Why is it important?
Obesity is a real threat to dogs (and people!) in the UK, and how better to manage it that with a fitness programme! But do you know how much exercise your dog needs? How should you modify it if they're old, or ill, or very young? In this guide, we'll talk you through the details of best to exercise your best friend.
The importance of exercise...
Dogs need exercise to build and maintain muscle mass, cardiovascular fitness, and to reduce (or at least control) the amount of fat they're carrying around. In addition, exercise will strengthen bone, ligaments and other parts of the musculoskeletal system. A fitter dog is a healthier dog, and is likely to cost you less in vets bills (!), and they will also be a happier dog if they're getting out and about rather than being cooped up indoors all day long. That said, excessive exercise (especially in an unfit dog) can be harmful - although it is unlikely to lead to a heart attack, it can result in musculoskeletal damage. In particular, we see muscle tears, strains and sprains much more commonly in unfit, overexercised dogs. Usually these are relatively minor, but torn ligaments and tendons can also occur which take much, much longer to heal.
Can I exercise my dog until they lose weight?
Not usually - exercise is very beneficial, but it won't always remove the excess weight. It WILL make it more likely that your dog will keep slim, as the increased muscle mass burns more energy, but alone, it isn't enough
What about diets?
Ultimately, to lose weight, the dog needs to be eating less calories than they are using. The best solution is to strictly ration food, weighing out the correct amount for each day - and cut out treats between meals.
Won't my dog feel hungry?
Possibly yes. However, if that's a problem, there are a range of "weight-loss", "reducing" and "metabolic" diets on the market that will make the dog feel full, but actually contain relatively few calories.
How fast should they lose weight?
Roughly 1-2% per week - no more, no less.
Where can I get help?
Talk to your vets' practice - many practices now offer free weight clinics for overweight pets.
Obesity shorten's a dog's life. As a result, weight loss by reduced diet and increased exercise is essential.