Summer means warm weather and longer days to enjoy outside activities with our four-legged friends. After the long winter of hibernation, it’s easy to overextend those muscles. With conditioning, exercise, proper nutrition, and lots of love, you can coach your pooch to a fitness level to lead a happier, healthier life.
Before gearing up for a good workout, your first stop should be the veterinarian. Just as in humans, it is critical for pets to have a complete physical before beginning a fitness program. Age, breed, medical problems, and medications all can affect your pet’s exercise tolerance. Designing an exercise program especially to meet your pet’s exercise requirements will prevent injuries and a long, difficult recovery.
If your pet is out of shape, start with a walk around the block. Walking is an excellent exercise since you can walk year round and don’t need any special equipment. As your pet’s tolerance level increases, gradually increase the length of the walks. If your pet shows any sign of tiring, slow down and head for home. Find the distance where your pet can walk at a fast pace with no signs of fatigue.
Make exercising enjoyable by finding an activity your pet loves. Is it retrieving a tennis ball or swimming in a local lake? Gradually work into a new activity. Remember your pet’s enthusiasm for an activity doesn’t equal fitness. When starting a new activity set time limits to avoid injury.
It is much better to exercise everyday for shorter amounts of time, than to exercise strenuously once a week.
One result of lack of physical activity is obesity—the number one nutritional disease in dogs. And, obesity can cause other medical problems so it is critical to begin a weight reduction program. A weight problem compromises many aspects of your pet’s health—ultimately shortening our pet’s life. It’s necessary to rule out any medical conditions that may contribute to obesity before beginning a weight reduction program.
Overeating is another cause of obesity. Before you reduce your pet’s caloric intake or change your pet’s food, ask your veterinarian. Together, you can plan how to get your pet fit and trim for a long and healthy life.