Exercising our dogs is always important – how much is too much?
Let’s have a look how we can support our dog’s health and fitness during this pandemic.
I was reading a newspaper article about the risks of over-exercising your dog during the pandemic and can agree that dogs are visiting vets far more often during the pandemic than the pre-COVID-19 days.
Vets are seeing an increase in musculoskeletal injuries – lameness, shoulder and back pain, and of course, torn cruciate ligaments.
All of these injuries are often a result of either over- or inappropriate exercising. Cruciate ligament injuries in particular are common in dogs that are jumping or turning suddenly – think ball throwing and bouncing games.
Shoulder injuries are also common when dogs a suddenly skidding to a stop – think again ball chasing and repetitive stops.
It’s not to say that ball chasing is the devil, it can be a safe and pleasurable activity for both dog and owner. It needs to be said though, that ball games need to be engaged in with safety in mind.
My tips to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injury during these COVID-19 times:
Get rid of the ball chucker.
Yes, it’s amazing how far that ball goes. Yes, it gives your dog a fantastic chance to build the speed and drive to catch it. It also ensures your dog needs to stop faster and harder, increasing the strain on the shoulders.
Your dog will still get as much enjoyment out of a hand thrown ball as from the fling of the ball chucker.
Avoid high bounce balls.
This is a personal one for me. I love seeing Marlo bound along after the high bounce ball (or chasing the water hose). See where I’m going with this?
I don’t want to cause her pain from a cruciate tear, that’s for sure. The impact from the landing onto hind legs in extension is enough to tear the ligament. Or the fast twisting motion to bring the ball back to you for another go (or to run away to avoid giving it up!)
A cruciate tear is painful – watch the footballers (who also like to jump after a bouncy ball) reactions when they tear their cruciate.
Introduce exercise responsibly.
With many of us working from home, we now have an extra hour or so in our day. Spending more time at home with our pets, getting outside and exercising is a great way to refresh after a working day.
Exercise is important for pets, though like us, it would be unwise to attempt a 5 or 10km run without building some training. Even a daily 5km moderate walk may be too much for a dog who has until now only been walked the same distance twice a week.
Start by increasing your “usual walk” frequency by one day than your pre-COVID routine. On the other days, settle for a shorter route, or playing games, trick training or obedience classes (even if you don’t really need them, they are a great opportunity to work your dog’s brain and strengthen your bond). Continue to increase the days, duration or intensity of your dogs walks as you see your pup’s fitness improve.
Implement musculoskeletal support.
There are many options, products and opinions regarding joint support supplements. Not all are created equal and not all suit the needs of your pet or lifestyle. The best thing to do in this case is to speak with us here at Canine Remedial Therapy Services and we can help you choose an option that suits you and your dog’s needs. We do not sell or receive incentives any product, so you can be assured for an unbiased recommendation.
Massage & strengthening programs. This is where Canine Remedial Therapy Services can really make a better difference for your dog.
I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase “prevention is better than cure”. By implementing a regular treatment session with us, we can better prepare and support your dog while they regain and build their fitness. – we can help you both get to that athletic goal!
Plus, it may save your pocket by reducing the risk for a vet diagnostic work up or surgery!
Massage & strengthening programs also support your dog as she ages. Osteoarthritis, injury, stiffness can be minimised or remedied with regular treatment.
If your dog is unlucky enough to have a lameness, soreness – no matter how subtle. Check with your vet. Like many things, early treatment is generally more successful and less costly.
In the meantime, ease up the exercise until the problem is resolved.
We know that exercise is important for the health and well-being of dogs and as a vet nurse and a canine remedial therapist, I’m passionate about helping owners achieve this for their pets.
We do not need to be overly wary about exercising our dogs during these very challenging COVID-19 times, we simply need to be sensible in our expectations and also to think out of the box.
Our Victorian friends and family are less able to even go out to exercise their pets, that why environmental enrichment at home is extremely valuable. For more ideas on this, read my blog.
I hope this has helped, please feel free to comment, message, or call me if you need support or advice.