As temperatures drop and the days shorten, many pet parents find it difficult to adjust their pets’ exercise routine to provide as much active play and mental stimulation as they need. And while it can be difficult to convince yourself to bundle up to take the dog out or play with the cat when you have so many other winter chores to do, exercise is vital for pet's health.
Regular exercise is the best preventative medicine for your pet. Just how much does exercise matter and how much does your pet need? We have the answers you’re looking for.
How Does Exercise Affect Your Pet’s Health?
Exercise isn’t just about staying trim and fitting into a harness. Exercise and maintaining a healthy body weight can improve your pet’s quality of life and lengthen how many years you have to spend with your best buddy.
Of all the things you can do for your pet, exercise has the biggest impact on your pet’s health. And they don’t cost much. In fact, walks, play, and games are free!
A Healthy Heart
Regular exercise has a direct relationship to your pet’s heart health. How much does exercise benefit your pet? The National Institute of Health concluded that 20 minutes of elevated heart rate is better for dogs than any prescription. The same is true for other pets as well.
Exercise improves your pet’s heart health by
- Reducing bad cholesterol and boost good cholesterol
- Reducing blood pressure
- Strengthening the muscles around the heart
Joints and muscles also benefit from exercise. How?
- Exercise lubricates your pet’s joints. Movement transports and activates synovial fluid which works like grease on metal machine parts.
- Exercise builds and maintains muscle which can help pets keep their mobility after developing arthritis or experiencing an injury.
- Strong muscles from exercise help support your pet’s joints, so they’re less likely to get injured.
- Strong muscles lead to better balance which prevents slips and falls that can lead to other injuries.
A Healthy Mind
When you play with your cat or walk your dog, you’re not just helping her body stay healthy, you’re providing her with mental stimulation as well. Exercise activates your pet’s mind for a healthier brain and less boredom. A lifetime of mental stimulation can reduce mental deterioration, anxiety, stress, and memory loss.
Other Health Benefits
Running, jumping, pouncing, and playing prevents excess weight gain and helps keep pets trim. This can lower the risk of diabetes, kidney failure, and cancer. A busy pet is also less likely to get into trouble.
Signs Your Pet Needs More Exercise
When pets don’t get enough active exercise, they can gain weight, become bored and depressed, and develop bad behavioral habits. Some signs to look for to determine if your pet needs more exercise include
- Destruction: pets often find an outlet for their energy. From your shoes to curtains to furniture, your pet may sharpen her claws, chew, or play with objects that aren’t toys.
- Weight gain: Dogs and cats should have an hourglass shape from the top. This means that her waist should narrow between the ribs and the hips. You should also be able to feel your dog’s ribs, and your cat’s tummy should not sag.
- Nervous habits: dogs and cats that don’t get enough mental stimulation can become neurotic and anxious. This can manifest as paw licking, excessive grooming, bald spots, pacing, separation anxiety, and general nervousness.
How Much Exercise Does Your Pet Need?
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all recommendation for how much exercise your pet needs daily. There are some guidelines that can help you determine if your pet is receiving enough exercise and how much exercise pets like yours need. We can help you find the right balance for your individual pet as well.
Play with Your Puppies and Kitties
Puppies and kittens learn from play and adventure. This teaches them social skills and coordination while helping your little fuzzball develop strong and healthy muscles.
When it comes to developing puppies and kitties, provide as much exercise and fun as you can. They’ll tucker out when they’ve had enough play. Having more than one puppy or kitty can help reduce your work since they’ll play with each other.
Avoid high impact exercises like daily running with your puppy. As their bones grow, high impact exercise can have a negative effect on your puppy’s healthy growth. This is even more important when it comes to large and giant breeds.
Fit and Feisty Felines
Contrary to what they want you to believe, cats don’t have to nap all day. Provide your purr-ball with several play sessions of fifteen to twenty minutes throughout the day. For those days you’re at work, you can supplement with battery-powered toys and catnip-filled play-things. Exercise will keep your cat in shape and help them rest better at night.
Dog-Gone Fun with Your Doggo
Breed: research your specific breed to find out how active they typically should be. Most medium and large active breeds need at least an hour or more of active exercise daily. Giant breeds often need a bit less exercise and smaller breeds get their energy out a bit easier.
Dogs with short snouts struggle to breathe while running or partaking in high-energy exercise. Be very careful when exercising with them. If you’re worried about your dog’s ability to stay active, we can help you find other ways to keep these pups healthy and active.
Age: Senior dogs don’t need as much exercise as they once did, but they do need to elevate their heart rates daily to stay healthy.
From Big to Small: Obese and overweight dogs need to start slow and gradually increase exercise as they lose weight. Too much too soon can damage your dog’s joints and put her at risk for injury.
Simple Ways to Help Your Pets Remain Healthy and Active
Exercise can be a great for you and your pet. Find the right toys, treats, and activities to keep play fresh and fun. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, you can make cat toys from craft materials lying around the house. For dogs, always check sales bins for frisbees, balls, rope toys, and other dog toys.
You can also create cat ramps to encourage more movement for your cat. And take your dog on hikes and to parks.
Help Your Pet Stay Strong and Active
As the days shrink, keep your pet active indoors, or bundle up and take your dog for an after-dark walk. The important thing is to keep your best friend busy and moving. It’s easier to stay active that get back in shape.
If you have questions about a diet to support your pet’s health or an exercise routine that will work for your pet, we can help. Give us a call.
Image credit: Josh Hild | Pexels