Exercising with Your Pet
Posted December 09, 2010
Modern times have promoted lack of
activity due to the busy schedules people lead. In order for people
to live healthy, well-balanced lives they need to stay active with
an exercise routine. The same is true for pets as they continue to
naturally become more sedentary than their predecessors. According
to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention about half of the
nation's pets are considered overweight. This is why exercise with
your pet is more critical than ever before.
"Any activity with your pet helps
encourage the human-animal bond that people have with their pets,"
explains David Sessum, registered veterinary technician and
rehabilitation specialist at the Texas A&M College of
Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. "Regular activity
helps promote a healthy lifestyle in both the owner and the
The benefits of exercise are
outstanding and well worth the time for you and your pet. Not only
can exercise improve your pet's health; it may also alleviate some
of its nervous energy which can help in many factors.
Sessum notes that any type of pet can
exercise. Exercise can be tailored to the specific breed. For
example, Labrador retrievers were bred to retrieve so a game of
fetch can provide a healthy exercise as well as satisfy the dog's
"With dogs, simply taking them for a
walk on a regular basis is beneficial," explains Sessum. "With
cats, enrichment activities such as playing with toys like a small
ball or a string can promote a healthy lifestyle. Pocket pets, such
as gerbils, can be placed in an exercise ball and allowed to roll
around for a good workout."
It is important to take precautions
prior to starting any exercise with your pet. Make sure that your
pet does not overdo it. Also, the more active your pet is the more
water it will need. Just like people, pets need to stay hydrated
after a strenuous exercise.
"With dogs, an owner playing fetch in
extreme weather conditions can lead to injury or illness for the
owner and the dog," said Sessum. "Problems occur when owners try to
force exercise on their pet. If a pet is accustomed to a sedentary
lifestyle, or lying around all day, forcing them to exercise can
lead to injury or serious health problems."
If you are concerned with your pet's
health and are not sure if it is fit enough to start an exercise
program, it may be best to consult with a clinician so they can
perform a wellness exam.
"The wellness exam can also include a body condition score to
assess if a pet is a healthy weight," explains Sessum. "If a pet
needs to lose weight, a weight reduction program can be started. If
a pet has a known orthopedic or neurologic condition, a
consultation with a clinician can help prescribe specific exercises
to help improve strength and also evaluate a pet's pain level and
prescribe pain medication if needed."
Keep in mind to try to make exercise
fun. If you approach exercise as play time, your pet will be more
receptive to the idea.
Exercise can help you look, feel, and
be your best. When you partner exercise with your pet, the effects
are most visible for the both of you.
The Texas A&M Veterinary Medical
Teaching Hospital offers a rehabilitation service for pets that
need exercise or rehabilitation from an injury. For more
information on rehabilitation or sports medicine, please call
979-845-2351 or find them on facebook at Veterinary Sports Medicine
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Top Picture - David Sessum, RVT,
looks on as Cayenne walks in the water treadmill.
Bottom Picture - David Sesum, RVT, and
Abby Rafferty, RVT, help Emmy Lou on the exercise ball.
Pet Talk is a service of the
College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas
A&M University. Stories can be viewed on the Web at vetmed.tamu.edu/news/pet-talk. Suggestions for
future topics may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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