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Exercise is critical to dogs’ physical and mental health
Exercise is one of dogs’ essential daily needs for dogs. As a vet in practice, I often see problems that are directly linked to insufficient exercise. And just occasionally, I see problems caused by excessive exercise.
The simplest rule of thumb is that all dogs should have around half an hour’s exercise twice daily.
People who are considering getting a dog need to reflect on this fact: if you are unable to put aside half an hour, twice daily, then perhaps you are not ready for dog ownership.
Can excessive exercise cause harm?
There are two specific situations where too much exercise can cause harm:
- Growing dogs.
Some developmental orthopaedic problems can be aggravated by excessive exercise when dogs are immature. Hip and elbow dysplasia are common in large and giant breeds of dogs, causing painful joints and long term arthritis. Studies have shown that in dogs who carry the genes for these diseases (such as certain breeds), exercise restriction during development can reduce the severity of these problems in adulthood. Off-leash, low-intensity exercise on a regular basis is recommended, rather than long walks straining at the leash, or hyperactive ball-chasing exercise off the leash.
One Norwegian study found more problems in puppies under three months of age who were allowed to go up and down stairs. This does not mean that you should avoid stairs with your puppy. but it does mean that you should avoid too much up and down running like this if you have a large or giant breed.
The general advice is that you should avoid long, strenuous walks (e.g. three-hour hill hikes) until a dog is skeletally mature (around 18 months of age)
- Dogs recovering from injuries
Many injuries (from broken bones to ligament ruptures to slipped discs) can be aggravated by excessive exercise. It’s important to follow your vet’s advice to the letter when rehabilitating dogs, especially after surgery. This can be contentious, with some surgeons recommending early activity and others suggesting strict rest for a longer period, but the bottom line is that it is best to follow the advice of the vet who you’re working with.
Questions for Pete from listeners
- I have an 8 month Jack Russell, my heart is broke with the amount of shedding he does..He’s an indoor dog and I groom him each evening with a shedding too.But there seems to be just no end to it.. I brought him in for a “Madra” mud bath a few weeks ago, which was great and got rid of a lot of the hairs but the next day he was shedding like mad again..Is there anything else I can do or Will he grow out of this or am I facing this for his life span? Many Thanks Louise
- Hi Pete I have a lovely pug named Otis. Anyway I’m pretty worried about him when we bring him for a walk he can’t go very far at all and I’m wondering if it’s a pug thing or a fitness thing. The kids say “are we bringing him for a drag?”
- I have wooden floors. My dog has in the last few week stopped walk around the house. She will just sit and cry and wait to be moved. When she does try she scrambles on the floor. I have tried to encourage her with food and treats with no joy. I have got her nails cut and she does not have long fur on her paws. Is there any point in bringing her to a vet. She used to run around the house before with no problem and used to chase balls with no problem. Any suggestions please. Thanks William Sligo
- My Dog Snowey , sounds only in the morning as if she has a frog in her throat, Should I bring her to her Vet?
- My 6 month old pup has just been diagnosed with epilepsy, is there a chance he may grow out of it and how should we manage it?
- I would like to ask Pete about dogs with cataracts. My 10 year old Jack Russell has developed cataracts. Is there anything I can do? Attracta in Rathgar
You can watch the video of the interview here, or listen to the podcast below.
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