Vet Buzz from Bill Barboni, DVM and Chris Pitts, RVT, Marin Pet Hospital, San Rafael, CA
Spring has sprung! The trails and beaches are calling!!! Before you let Fido run full tilt through the fields take some time to work up his exercise level so he will be less likely to hurt himself as he goes bombing through the wild. Taking the time to build up your dog’s exercise routine can help keep you out of the veterinarian’s office and out enjoying the good weather.
1. For Couch Potatoes: If your dog has been a couch potato all winter, start off with brief walks on leash. Short walks several times a day are better than one long one for a couch potato. Increase your walk time by five minutes a week.
2. For the More Active: If you have already been taking your dog on leashed walks, step up the time and intensity a little. For instance, if you usually go for a half hour walk, go for a forty minute walk, with brief intervals of jogging.
3. Do not over-do it: When you do take your dog to an off-leash venue, do not take him out for longer than the length of your average walk. Here is why; when your dog is off-leash, he will typically cover more ground than when he is attached to you. He will run out, come back to check on you, then run out again. Particularly on a hot day, your dog is more likely to over-heat. Keep an eye on your dog for heavy panting, lolling tongue, seeking shade or water. If you see any of these behaviors, your dog may be heading towards heat stroke. In addition, the second you think you see a little gimp in your dog’s gait it is time to end the fun and get him some rest.
4. Check Your Dog’s Recall: if you are unsure if your dog will return to you when you call him, keep him on leash. You don’t want him to get lost, which can wreck even the nicest of days.
5. Playing Ball or Frisbee: our own dogs LOVE to fetch, but the torque and twisting that happens in your dog’s joints as he runs after a ball can land your dog in the hospital. However, try to get your dog facing in the direction you throw the ball instead of facing towards you, and you can decrease the rate of incidence of cruciate tears in your dog’s knee.
6. Warm up: You dog can benefit from a nice warm up just like a human athlete. Keep your dog on leash for the first five to ten minutes of your outing before letting him off leash. For dogs that need to stay on leash, start off at a brisk walk for those five or ten minutes before you start your run.
If you feel at any time during exercise that your dog has raspy breathing, difficulty breathing, collapses, limps, or otherwise seems odd, stop the exercise and make a visit to your veterinarian.
Furthermore, if your dog has a pre-existing health condition such as laryngeal paralysis or ACL tear, consult your veterinarian prior to starting any exercise routine.
Otherwise, enjoy the good weather and have a nice time!