By Linda Cole
We know it’s important to keep our dogs active to help prevent obesity and keep them healthy in body and spirit. Most dogs are willing partners when you want to go hiking, biking, jogging or walking, or participate in a fun sport like dock diving, Disc Dog, agility or flyball. The last thing any responsible pet owner wants to do is put their dog at risk for injury, but without realizing it we can be guilty of doing just that.
Too much exercise with no conditioning
Most dogs have an athletic side. They love to run, play, jump and race around as fast as they can. Because they want to be with us, preferably everywhere we go, we can easily forget that a dog may not be ready for a five mile run or an afternoon of hiking. Like us, dogs need conditioning and time to build up muscles and stamina. They are as susceptible to soft tissue injuries as we are, and can pull a tendon or get a sprain. Many dogs do enjoy sports, but just like any human athlete-in-training, it’s important to start slow and take the time needed to gradually get into shape for any physical activity.
Make sure your dog can keep up with you, and you can keep up with him. A Chihuahua isn’t a good running partner, and a Greyhound may leave you in his dust. If your dog isn’t on equal terms with you as far as his fitness goes, a walk around the block may be enough exercise for him. If your dog has more energy than you do, play with him in the backyard, then take him for a walk or run.
Forgetting how weather can affect a dog
The pads of a dog’s feet act like shock absorbers to cushion the feet and protect them when walking on hot and cold surfaces. But the pads can be burned by walking on a hot surface like asphalt, concrete or metal. Check your pet’s paw pads for cuts, puncture wounds, burrs or small rocks, and keep their pads healthy by making sure they are free of injuries.
Know the signs of heat stroke, hyperthermia and hypothermia, and pay attention to how well your dog tolerates different weather conditions. Hydration is important for both of you – always have fresh water available for you and your dog when exercising. Don’t force your pet to continue exercising if he’s showing signs of fatigue. You may be ready to go another mile, but your dog may not be.