Exercise Tips | If your pup is part of your 2020 fitness goals, it’s important to start off on the right foot with any an exercise program. Just like people who aren’t used to a strenuous exercise routine, dogs should start off slow. The first step when making your fuzzy buddy your exercise partner is an evaluation by your veterinarian.
It is important to check for signs of arthritis, musculoskeletal problems, cardiovascular disease, etc., prior to starting any workout program with your pet. Dogs with inflamed joints or ligaments may need to start with a low impact exercise program, such as swimming or walking on an underwater treadmill.
If your pooch gets a clear bill of health, start with moderately paced walking or swimming. These activities allow canine athletes to build their cardiovascular and muscle strength without putting too much stress on their joints. A daily 10 to 15 minute walk or swim is a good start, building gradually depending on how your pup is doing. If he is doing well and can handle long, fast paced walks, he can graduate to jogging with you. Keep in mind that if your dog is still growing, it is best to wait to start a strenuous exercise program until his growth plates are closed.
Below are a few precautions when exercising with your furry pal:
- Avoid overdoing it. You are working too hard if you can’t speak comfortably. Your dog may be overdoing it if he is breathing fast, panting excessively, staggering, or refusing to follow. If your pup wants to stop, let him. Dogs that overdo it can suffer from heat exhaustion, strained tendons, ligaments, or other orthopedic problems.
- Watch for signs of heat exhaustion. Working out in hot, humid weather can lead to heat exhaustion for both you and your pup. Schedule your workouts in the morning before the temperatures soar. Always have fresh water with you and a collapsible bowl for your dog. Watch for desperate panting, stumbling or staggering, difficulty breathing, collapse, etc. Again, if your pup wants to stop, let him. Take frequent water breaks.
- Protect those paws! Long walks on rough surfaces can damage paws. Start slowly to allow your dog to develop thicker, tougher pads. If it’s hot avoid asphalt or sand as these may burn your pup’s pads. On those cold, snowy days, be sure to check for ice build-up. If you will be hiking or walking on rough terrain, you may want to invest in a sturdy set of boots for your dog.
- Always, safety first. Keep your dog on a leash at all times when you run, hike, or walk. Even the best-trained dogs can run into the path of a car, a territorial animal, or a number of other dangers. While your dog may be friendly to everyone, remember that not everyone’s dog is. If you will be walking or running when it’s dark, put reflective garb on your pet, as well as yourself.
Take it easy in extreme weather. If it’s freezing cold or hot and steamy, either keep your workout light and short or play indoors.
Dr Kari Nugent is a graduate of Michigan State University College of Veterinary Medicine and has been a practicing veterinarian for sixteen years. She owns Unleashed Pet Care, a quaint companion animal clinic located in Westland Michigan.