Being overweight is causing an epidemic of obesity in many countries, not only threatening people, it is also starting to affect our pets. According to the CVMA (Canadian Veterinary Medical Association), pet obesity is becoming a serious health risk for our animals. It causes high blood pressure, an increased level of fatigue and can lead to congestive heart failure.
Part of the problem is a lack of activity for both humans and their pets, which can be solved with more exercise and movement. Often when one thinks of exercising their dog, they envision walking their canine on a leash, but there are plenty of other activities that can be enjoyed for a much healthier, happier lifestyle.
Before We Begin
As always, check with both your personal physician and your dog’s veterinarian before starting or changing any type of exercise regime. They will likely advise you to start out slowly and work your way up to more activity to prevent over exertion, reduce the risk of injury, lessen aches and pains associated with using muscles that may have been dormant. You could even do a little stretching with your pooch before walking or running.
Not Marathon Runners
Speaking of running, dogs in the wild are not accustomed to running long distances, they’re much closer to sprinters, rather than cross country runners. Also remember that some breeds are better at running than others and age is another important consideration.
Puppies, those younger than eighteen months, haven’t finished developing all their bones and muscles, so this type of activity is discouraged. Running also isn’t recommended for older dogs who could be developing osteoporosis and whose bones, muscles and cartilage are not as strong as they once were. Many, healthy adult dogs can benefit from running, and while you may not be a jogger, they can:
- Accompany you on leash while you walk
- Burn off some steam at the local dog park
- Play catch, fetch and tug-of-war for a good workout
Take a Low-Impact Dip
When exercising, sometimes we overlook swimming but this is a great, low impact sport that comes naturally to most dogs. While many people believe that all dogs are born swimmers, some breeds are actually better in the water than others. Canines with tiny, short, skinny legs are usually not very good at dog-paddling, while some breeds are so accustomed to swimming they even have the liquid in their names, like the Portuguese Water Dog and the Irish Water Spaniel.
Before you both get wet, you may want to take your dog to a nice, quiet, shallow spot and wade in with them. Virgin swimmers should never be thrown into a deep lake or pond and for those who aren’t great with staying afloat, they do make life preservers for dogs.
Be Serene and Lean
Exercise doesn’t necessarily mean a hard-core, cardio workout, many people enjoy yoga for better health and relaxation. Doga, or yoga for dogs, is another great way to get in shape with your pet without breaking much of a sweat. This ancient practice is growing in popularity with both humans and their dogs.
Look for yoga classes in your area that allow pet participation or you can also find a great deal of information online. There’s also a plethora of internet videos available that show how you can take a “downward facing dog” pose with your pooch.
Just like humans, dogs will live a longer life with less extra weight. By spending more time being active with your animal, you’ll both be together much longer in the long run, pardon the pun.
This article was written by Amber Kingsley. Amber is a freelance journalist and member of a pet enthusiast/animal lover group in her city of Santa Monica whom has donated countless hours supporting her local shelter within operations and outreach. She has spent most of her research writing about animals; food, health and training.