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Most of us know the importance of looking after our mental health but what about the emotional and mental wellbeing of our dogs and cats? We asked Today show vet Dr Josie Gollan to share some advice about pet mental health.
“Just like their muscles, we need to exercise the brains of our pets to keep them healthy and engaged,” says Dr Gollan. “Cognitive dysfunction is a recognised condition within our pets as their brain ages. While not the same process, it can be likened to human dementia.
Ways to exercise the brain and slow the aging process include:
1. Using games or puzzles during food time.
2. There are many products on the market now that involve your pet having to ‘work’ for their meal and this is a great way to keep them engaged and the brain stimulated. Without food as a motivator, many pets become bored or disinterested with toys. However, if their meal is the reward most pets will persevere with the game.
3. Training and play time is also another good way to stimulate the brain and keep it young.
4. Continually teaching your pet new tricks will help them stay active and contrary to popular belief, cats can be trained! I’ve seen it done!
5. Cats also love chasing things so investing in a couple of dangly toys will result in hours of stimulation. Just make sure to always supervise your cat and put the toys away where they can’t be eaten.
With some of the more active dog breeds such as border collies, agility training is a wonderful exercise for not only the muscles but also the brain. There are many schools now days that offer this and it is a great way to spend a sunny Sunday in the park. So remember, when it comes to our pets’ brains, like most things in life, the saying ‘use it or lose it’ definitely applies.”
Dr Josie Gollan