Exercise is an important component of physical health for both us and our pets. It is important to ensure you and your pet receives an adequate amount of daily exercise to ensure good heart health, as well as overall body health. For dogs and cats, getting enough exercise during each day can be challenging, particularly with owners who work full time or have a busy schedule. If your pet is crated during the day, exercise is even more important to help keep them happy and stimulated.
Signs Your Pet Isn’t Active Enough
Signs of a dog that is lacking appropriate exercise can include obesity. Pet obesity is one of the leading health issues that veterinarians face every day. Obesity in pets can lead to other underlying health issues such as heart disease, joint disease, respiratory disease, and can decrease your pet’s life span. It is important to ensure your pet gets regular exercise and is fed an appropriate diet to help decrease this risk. Your veterinarian uses a tool called body condition scoring (typically scored 1-5 or 1-9, with 3 or 5 being ideal on each respective scale) to help identify your pet’s ideal weight range. A dog or cat at their ideal weight should have a defined, tucked, waist with ribs that are easily felt but not visible. If you are worried that your pet is overweight, we recommend consulting your veterinarian to discuss what a healthy weight for your pet should be.
Other signs of a need for exercise can be destructive or anxious behaviors. Dogs who are bored or do not have a consistent routine are subjectively more prone to developing separation anxiety or destructive chewing. If you know your animal is high energy, developing a set routine for mealtimes, exercise, and bathroom breaks can be helpful, especially if your pet is crated during the day. Alternatively, outlets such as hiring a pet sitter to walk them during the day if they are crated, or taking them to doggy daycare can provide a good outlet for their energy and decrease their risk of lashing out at home. It can even give them good opportunities to interact with other dogs and develop good social behaviors.
How Much Exercise Does My Pet Need?
Varies by Breed
Some breeds of dogs and cats require more exercise and stimulation than others. Younger or higher energy dogs may require more exercise than older dogs, but it is typically based on the individual personality of the pet. There is no perfect guideline for how much or what type is best. For our more high energy breeds, exercise can help provide mental stimulation which can decrease anxiety and lower risk of destructive behaviors. By allowing dogs and cats an outlet for their energy, they are often more well adjusted and happiest with a routine.
Daily walking or outings can be helpful for your pet. Running can also be a healthy activity for your pet. We recommend starting with short amounts of running to help build your pet’s endurance prior to going longer distances. If your pet is getting older or has any underlying health issues, we recommend consulting your veterinarian to identify what types of exercise are best for them. Hiking, swimming, or throwing a ball can be other interactive types of exercise that can be useful for both you and your pet.
Sports that incorporate unique training, such as hunting, agility, or flyball, can be great activities to help increase your bond with your pet while providing exercise and mental stimulation. Even working on basic obedience commands or learning a new trick can be a good way to keep your pet mentally stimulated and in great shape. These activities are held in a variety of locations and can be a great way to spend time with your pet.
For indoor cats, decreasing their risk of obesity can be particularly challenging. Spending short periods of time playing with them can be helpful to increase physical activity. Interactive feeders can be purchased online or can be made using a plastic water bottle to encourage them to work for their food. Meal feeding or feeding smaller amounts of food at a time with interactive feeding can help further reduce the risk of obesity in cats.
Keep a Regular Routine
Developing a regular exercise routine is an essential part of pet ownership to help promote overall peak physical and mental health for you and your pet. If you have any questions about your pet’s overall health or how to develop an ideal exercise routine, feeding, or weight loss plan, please reach out to your veterinarian. Our trained veterinary staff at Weddington Animal Hospital are happy to help. Please do not hesitate to contact us at 704-847-8466 or firstname.lastname@example.org.