Here’s another amazing Guest Blog post, thanks to freelance writer Bernice Spradlin! Dogs and cats, like humans, are healthier when they exercise and eat right! It’s pretty hard to get your dog to do squats. And if you think that’s difficult, try and convince your cat to do some bench presses. However, helping your pets build strong bones, joints and muscles isn’t that tough when you focus on activities that they enjoy. As our pets age, health issues like arthritis and joint problems in the hips, knees and spine as well as decreased muscle mass can limit their activity and their happy, healthy lives—especially if your older pet requires a surgery for something like hip dysplasia. However, an active, older pet with strong bones, joints and good muscle mass will be mobile and have little health issues throughout their senior years. The key is to maintain an active lifestyle and a healthy, well-balanced diet—filled with happy dog walks, swims, and games of fetch. And don’t forget your cat! You can get them to play hide and seek and use a string toy or laser pointer for chasing around the house.

You can also supplement with bone and join supporting vitamins, like glucosamine or essential fatty acids, that you can purchase online for a fraction of the cost you pay at a local U.S. pharmacy. Of course, before you begin any new activity with an inactive, older pet, be sure to consult with your veterinarian—especially if your dog is a breed that is prone to hip dysplasia.

For building joint and bone strength in pets…

1. Feed your pet a well balanced diet

Check out the ingredients that make up your pet’s food, and a diet that is rich in bone meal, which is high in phosphorus, vitamin C and calcium, will help strengthen bones and lubricate joints.

2. Exercise your pet regularly

Exercise equals strong bones in cats and dogs. For dogs, take them on walks twice daily of at least 30 minutes in length and play with him often. With cats, focus on safe, indoor exercise—like chasing toys, a cat maze or a laser pointer. Both cats and dogs need an outlet for the massive amounts of energy they store up sleeping during the day while you’re at work. Regular exercise will also help them sleep through the night.

3. Feed your pet healthy treats

Avoid treats that don’t provide much as far as nutritional value, or feed your pet treats in moderation, or find some natural or homemade treats that are lower in trans fats and higher in protein and bone and joint supporting nutrients.

4. Supplement with glucosamine

Glucosamine helps strengthen the joints and bones of your pet. Just ask the professionals at the American Animal Hospital and the American Association of Feline Practitioners who recommend glucosamine for cartilage strengthening and repair. You can find vet-approved, over the counter supplements that are high in healthy Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids for pets—just like you can for humans.

For building muscle strength in pets…

1. Encourage jumping

By that I don’t mean encouraging jumping on you, your spouse or the mail carrier, but dogs and cats that jump over things retain strong muscle mass and enhanced agility. For example, with dogs you can set up a mini obstacle course and get him or her to leap over low fences and hurdles that are less than a foot from the ground. For cats, you can hardly stop them from jumping, but keep things safe by allowing them access to a cat-appropriate maze set up indoors.

2. Everyone loves a game of tug-of-war

Of course you need to be careful of your pet’s teeth and spine when pulling, but by keeping the tug of war at ground level (don’t pull your pet up off of the floor) it will give their legs and shoulders a good workout.

3. Play fetch

This is easier with a dog than with a cat, but retrieving not only builds up your dog’s cardio and endurance levels, if you throw a ball up hill it will strengthen leg muscles as well.

4. Set up a play date

You like to exercise with a buddy—so why wouldn’t your pet? Romping around the yard or house provides excellent full-body exercise for your cat or dog. Just be sure to pair them up fairly as far as size (i.e., pairing a Doberman with a miniature Poodle just isn’t fair). This way, everyone has fun and no one gets hurt.

Bio: Bernice Spradlin is an avid hiker and runner. She works at a gym in Brooklyn, New York, where she gets great inspiration for her freelance health-related articles and blogs. In her off time, you can often find Bernice jogging the East River path along the waterfront and enjoying the cool breeze. Bernice is currently looking for freelance writing work, and can be contacted at BerniceG.Spradlin@gmail.com.