Pets and exercise

All pets need some form of exercise, that is just fact. As do we for the same reasons. It is good for weight control, fitness, muscle building and good mental health – yes, our pets can become mentally and physically frustrated to the point of true behavioural complaints when not provided with the right exercise.

As well as providing them with what they need, exercising your pet gets you moving more and can be hugely enjoyable, not to mention can further strengthen the human-animal bond that you share. I truly feel I am a happier, more content individual (vet) through spending quality time with my fur-babies, playing and exercising together.

Below are a few suggestions of ways to exercise your pet provided by The Healthy Pet Club:

Dogs

  • It’s important to be aware that it’s your responsibility to make sure your pet has at least one walk a day so they don’t become frustrated.
    • Puppies require different levels of exercise to enable healthy growth. Over exercising can lead to damage to their joints, which can increase the risk of developing early arthritis.
    • A good calculation recommended by the Kennel Club ™ is to allow 5 minutes of exercise per month of age, up to twice daily. For example, a 3-month-old puppy will require 15 minutes of exercise up to twice daily.
  • It’s worth remembering that time spent out in your garden is not the same as being able to explore new and different environments like your local park.
  • Once your dog has reached adulthood there are various ways to exercise them, some of these are:
    • Running with your dog – benefits both yourself and your dog.
    • Fly ball – this is similar to a human relay race in that there are teams of dogs participating. The course consists of four hurdles which your dog will need to jump over to reach the end of the track. Once at the end, there will be a box of tennis balls (a dog’s idea of heaven, we know!) which your dog will need to stomp on to grab one. They must then carry this back to the starting line and once the line has been crossed the next dog will do the same until all the balls are at the starting line. This is a competitive sport so consider wisely!
    • Agility – ideal for dogs with high energy levels. It consists of running and jumping over obstacles. Again, this can be a competitive sport.
    • Simple game of fetch
    • Allowing to play with other dogs
  • It’s also worth remembering to exercise your dog’s brain and provide cognitive challenges, for example training them to bow on command or challenging them with a puzzle toy.

There are lots of other ways in which you can exercise your dog; these have hopefully just provided a few ideas to get you started!

Cats

It’s not just dogs that require regular exercise! Cats also need exercise to ensure they remain in good health and fitness. Obesity in cats is a common problem noted in veterinary practices and quite often it’s thought that owners perceive a fat cat as a happy cat. Alongside dietary intervention, exercise is a key factor in making sure cats remain a happy, healthy weight.

It’s often surprising to be told to increase a cat’s activity levels as they’re thought to be self-sufficient in comparison to dogs, and therefore don’t need encouragement to exercise.

The general rule with cats is to provide environmental enrichment and it’s often the case that the cheaper the toy, the more likely the cat is to play with it (typical cats!). Some examples are; cardboard boxes and newspaper.

It’s good practice to ensure you have ‘playtime’ with your cat from a young age so it becomes part of their normal routine.

Rabbits

Rabbits are also at risk of obesity and health problems such as fly strike, therefore encouraging them to run around in your garden is a good idea to help prevent this.

As most rabbit owners are aware, fly strike is a serious condition made worse by poor hygiene and obesity. As well as diet and cleanliness of their environment, exercise is a good preventative treatment.

Here are a few tips in exercising your rabbit:

  • Play tag – if your rabbit is running towards you, turn around and run away. After a while, turn and chase your rabbit. It may take a few goes but it will be worth it.
  • Hold up treats for your rabbit to reach – this allows your rabbit to stretch out their body.
  • Play fetch – you will be the one doing the fetch, however provide your rabbit with a toy and allow them to toss it around in the air.