We all know that exercise is the key to a healthy lifestyle but we seldom think about how true that is for animals. The epidemic of obesity has spread to our furry friends; in fact, as many as 50% of American pets are overweight. Besides the obvious benefit of weight loss, exercise can help our pets in other areas too. Exercise has been proven to reduce blood pressure and can even cut down on destructive behavior. Being active increases metabolism, muscle tone and bone density, and dogs that exercise regularly live longer lives and suffer less from the symptoms of arthritis as they age.
Dogs need anywhere from thirty minutes to two hours of daily exercise to be healthy and happy. If you have a dog that is content being a couch potato even thirty minutes of brisk walking can be sufficient. Active breeds however, need lots of exercise. Some indicators that your dog needs more action in his life include agitation, restless pacing and destructive behavior. Since our pets need so much exercise it is a good opportunity to join in and get active ourselves!
We can’t exactly hit the gym with our four legged friends but there are plenty of other activities in which to participate with our pets. Some options are pretty obvious, such as walking and jogging. With enough advanced leash training, dogs can even accompany us as we cycle or skate. Some other standard fare includes hiking and swimming, which is a great option for aging pets since it is easier on the joints. Playing fetch and frisbee are good choices, as well as going to the dog park, just be sure you squeeze in some lunges instead of just standing around. Agility training is a great source of exercise and provides mental stimulation for your pooch. You can find soccer balls for dogs they can push around with their paws and snouts. If you get bored of the usual activities you can even try finding a freestyle dance or dog yoga class.
Before starting an exercise regimen there are some things to consider. It’s a sensible idea to make a trip to the vet to ensure that your pet is able to exercise. The vet will screen for heart and lung problems and will check to make sure there are no musculoskeletal issues to consider. Your vet will also help you determine what type of an exercise regimen is right for your dog.
When starting a new routine it’s a good idea to start off slow. Begin with ten minutes a day and gradually work up to a longer time. It is crucial not to let your dog overdo it, bear in mind that dogs don’t have sweat glands so they overheat faster. To prevent overheating it is preferable to exercise early or late in the day and to keep your dog hydrated with portable water systems. Be vigilant in watching for signs of dehydration and overheating. These signs include excessive panting, staggering, confusion and weakness.
Exercising is a good decision and exercising with your dog is an even better one. The buddy system has proven to yield better results than going solo. It’s a great way to strengthen the bonds between you and your pet. With so many different activities, you are bound to find something that you both love.
Written by Elizabeth Boluch