by Niagara Frontier Veterinary Society
We all need to get enough exercise to stay healthy, including our pets. Exercising with your pet can be a great way to bond and help you both become more fit. When starting an exercise program, it is best to begin with short, easy workouts, and slowly increase the intensity over time. It is also a good idea to exercise indoors when it is too hot or too cold to exercise outside. During extreme heat, it helps to walk or run outside with long-coated or short-nosed dogs early in the morning, or late in the day when it is cooler.
People often wonder if it is safe for their young dog to get a lot of exercise. The answer is yes, as long as you build up to it. Just like a person would not suddenly be able to run a marathon without training, your dog needs to work up to running long distances. Another common concern is exercising with elderly pets or pets with heart conditions. Moderate, regular exercise is important for these pets, just as it is for humans with similar conditions. If you have any questions, be sure to contact your veterinarian.
Look for exercises you and your pet can enjoy together. One beneficial exercise is asking your dog (or cat) to sit then stand up while on good footing. You can do squats at the same time! Start with just a few repetitions, and slowly work up to more as you both become more fit. Do you like to walk, run, or hike? Or perhaps you both prefer to swim or work through agility courses. Your small pet may like being carried or pushed in a stroller or bike trailer. Maybe your pet is a horse, and going for a ride means you are both getting exercise.
It can also be fun to exercise with other people and their pets. Think about arranging to meet a friend or neighbor so that you can both walk our dogs together. You can even try a cat (or goat) yoga class together. Remember that it is important for both you and your pet to stay hydrated, so have water available. Be aware of ticks when hiking, and use appropriate prevention for you and your dog, and when you return home, do a tick check.
Exercise helps relieve stress for people and pets. Keep your dog’s nails short, and help the two of you get stronger and live longer. If your dog is difficult to walk, try taking some food or favorite treats in your pocket, rewarding your pet when there is slack in the leash. Above all, be mindful of the importance of safety. Stay out of busy roads, wear high-visibility clothing, or use a light at night. And make sure that your pet has a collar with a current ID tag and microchip in case you get separated, so that your pet can be returned to you.
The Niagara Frontier Veterinary Society consists of more than 75 small animal hospitals and 200 veterinarians in Erie and Niagara counties. Learn more at wwwnfveterinarysociety.org.