Gainesville, FL Veterinarian on exercising with your dog; safety first

Dogs make great running companions. They get us off the couch, provide a sense of safety, and are just fun to be with. Running is also a good way to burn off extra energy that might otherwise go into chewing and barking. Before you set out, bring your dog in for a physical exam to be sure your dog’s heart and joints are healthy. Here are some safety tips:

  • Most young dogs (5-12 months) have enough energy to keep up with a person jogging, but not the brains to know when to stop. Excess impact can permanently damage developing bones. Wait until small/medium breed dogs are 6 to 9 months and large breed dogs are 12 months of age to introduce a running program. Until then, take long walks and short easy jogs on softer grass or trails.
  • Choose a light and sturdy 4 to 6 foot leash which will be comfortable to hold while running. A head collar is a great option for dogs that tend to pull.
  • Be extra cautious in hot weather, which can occur year round in sunny Florida. Watch carefully for signs of fatigue or heat illness (panting, slowing down, foaming at the mouth, weakness, seeking shade, agitation, glazed eyes).  Also remember to exercise early in the morning or late in the evening when it is cooler.
  • When you start running with your dog, begin slowly to gradually condition him/her. Many dogs will keep going past what they can reasonably tolerate. Watch for signs of fatigue, as listed above, during your run. Also look for stiffness and raw, tender foot pads the next day. These would all be signs you went too far too soon.

Dr. Jennifer Wallace is a Gainesville, FL Veterinarian who is an avid writer and pet parent.

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