Jogging With Your Dog

Jogging with a friend can help keep you motivated and fit. So should your jogging buddy be short or tall, blonde or red-haired, two or four-legged?

“Dogs need exercise just like people and jogging is a good way to do this,” notes J. David Sessum, RVT, veterinary technician at the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University. “Dogs enjoy being outdoors and spending time with their caretakers.”

Prior to beginning a jogging routine, Sessum suggests a veterinary check-up to make sure that your dog is in good physical condition and can cope with the physical strain of running. Additionally, certain dog breeds may make better jogging buddies than others.

“Larger dogs do well with jogging,” explains Sessum. “Small dogs may have a more difficult time jogging due to their short legs. Short muzzled dogs should be evaluated to make sure their airway can handle strenuous activity such as jogging.”

Sessum recommends that an orthopedic exam be performed before beginning a jogging routine. During this exam, your veterinarian can evaluate your dog’s body condition score, weight, overall fitness and help you develop a gradual introduction to a jogging routine.

“Dogs of different sizes have growth plates that close at different times,” explains Sessum. “You should consult with your veterinarian for the best time to start strenuous activity with young dogs. Older dogs need to have a physical exam to make sure they are healthy enough for strenuous activity and don’t have any underlying conditions such as heart disease.”

Once your pet is given the go ahead to become a jogging buddy, there are additional considerations for your pet’s safety. Weather conditions, food and water consumption as well as obedience skills become important issues.

“If the weather is hot, jogging should take place during cooler parts of the day,” notes Sessum. “Most dogs have a thick coat of hair and extreme heat can cause their temperature to elevate quickly. Body temperature above 105 degrees Fahrenheit is dangerous for a dog. This is when heatstroke becomes a real possibility.”

Sessum says that signs of heat exhaustion include heavy panting (deep breathing), weakness, confusion and vomiting or diarrhea. As the condition worsens, there may be gum paleness, shallow breathing and eventually, slowed or absent breathing efforts, vomiting, diarrhea and finally seizures or coma, adds Sessum.

“Food should be avoided before immediate strenuous activity. A large meal followed by exercise can lead to Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus Syndrome (GDV), known as bloat, which usually requires surgical correction,” states Sessum. “Water can be given at any time, as long as the volume is limited to small amounts at each offering.”

“Heel is a great command so the dog stays next to you while running. Additionally, tripping or pulling the pet will not be a concern,” notes Sessum. “Also, consider jogging with your dog when vehicle and pedestrian traffic are minimal.”

Sessum notes that it is best to have your dog on a leash when you jog because a leash allows you to control your pet and keep them from hazardous situations. A standard collar works well, but if your pet pulls against a leash Sessum says a harness might be a better option since it allows you to control the pet’s body, not just its head and neck.

“The standard 6-foot leash allows dogs to move freely on a relaxed leash. A retractable leash is more difficult to hold while jogging and if the leash is totally released, the dog may get into a dangerous situation or you could trip on the excessive leash length,” notes Sessum.

When running with your canine jogging buddy take into consideration that you are wearing cushioned shoes, your dog is not. Be aware of the type and temperature of surface on which you are running.

“Your dog’s foot pads should be monitored for excessive wear,” notes Sessum. “Most dogs tolerate pavement and sidewalks well, but be cautious in extreme hot or cold conditions.”

Follow these simple safety tips so that your canine jogging buddy running by your side experiences an enjoyable activity that keeps both you and your dog fit.

 

ABOUT PET TALK

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 editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

A Resolution Fit for You and Your Best Friend

As 2009 opens a year of promise, we all start pondering our New Year’s resolutions. For many people the top of that list includes weight loss and exercise. While most people could benefit from this resolution, so could most pets.

Obesity occurs in up to 40 percent in our pet dogs and cats and it has many causes, but inactivity is a major contributor.

“Animals require exercise to maintain a healthy weight just as people do,” states J. David Sessum, registered veterinary technician at the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences at Texas A&M University. “The difference between animals and people is that for the most part it is easier for pets to lose weight because the owner is the one who regulates their diet.”

Pets that have a recommended diet from a veterinary professional usually maintain a healthy weight because they are fed the correct amount of kilocalories in their diet that is suited for their level of activity.

“I do believe that owners play a huge role in helping their pet lose and maintain a healthy weight,” notes Sessum. “How easy would it be for humans to lose weight if we were only given two cups of a reduced calorie diet twice daily?”

Just as owners regulate their pet’s food intake, it is also important that they make sure their animals get enough exercise.

“Animals that exercise on a regular basis maintain a healthy body weight due to the fact that they metabolize their food during exercise,” says Sessum. “A sedentary or inactive lifestyle helps promote an unhealthy weight, just as it does in people.”

As our pet’s inactivity increases, their weight increases. Recent research in human and animals have shown that adipose tissue (fat cells) actually functions more as an endocrine organ, like your pancreas. Adipose tissue actually releases inflammatory mediators that can make diseases like osteoarthritis much worse for obese patients.

“In the clinic, you can see dogs that may have orthopedic diseases such as hip dysplasia (a joint malformation) but are only diagnosed as incidental findings on radiographs. Because the dog is a healthy weight and remains active, the owner never even noticed a change in the dog’s level of activity,” explains Sessum. “As far as osteoarthritis and existing orthopedic conditions are concerned, an obese patient places extra strain on joints that are already unhealthy and weight loss or management can help reduce the load placed on diseased, painful joints.”

Exercise is important for all pets, but if you aren’t sure what level of exercise your pet requires a veterinarian or veterinary professional can assess your animal’s weight status by using a body condition score.

“Once a pet’s body condition is scored, it is a helpful tool in developing an exercise program for pets,” notes Sessum. “A pet with a healthy body condition score can maintain their normal daily activity and amount of food they currently receive.”

As a pet ages, its body condition score can be assessed and the amount of exercise and amount of food can be regulated to help ensure a healthy body weight.

“Exercises to maintain a healthy weight for dogs can include regular leash walks and normal activity such as fetching or swimming,” states Sessum. “All of these activities can be done with the owner so helping your pet get exercise can also help you.”

For dogs that are obese, exercise is usually not tolerated very well due to their previous level of inactivity. These patients must be monitored at all times during exercise for signs of fatigue or distress, especially during summer months when extreme temperatures are encountered.

“Other exercises that owners can do with their pets include anything that will help with strengthening and improving cardiovascular fitness,” explains Sessum. “Walks up hills or inclines, stepping over obstacles or walking through tall grass to increase range of motion in joints will all help to reduce obesity and maintain a healthy weight in both pets and humans.”

It is important to remember that rest and recovery is as important sometimes as the exercise themselves to help prevent soreness and excess fatigue.

“It is also necessary to avoid the “weekend warrior” mentality. Pets that have a sedentary lifestyle will not respond to exercise well if they are suddenly introduced into a strenuous workout program,” concludes Sessum. “Just like people, if we lie around on the couch all week, and then try to run a marathon, it could lead to serious health problems. Our pets’ exercise regimen should be introduced in the same manner we would approach a new exercise program, including a visit to the doctor!”

By following these guidelines and sticking to these resolutions both you and your pet can have a healthy and prosperous new year.

About Pet Talk

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 editor@cvm.tamu.edu.

Angela G. Clendenin
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