Pet Q & A – Mar/Apr 2012


Q My adolescent Labrador gets plenty of exercise every day, but she never seems satisfied. What can I do to keep her calm?

A Physical exercise is important for dogs, and most dogs need 30 to 60 minutes of aerobic exercise (exercise that makes them pant) a day. However, mental exercise is also very important to keep dogs happy and healthy. Mental exercise is anything that encourages your dog to think and problem solve. Consider how tired you would be after doing half an hour of calculus compared to half an hour of walking: thinking is hard work!

    “I like to teach new tricks to my dogs to provide mental stimulation,” says local trainer Annalissa Johnson of Good Dog Camp. “Daily games and training sessions are great activities, and toys that encourage a dog to work for her food, such as the Kong Wobbler, are also
very helpful.”

    Dr. Ian Dunbar of Dog Star Daily, an online dog training resource, agrees. Puzzle toys and hand feeding during training sessions will keep your dog’s brain engaged. In fact, Dr. Dunbar advises, “Until your dog is perfect for you, never feed her from a food bowl. Hand feed all of her meals, and stuff anything that’s left in chew toys.”

    Providing for your dog’s physical and mental exercise needs will help her to become more pleasant to live with and more receptive to training. However, just like every other skill, calm behavior must be taught to your dog through training. Consult a professional dog trainer if you need help dealing with your dog’s hyperactive behavior.

Q The vet told me that my cat is too heavy, but I’m only feeding her what the package tells me she should eat.  What am I doing wrong?

A Obesity is a serious issue affecting our pets, with more than half of the pets in America considered overweight.  A further 20 percent of dogs and 22 percent of cats are considered obese.

    Why is this so important? Even a few extra pounds can cause big problems for animals. “Dogs and cats who are overweight can suffer from pancreatitis, diabetes mellitus, decreased mobility, increased pain from arthritis and various skin conditions,” says Dr. Richer, veterinarian at Cascade Animal Medical Center.

    A groundbreaking 14-year-long study by Purina showed that dogs who were fed 25 percent less food than their littermates showed fewer signs of aging, stayed healthy longer, and even lived nearly two years longer than their slightly chunky siblings.

    A healthy dog or cat will have a noticeable waist when viewed from the side and will have ribs that are easy to feel when you gently run your hand
down her side.

    So, what can you do to keep your pet slim and trim? If your pet is already overweight, your first stop should be your veterinary clinic for a thorough check-up. Ask your vet if the food you are feeding is right for your pet. Remember that feeding guidelines on pet food packages are just guides, and may need to be adjusted based on your pet’s activity level. Your vet can help you figure out the best amount to feed.

    Just as with people, there are no quick fixes for obesity. Diet and exercise are both important. You can increase your pet’s exercise by encouraging her to join in on daily play sessions or by stuffing her food in special treat-dispensing toys.  

Sara Reusche is a Certified Professional Dog Trainer and Certified Veterinary Technician. She owns Paws Abilities Dog Training in Rochester, lives with two dogs of her own and fosters for local rescue organizations. She can be reached at