Ease back into exercise with your pet
By John Beck
It's the New Year and time to break out the jogging suit and shoes. Like most people, I'm carrying some extra weight from the holiday season. I would like to take my dog jogging with me but not sure he will be able to keep up. Is it OK for a dog to start exercising if he hasn't been in a long time?
I too packed on a couple of extra pounds over the holiday season. It is hard to put down all the home cooked goodies that walk through our door. An exercise program for you and your dog sounds like a great idea. Just like in humans, you should talk with your veterinarian to make sure your pet is healthy enough for the type of exercise you plan on doing. If you are out of shape yourself and plan on starting off a little easy and working your way up to a harder program, this is ideal for your pet as well. Starting with walking, then walk/jog, then finally jogging is a good progression that can ease you and your pet back into exercise. Also, consider distance when planning your workout. Remember, if you walk away from your starting point, and not in a circle, you will have to walk that far to get back to the car or house. Starting out, you might consider not going very far or circling the block you live on. This way if you or your dog gets worn out, you don't have that far to go to get back home.
Other things you need to consider are the size of your pet, the age of your pet and your pet's general health. A small dog has to take two or three steps for every step you take. Their body will be working much harder than yours will when walking at the same pace. In turn, a larger dog has a bigger stride and might stay at the same pace as you without any problems. Younger dogs will be able to handle a harder workout than older dogs. When thinking of your pet's age and how well they can handle an activity, I always compare their age to a humans. You might think of it in terms of exercising with your 10-year-old niece or your 80-year-old grandmother. Make sure you tailor your activity to abide to your pet's age. If your pet is older, you might consider taking them on the walking or warm-up portion of your workout, but leaving them at home once you start jogging. If your pet has a pre-existing health condition, this can also alter the extent that they can exercise. A previous bone or joint injury can cause arthritis or limited mobility to the injury site, making it harder for your dog to keep up. Heart conditions or breathing problems might also limit your pet.
The best thing for you and your pet is to talk with your doctors and make sure you all are healthy enough for an exercise program, then start slowly, and work your way up. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact me or your local vet.
Dr. John Beck has a veterinary practice at Hillcrest Animal Hospital in Victoria. Submit questions to Dr. Beck at dr firstname.lastname@example.org.