Welcome to “Debarking Pet Myths,” a monthly series dedicated to addressing common myths, misconceptions and old wives’ tales about dogs and cats.
Have you heard the expression, “You can’t outrun (train or exercise) a bad diet?” The adage was popularized during the mid-2000s to emphasize the importance of good nutrition to go along with — not as a substitute for — an exercise program.
While the saying typically references human diet, exercise and weight-loss programs, it’s just as true for our pets. Routine, vigorous activity or play can’t offset eating a poor-quality pet food or being overfed any kind of food or treats. The reverse is also true: feeding an expensive, high-quality pet food can’t substitute for a lack of activity for our dogs and cats. Both good nutrition and regular exercise are essential for a strong, healthy body — whether we’re talking about dogs, cats or people.
Good nutrition fuels the body
Managing your pet’s health starts with the chosen diet. The pet food you feed not only provides the energy and essential nutrients necessary for survival but also supports overall health and well-being. In fact, nutrition is one of the most important factors in maintaining your pet’s good health. The right nutrients in the right quantities and in the right ratios are necessary for every organ system of the body to function properly. Without adequate nutrition, your pet wouldn’t be able to build and repair muscles, teeth and bone; perform normal daily activities with ease; or fight off infection.
Pet nutrition entails more than choosing the “right” dog or cat food. Nutrition includes the study of food nutrients, how they act and interact with other nutrients, and how they’re balanced within a food. It also considers how the body digests, absorbs and uses nutrients.
It’s important to recognize that not all pet foods are created equal, although many will meet the basic nutritional requirements of dogs and cats. Two important measures of a pet food’s nutritional value and quality are digestibility and bioavailability. Digestibility describes the amount of nutrients in a food that are available for absorption from the intestine into the bloodstream. Bioavailability is the term nutritionists use to describe the proportion of absorbed nutrients that are carried to body tissues, such as muscle, and are available for use by the body. High-quality pet foods have greater digestibility than those considered to be low- or poor-quality diets, meaning that more of the food that’s eaten is converted into useable nutrients for absorption to nourish the body.
Move it or lose it
Exercise is essential not only to your pets’ physical health, but for their mental well being too. Here’s a short list of the benefits our dogs and cats reap from regular exercise, whether that activity is brisk walking or chasing a laser light:
- Prevents obesity and its associated health risks
- Strengthens muscles, along with the heart and immune system
- Increases bone density and lung capacity
- Reduces behavioral problems through physical, mental and social stimulation
- Controls weight
- Increases socialization with people and other pets
If your pet has been rather sedentary, you’ll want to make sure your best friend is healthy enough to start a regular exercise program. Your veterinarian can help you tailor an exercise plan for your pet that considers health issues and athleticism.
So whether you consider “diet and exercise” to be dirty or sacred words, know that they are interrelated, but not interchangeable.
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