Just as keeping fit and healthy is important for us, it is just as important for our dogs to be exercised to ensure that they stay fit and healthy as well. Not only does walking your dog provide you with some great quality time with your best mate, but it is also a great way to keep both you, and your dog in shape. Keeping dogs fit with regular exercise has many of the same benefits that is does for humans. Maintaining a healthy weight for your pet reduces the onset of problems such as osteoarthritis, by reducing the strain on the joints and also ensuring that the cartilage in the joints remains well-nourished and healthy. Osteoarthritis is a major problem in dogs, especially as they age, and weight control has a significant positive impact on management of the disease.
The cardiorespiratory system also is a major beneficiary of maintaining a normal and healthy weight and exercise level. The impact and severity of many respiratory diseases are significantly reduced by maintaining a good body condition and avoiding obesity, and although dogs rarely suffer from heart disease as humans do, the heart definitely benefits from a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise.
We also know that there are a number of internal diseases such as diabetes mellitus and liver disease which can occur secondary to an unhealthy lifestyle in dogs.
But perhaps one of the most important benefits of getting out and walking the dog is the happiness and joy that it brings to both pet and owner. We all know that laughter and smiles are the best medicine, and pets provide one of the best ways to enjoy a happy lifestyle. The bond between ourselves and our pets and the unconditional love that they provide to us is something very special that should be treasured.
So, I encourage you to grab the lead and take your best mate out into the sunshine for a walk. You could even join a dog friendly Heart Foundation Walking group and enjoy the company of other dog owners, and of course their four legged friends also!
Dr Eben Martin BVSc MANZCVS (emergency and critical care)