Your Dog or Cat Needs Exercise to Successfully Manage Weight

Based on Pet Health Data

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Your Dog or Cat Needs Exercise to Successfully Manage Weight
The number of overweight and obese pets has ballooned in the United States, affecting approximately 1 in 3 dogs and cats in 2016.
 
The most successful approach for keeping your pet's weight under control includes restricting calories and increasing activity. Exercise for dogs and cats is just as important as providing a balanced, calorie-controlled diet for safe weight loss.
 
However, before starting any exercise program, check with your veterinarian, as like their human owners, one exercise program does not fit all dogs and cats. There are certain conditions such as heart disease, arthritis, joint injuries and respiratory disease that may limit your pet's ability to exercise.
 
In addition, the exercise program should be tailored to your individual pet and should take breed, age, health and lifestyle into account. Your veterinarian can assist with creating a custom weight loss plan for your dog or cat.
 
Tips for Creating an Exercise Plan for Your Pet
 
  1. Start slowly and then gradually increase the amount of exercise. Your pet needs to rebuild muscle and stamina and can't go from being inactive to running a 10-minute mile overnight.
  2. Bring a water bottle when exercising. You'll also want to make sure that your pet has plenty of access to water and avoid exercising in the heat of the day as dogs and cats are susceptible to heat stroke just like their human counterparts.
  3. Designate a specific time for exercise. If possible, exercise your pet during the coolness of the early morning or evening. You'll also want to avoid exercising your pet directly after a meal. Waiting at least a full hour can help to prevent vomiting or any other complications.
  4. Check your pet for fleas, ticks and possible injuries after exercising. It can take time for your pet's paws to toughen up enough to run or walk on concrete or rocks, so soft surfaces like grass or a dirt trail are ideal to start on.
 
Suggestions Regarding Exercise for Dogs
  • Take a walk around the neighborhood. It's a good first activity for a dog that has been inactive for a long time. Walking has less impact on the joints (unlike running or playing fetch).
  • Go for a swim. Swimming exercises the muscles without impact and can be a good option for dogs with arthritis.
  • Play fetch. Bear in mind that this is a higher impact activity (more so than walking or swimming).
 
Suggestions Regarding Exercise for Cats
  • Play with a favorite toy. A fishing rod toy or motorized unit are good choices, or try using a toy on a string to initiate play behavior.
  • Use a laser pointer. Many cats will chase the dot made by a laser pointer.
  • Use food toys. Offer part of their meal through a food toy to increase activity while eating.
 
Consider Physical Therapy as Exercise
Dogs and cats can also benefit from physical therapy. This can include underwater treadmills and range-of-motion exercises. Talk to your veterinarian to determine if physical therapy is right for your pet.
 
Log Your Pets’ Exercise to Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
Keeping your dog or cat healthy is a great reason to get out and exercise with them. Keep a log of your pet's exercise routine and review your progress with your veterinarian. They can help assist with any appropriate changes in diet, behavior or exercise.
 
Have Questions?
If you have further questions about weight management including exercise plans and healthy lifestyles, please contact your local veterinarian or refer to our Weight Management Handout for additional information.
 
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