ways to treat your cat and tips to help make your cat’s life paw-some, visit TemptationsTreats.com.

Provide a Comfortable Environment
To help make sure time with your cats is fun and enjoyable, create an environment they’ll feel comfortable in. Give cats a designated space to call their own, including beds and plenty of toys to help them feel safe and at home. When they’re more comfortable in their space, they’ll likely be more inclined to snuggle and play.

Cuddle Up
Cats are independent creatures and sometimes keep cuddling on their own terms. To encourage snuggles in a way both cats and their humans can enjoy, try offering goodies they’ll love. It can be served as a snack, given by hand or used as a cat food topper to make mealtimes more exciting. When given by hand, it gives cats and their owners a unique bonding experience and allows for more quality time together.

Make Time for Play
Every day should include time for fun. With their attentive nature, many cats enjoy mentally and physically engaging activities. Try finding toys your cats enjoy, like a feather on a string, or throw around a stuffed mouse to give your cats some pouncing practice.

Feed Your Cat’s Feline Instincts
To satisfy your cats’ natural carnivorous feline instincts, consider offering a satisfying snack treats. Try hiding the treats around the house and letting your cats prowl and hunt them down like easy prey.

Be Consistent
Many cats are creatures of habit and value consistency, so create a daily routine to help your pets feel more comfortable. Try offering meals at the same time each day or scheduling consistent time to kick back and relax with your furry friends each evening.

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Pet Care

How to help manage pet separation anxiety

To help pet parents identify separation anxiety in their pets and embrace alone time, consider these tips from Dr. Crista Coppola, PetSmart’s consulting animal behaviorist and separation anxiety expert.

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Photo by Tran Mau Tri Tam from Unsplash.com

For more than a year, working from home and keeping social circles small due to COVID-19 has meant people have been able to spend more time with their pets. However, as more people are vaccinated and restrictions loosen across the country, it’s likely many are spending less time at home with their pets. As a result, pet parents should be prepared to spot the signs of separation anxiety and help their pets manage.

When left at home alone, pets can exhibit behaviors that could indicate they’re experiencing separation anxiety. It’s not a new problem, but it can become more pronounced as pet parents begin to spend less time at home, whether they’re returning to work full-time or just leaving the house more often. It may be especially challenging for pets that found their forever homes during the pandemic, as being alone may be a stark contrast to what they’ve become accustomed to. In these cases, pets may struggle to learn how to cope with being by themselves.

To help pet parents identify separation anxiety in their pets and embrace alone time, consider these tips from Dr. Crista Coppola, PetSmart’s consulting animal behaviorist and separation anxiety expert.

How to Identify Separation Anxiety

Changes in behavior are some of the most common indicators of separation anxiety. These behaviors are coping mechanisms and can include excessive barking or whining, destruction near exit points or windows, having accidents around the house, hyper salivating, pacing, decreased appetite and depression. To better understand what your pet is experiencing, consider setting up a video camera when you leave to see how he or she behaves when you’re not there.

Ways to Prepare Your Pet for Separation

Unpredictability has been shown to add stress for many animals, including dogs, Coppola said. Routines, however, can help many pets cope with stressful situations. Because a vacation or long weekend getaway involves a change in your pet’s routine, these seemingly small changes can make him or her susceptible to separation anxiety. If you know change is coming, slowly introduce your pet to the idea of being alone beforehand to help your four-legged friend prepare. Start by taking short trips outside your home without your pet – even if just for a few minutes – and consider leaving treats or toys to help make the alone time more enjoyable.

When you are ready to leave the house, set up a cozy, inviting space for your pet, where he or she can’t destroy items or get hurt trying to escape. Consider a non-carpeted area in case of accidents or install a doggie door to allow for going outside when necessary. Prior to any period of alone time, mentally and physically engaging your pet by going for a walk or run, or working on quick trick training, can make it more likely he or she spends at least some of the time you’re gone resting.

While you’re gone,  Coppola recommends providing your pets with enrichment activities such as puzzles, chews and calming aids.

Solutions for Coping with Anxiety

If your pet is excessively barking or exhibiting destructive behaviors, never punish him or her and avoid expressing disappointment or frustration, Coppola said. It is understandable to feel this way, but it can upset your pet further and add to the stress he or she may already be feeling. Instead, spend time having fun together when you are home to help ease the transition by gradually introducing your pet to the amount of time left alone.

Learn more and find additional solutions to help deal with separation anxiety at petsmart.com/newnormal.

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Pet Care

Make nutrition a priority for your pet

Providing your cherished companion with a high-quality, nutritionally balanced diet is one of the most important things you can do to ensure your pet lives a happy and healthy life.

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As a dog or cat parent, you are responsible for your pet’s well-being and making good decisions about what’s best for him or her. Providing your cherished companion with a high-quality, nutritionally balanced diet is one of the most important things you can do to ensure your pet lives a happy and healthy life.

A balanced pet food recipe formulated with high-quality ingredients provides your pet with the optimal mix of the proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals he or she needs to thrive. For premium quality, look for recipes that are minimally processed; made with fresh meats, poultry and fish; and contain no artificial preservatives, flavors or colors.

While the quality of ingredients is important, it’s also crucial to choose a recipe that is specific to your pet’s life stage and breed size. This helps ensure it contains the right balance of nutrients to meet your pet’s specific needs, including hip and joint support and weight management as he or she gets older.

Puppy and kitten recipes are specially formulated with higher levels of protein and essential fats to help support the needs of growing pets. Conversely, adult and senior pets may benefit from diets that are lower in calories and fats to help maintain a healthy weight as their metabolisms and activity levels slow.

Large breed dogs may also benefit from ingredients in their diets like glucosamine, chondroitin and green-lipped mussels to support healthy hips and joints as they age. Smaller kibble and breath freshening ingredients like parsley and peppermint are often well-suited for small breed dogs.

By choosing carefully balanced pet foods made with premium ingredients, you can take nutrition to another level for your pet. One example is Now Fresh recipes for dogs and cats. Each kibble recipe is made using fresh, de-boned muscle meat and no by-product or meat meals. The recipes also feature more than 20 nutrient-rich superfood ingredients.

Consider the important benefits superfoods can provide your pet and look for ingredients such as:

  • Whole nest-laid eggs: Eggs are a complete protein, containing all the essential amino acids in the optimal amounts dogs and cats need.
  • Pumpkin: Rich in beta-carotene and prebiotic fiber, pumpkin helps support healthy digestion.
  • Blueberries: A great source of essential fiber and manganese, blueberries are also rich in antioxidants that help support healthy immune systems.
  • Pomegranate: This fruit is rich in antioxidants and a good source of dietary fiber, folate, vitamin C and vitamin K.
  • Papaya: A tropical fruit, papaya is a natural source of digestive enzymes.
  • Cranberries: With antioxidants to support immunity and antimicrobial properties, which can help support urinary tract health.
  • Strawberries: An excellent source of the antioxidant vitamin C, B vitamins, dietary fiber and essential minerals.

When selecting the right food for your pet, look for a statement on the packaging that confirms it has been formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials. An option like Now Fresh also clearly indicates on the package which life stage and breed size the recipe has been formulated for.

Learn more about pet nutrition at NowFresh.com.

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