Thanksgiving holiday at the end of November is celebrated by many as a day of reflection and appreciation for what we have in our lives. For pet parents, this inevitably includes our furry family members. While Thanksgiving has also become synonymous with feasting and maybe a little overindulgence, we should remember that “spoiling” dogs and cats with excess food, even just for one day, can actually lead to both short- (pancreatitis) and long-term (obesity) adverse health outcomes. Here’s a list of some alternative ideas on how to show your furry family just how thankful you are to have them in your life:
1. Go for a walk
Not only is this good for your dog, but it’s good for you too! Exercise is one of the great benefits of having a canine companion in your life. Studies have demonstrated the improved quality and quantity of life associated with having dogs. When Fido looks at you with those puppy dog eyes after your big Thanksgiving meal, grab their leash and head out for a little stroll – and invite any friends and family you may have with you!
For those living with dogs with compromised mobility, sometimes walks, even short ones, aren’t a possibility. In these cases, try some gentle physiotherapy like balance work, passive range of motion, and massage. The quality one-on-one time will still be a great mood-booster for both you and your pooch.
For those living with cats – well, some cats enjoy a walk! But don’t expect to throw a harness on and go for a hike on your very first try. If your cat isn’t used to leash walking, you can increase their exercise by playing with them instead. Find a toy your cat likes and spend that time playing with them – you can still move around the house with them and engage with them for that quality time spent having fun.
2. Get hands-on
We often think that our dog staring at us and ‘begging’ is all about food, but that isn’t always the case. Dogs, and some cats, are contact animals and they thrive with attention. Show your pet your appreciation by giving them a little pamper session – pat, massage, snuggle, whatever it is your pet is into. Contact releases endorphins, those feel-good chemicals in our bodies, and, just like going for a walk, it has been shown that this is beneficial for both parties.
3. Puzzle time
If you really must share your Thanksgiving feast with your companion, why not try making a game out of it? Puzzle toys can be purchased from many pet stores and online, and there are a number of easy do-it-yourself games that can be made from regular household items. Choose low-fat options from your table, like carrots, peas, green beans, yams/sweet potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower, or pick up a bag of Halo natural dog or cat treats.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!
Dr. Sarah Dodd is a veterinarian with a special focus on companion animal nutrition. Her studies have taken her around the world living in England, Scotland, New Zealand, Australia, the United States of America and Canada – where she currently reside with her three happy rescue dogs Peppa, Dottie and Timmy.
She graduated from veterinary school in 2016, since then she has pursued her passion in nutrition with a clinical nutrition internship and a Master’s degree at the Ontario Veterinary College. She is currently completing her nutrition residency with the European College of Veterinary and Comparative Nutrition and enrolled in a PhD studying plant-based diets for pets.