Daily physical activity is the best way to keep you and your pet fit and healthy, and involving your pet in your exercise routine makes the workout much more enjoyable. Our team at Westerville Veterinary Clinic wants to offer tips to help you make your pet your workout partner.
#1: Bring your pet in for a veterinary check up
Before starting any exercise program, you need to ensure your pet is healthy enough to participate. Our veterinary professionals will perform a thorough physical exam, checking your pet’s heart, lungs, limbs, and everything in between. We will also perform screening blood work to check their organ health. Conditions that could inhibit your pet’s ability to exercise include heart conditions, asthma, arthritis, and kidney and liver disease.
#2: When exercising, monitor your pet for heat exhaustion
Pets are extremely susceptible to heat exhaustion, because they cool themselves by panting as opposed to sweating, and this is an inefficient way to cool down the body. Brachycephalic breeds, such as bulldogs, pugs, and boxers, are at higher risk, because their facial structure inhibits proper air circulation when they pant. Heat exhaustion is a medical emergency for pets and can have life-threatening consequences. Signs include excessive panting, drooling, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, and collapse.
#4: Identify your pet
When exercising outdoors, your pet could easily run off and become lost. Microchipping is the best way to ensure lost pets find their way home, but you must ensure you keep your contact information up to date in the microchip registry. Your pet should also always wear a collar and identification tags with your current contact information.
#5: Take your pet walking
The distance you walk will depend on your pet’s age, breed, and fitness level, but walking is excellent exercise for all pets, and especially for older pets who suffer from arthritis, and can’t handle more strenuous activity. The low-impact exercise lubricates their joints and strengthens the muscles supporting the joints, easing their joint pain. Steps to get started include:
- Leash training — Ensure your pet is leash trained, and will obey your commands.
- Start slow — Start by taking short walks, and resting frequently.
- Build up — Build up gradually to one or more 15-minute brisk walks, with breaks in between.
- Sniff breaks — Let your pet sniff their environment during the breaks.
- Paw pressure — Avoid hot surfaces and uneven, rocky surfaces that could hurt your pet’s feet.
- Scoop the poop — Clean up after your pet.
#6: Take your pet hiking
Hiking is great exercise, allowing you to enjoy the great outdoors, and providing new and exciting smells, sights, and sounds for your pet. When taking your pet hiking:
- Research — Visit the hiking trail’s website, to ensure pets are allowed.
- Leash laws — Keep your pet leashed at all times, and ensure they will obey your commands, especially around other people and pets.
- Supplies — Bring food, water, and bowls for your pet. Nutritious, high-protein snacks are a good choice, and you should take at least eight ounces of water per pet for every hour you are planning to hike. Also, bring a pet first aid kit, and plastic bags, to clean up after your pet.
- Trail etiquette — Do not allow your pet to approach other people you meet, and step off the trail with your pet to allow them to pass.
#7: Take your pet jogging
More active pets may enjoy going jogging with you, although not all pets are suited for this activity.
- Right breed and age — While greyhounds are great at running short distances fast, they can’t sustain long distances. Brachycephalic breeds can’t handle running at all. Breeds such as Labrador retrievers and weimaraners are great jogging companions. However, do not take your pet jogging until they are fully grown, because the impact could damage their joints.
- Warm up — Ensure you warm up and cool down your pet by walking for at least five minutes before and after your jog.
- Build endurance — Initially intersperse your jogging with walking intervals. Then, gradually increase the time spent jogging, until your pet can jog the whole time.
- Inclement weather — Do not take your pet jogging when the weather is too hot or too cold.
#8: Take your pet skijoring
Skijoring involves your dog pulling you while you cross-country ski. If your dog enjoys jogging with you, skijoring may be a fun next step. Medium to large athletic dogs make the best participants. To skijor, you will need:
- Equipment — You will need a pulling harness, tether line, waist belt, and cross-country skis. You can also use rollerblades in a non-snowy environment.
- Training — Taking a class, or training with others, can help your dog learn how to pull. Ensure your dog understands that pulling is only acceptable when they are in their pulling harness, and never walk them in the pulling harness.
- Building up — Once your dog gets used to pulling you, you can gradually increase your outings.
Making your pet your workout partner will keep you both trim and strong. If you would like your pet evaluated before they start a new exercise program, contact our Fear Free team at Westerville Veterinary Clinic, to schedule an appointment.