Healthy And Safe Exercise For Your Dog - And You

Now that spring’s here, it’s a perfect time to get out and exercise – and having a canine companion will make it ever more enjoyable. But just as you follow safety measures for yourself, you need to know what will keep your dog from danger.

Here, from the ASPCA, are some tips:

Get your pet a check-up

Just as you’d ask your doctor about your health before you start on an exercise program, you should do the same for your animal companion. Have a vet check your dog out to make sure he’s healthy enough for a hike, or even a longer-than-usual walk. That may depend to some extent on the kind of dog you have, and his age.

According to the ASPCA, dogs with short or flat noses (think bulldogs) may have difficulty breathing, especially if they’re exercised strenuously. If your dog is younger than 18 months, don’t take her jogging or running because her bones are still growing.

Exercise is great for energetic young dogs, but sustained jogging or running is not recommended for young dogs (under 18 months) whose bones haven’t finished growing. And be careful about over-exercising large dogs, who often have problems with arthritis, bones and joints.

Besides telling you whether your dog is in shape to exercise, your vet can give your companion all the necessary vaccinations. If you and your pet are traveling a long distance for a vacation, the ASPCA says, tell your vet that. Different states have different vaccination requirements.

Make sure your animal companion is in shape

No one who starts an exercise program becomes a top athlete right away. We’re all familiar with the admonition to start small and set reasonable goals for yourself. The same is true for your pet. Contrary to what some people might think, dogs don’t have a built-in capacity for strenuous exercise. If you want your dog to accompany you on hikes, start with short exercise periods. The ASPCA says this is especially important if your dog isn’t in great shape. Dogs that are overweight or have short noses or thick coats may overheat easily.

Guard against pests and parasites           

You use sunscreen and insect repellent, and your dog deserves some protection as well. Fleas are especially dangerous to dogs, the ASPCA says, since they can cause serious skin irritation and infection as well as fatal anemia. They can also multiply and cause an infestation in your house.  

Outdoor environments are great, but they’re also a great place to pick up parasites, which are annoying at best. At worst, some parasites can cause serious illness and even death.

Fleas aren’t just itchy pests. In some pets, their bites can cause extreme skin irritation and infection. They can multiply until you’ve got an infestation in your house or yard, and once they’ve multiplied, they can be difficult to exterminate. Fleas can also cause fatal anemia in some dogs.

Ticks can cause several conditions, the ASPCA says, including Lyme disease, canine ehrlichiosis, canine anaplasmosis and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Not only are these illnesses serious, the ASPCA says, but some can be passed to humans.

Additionally, mosquitoes can cause heartworms, a potentially fatal condition if ignored. Other worms such as hookworms and roundworms can cause serious health problems. And humans can host such intestinal worms.

But there are many good products on the market that will help with these issues, the ASPCA says. They recommend talking with your vet about the right products.

The good news is that you can find many effective products to protect your dog from parasites and parasite-related disease. Ask your veterinarian for help choosing and using the right products for your dog.

Other essentials

*An identification tag with a current phone number. You should consider microchipping your dog, the ASPCA says, so her owner can be found even if her collar has fallen off. For more information about microchipping, visit

*Fresh water and a travel bowl. Just like you, your dog needs to stay hydrated.

*First aid kit Your vet can tell you what you need. You can bring a tick pick, the ASPCA says, to pull off the insects from your dog. Also, have the address of the nearest animal emergency clinic.

*A reflective leash or collar to make sure your animal companion stands out if you are doing night walking or jogging. You should be wearing a reflective vest as well.

*A life vest if you go boating or canoeing with your animal companion. The ASPCA says that although some dogs take to the water, others won’t be able to swim. Know wildlife and plants in the area you’re visiting, so you can help your dog avoid any hazards.

Finally, the ASPCA says, dogs with light-colored, short fur can get sunburned, especially on the face and head, where fur isn’t likely to be thic.kIf your dog has light-colored, short fur, she may sunburn easily. Areas with sparse fur, like the face and head, are most susceptible. Before heading to the beach, ask your dog’s vet about the right kind of sunscreen to get for your dog.

The bottom line: You protect yourself and your family out of doors, and you’ll be doing most of the same for your pet. After all, dogs and other pets are part of our family and deserve good care!

For more information on exercising with your pet, click here for a booklet from the ASPCA.

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