Everypaw's 6 week fitness challenge
As pet lovers, we all want our furry family to be fit and healthy so they live long and happy lives.
To find out just how healthy our pets are, Everypaw commissioned a survey to find out what pet owners in the UK do to keep our fluffy friends in good condition, and what owners can do better to help them reach peak fitness levels.
only a third (34%) of our respondents say they stick to a strict dog-food-only diet
The results from our survey show that there’s a bit of a gap between what our dogs need and what we’re doing to keep them tip top shape. A quarter (24%) of dog owners think they need to walk their dog for 1-1.5 hours a day, but only 22% say they’re actually giving them that much exercise. One in five of us (19%) think it’s ok to feed our dogs bacon, despite the health issues the added salt can cause, and nearly half (45%) of dog owners think it’s fine to feed their dogs raw meat, despite potential bacterial dangers. Only a third (34%) of our respondents say they stick to a strict dog-food-only diet.
a quarter of dog owners think they need to walk their dog for 1-1.5 hours a day
After talking to our Everypaw vets about these results, it appears we might not be doing the best by our beloved pooches, so we decided to put a health and fitness plan together to combat the issues pet owners are having. We ran a competition to find three canines who could do with a health update. We found a few lucky pooches – an Alaskan Malamute called Gelert, Lakeland Terrier Bertie and French Bulldog Diego - and provided them with a bespoke fitness plan, including a PitPat tracker to track their progress. We wanted to see how much we can improve their health and fitness over a six-week period, with just a few simple changes.
At Everypaw, we have teamed up with PitPat to make sure that if you get dog insurance with us, you’ll get a helping hand when it comes to your best pal’s fitness. With the PitPat tracker (modelled on Gelert, Bertie and Diego) you can see what your pup is up to, whether they’re pottering about at home, or with you on a nice long walk. Find out more here.
Explore Gelert, Diego and Bertie’s journeys below and see if you could get some top tips on how to improve your game when it comes the health of your favourite pooch.
Gelert is a fun-loving Alaskan Malamute who’s got a real stubborn streak – he’s a true alpha male. He has selective hearing and will do anything for food and treats. He’s a big fan of rugby, and loves to play with the family’s other dog Laika. Despite this, Gelert is a big softy. He’s very loving and enjoys nothing more than having a good cuddle on the sofa with his favourite toys.
He gets plenty of exercise, with an hour walk a day and often a hike on the weekend, but he has a tendency to eat too much grub. He was on a high calorie raw food diet, which can lack essential vitamins and minerals and could expose him to potentially harmful bacteria.
“Weight loss can take a while to achieve, so with slower weight loss there’s a better chance Gelert will maintain the reduced weight long term.
“Gelert’s daily calorie allowance should be about 1400kcal per day to achieve a weight of around 45kg. As Gelert ideally needs to shed weight, we recommend that rather than feeding him a smaller amount of his current diet (which could lead to nutritional deficiencies), Gelert is fed a diet specifically designed for weight loss.
“Gelert's current exercise schedule is great! An hour's walk every day, with occasional runs and day hikes over the weekend, sounds like he is having plenty of exercise.
“It’s the activity during the hour-long walk we can perhaps alter. For example, during his hour-long walks, playing with a ball for 15-20 minutes will ensure he is more active than if he were just walking the whole hour.”
Gelert loved his new fitness regime! Along with his owner Andrew and his best bud Laika, they’ve been all over the place, on long walks through forests, the countryside and even on beaches. He’s been enjoying more variety and play in his exercise thanks to the fitness plan, which was shown in his PitPat tracker activity levels. However, it’s been hot out and as such a fluffy dog, his owners have found it’s best to avoid too much activity when the sun is out, sticking to morning and late evening walks.
Gelert’s owners were a little worried he wouldn’t take to the new grub, after being on a raw food diet – but he absolutely loves it. The mix of wet food and kibble works really well for them and he wolfs it down at every meal time. They love the results so much, that they’re going to continue with the new food in the future and even switch Laika over too.
Andrew says everyone in the family has enjoyed the whole experience and Gelert has lost a massive 5kg in just six weeks. His owners say he’s now in superb shape and they couldn’t be happier with the results.
Diego has just been rehomed into a loving family of five (including a six-year-old Staffordshire Bull Terrier Rosie) and he’s still finding his feet. He’s a little on the lazy side and quite unfit, so he needs a help getting motivated. He loves to run around (for short periods) and play tricks on his family and other dogs – especially his friend Rosie, who he loves to chase.
He’s a lovely chap, who would rather roll down a hill than walk it. His mobility is limited, but he’s getting better – and he really struggles with the heat. Diego’s lack of activity previously means he was a tad overweight. He’s also got a sensitive stomach when it comes to dry food, so he’s currently on a raw food diet.
“French Bulldogs should weigh between 9-12kg so we’ll aim to reduce his 14kg weight to a healthy 10kg. Boosting Diego’s activity will not only build up his fitness, but will also increase his mobility which will help postpone joint disease later in life.
“Diego’s daily calorie allowance should be around 370 calories to achieve a body weight of around 10kg.
“With Diego’s sensitive stomach when it comes to dry food, a combination of both wet and dry dog food is a good choice. You can mix the two together and split into two or three meals if this helps with digestion.
“We recommend a regime that slowly increases intensity over time – this will help Diego’s fitness and mobility levels and ultimately help in his weight loss.
“As a brachycephalic breed (a dog with a shorter nose), Diego is more prone to breathing problems. Brachycephalic dogs have a longer soft palate (roof of the mouth) than other dogs, which can obstruct their airway during exercise.
“This means it’s important to not push Diego while he’s exercising, as this can result in a lack of oxygen. During exercise be sure not to push Diego too hard – we’d recommend calming to a walk if jogging is too difficult, and try again next time.”
Diego really struggled in the hot summer in the UK this year, but his owners managed to take him out frequently. His mobility and activity have seen a massive improvement, and he has hit his targets on the PitPat tracker nearly every day.
His owner Suzanne says he can’t get enough of playing in the garden and he now bounds around the house and leaps up steps – a huge improvement from just a month ago!
He’s loving the new food too and responding really well to his new low calorie diet. His family say he’s loads more active since he’s lost weight. Diego is really enjoying more frequent, slightly shorter walks and his owners say that although he was a bit of a lazy guy to start with, he’s now playing with his best bud Rosie much more often, and for longer too.
Overall Diego lost an incredible 2.5kg over the six-week period and his owners are extremely happy with the results. He’s more playful, more active and a much happier dog.
Matt and Becca
Bertie’s a playful dog who loves nothing more than running around with kids and watching birds. He’s a refined character, who doesn’t like getting muddy and would rather stay inside and snuggle up when it’s raining. He loves plenty of attention from his owners and is always there to welcome his owners, Matt and Becca, with big sloppy kisses. He will nudge you with his head to get you to pet or snuggle him and he gets super overexcited when his parents return home!
He has about an hour’s walk every day – 15 minutes in the morning and 45 minutes in the evening with the occasional long walk or day out, however he’s still a little on the chunky side. Bertie also has a few allergies, so he sticks to hypoallergenic dog food only.
“At 10kg, Bertie is a little heavier than he should be. Lakeland Terriers should weigh around 6-8kg. Looking at how much fat he looks to have over his ribs and spine - his ideal weight is closer to 8kg.
“While Bertie’s diet consistency sounds fine, it is likely he is eating too much at each mealtime given he is a little overweight. With dogs, diet tends to be the mainstay of weight loss.
“Bertie’s daily calorie allowance should be about 310 calories to achieve a weight of around 8kg.“His exercise schedule is great - an hour a day is ideal! However, it depends on what sort of activity he is doing in these walks and whether he’s motivated by them.
“Bertie sounds like he is attention driven, so being engaged in physical activity with him is likely to make him enjoy exercising more!
“Games such as tug and dog tag will motivate him more than less engaging games such as catch, as they do not involve as much contact time.”
Bertie and his family loved the fitness regime and found he responds really well to playing catch and longer walks. Becca and Matt have noticed he has loads more energy and is even sleeping better too. Bertie has also been affected by the heatwave this summer and his owners have been taking him out on shaded walks so he can stay cool as he exercises.
Bertie did really well on his food and loved his hypoallergenic meals and treats – so much so that Matt and Becca have decided to keep him on it from now on. With all the extra exercise he’s got a great appetite – but have no fear, because by week four his weight loss started to be really noticeable.
By the end of the challenge, Bertie and his owners were loving the food, exercise and the results! Overall, he went from 10kg to 8kg, losing a fantastic 2kg. Matt and Becca say their little Bertie is looking trimmer and healthier.
The journeys of our three dogs have shown that with small changes to your dog’s diet and exercise routine (and a little help from the vet) you can get your dog healthy and in shape – and make sure they’re at their happiest.