The Importance of Exercise for Your Pets

Your pet's well-being and health are important to you. You bring them in for regular checkups at a pet hospital in Jacksonville, FL. You watch how much they eat and try to provide them with the highest-quality pet food available. But there might be one key aspect of pet wellness that you're missing: Exercise.

Just like people, pets need plenty of exercise and physical activity to stay healthy and happy for as long as possible. Learn more about why pet exercise is as important as diet and a regular pet checkup in Jacksonville, and what you can do to help your companion move more.

Exercise Helps Keep Pets at a Healthy Weight

More than half of the pets in the U.S. are either overweight or obese. Although many people think pudgy pups and chubby cats are cute, carrying those extra pounds can lead to health problems down the line, including a shortened life.

While giving your pet excess food contributes to weight gain, so does their sedentary lifestyle. If your pet spends much of the day lying or sitting around, they aren't moving enough to burn excess calories. To help your pet lose weight, making dietary changes and introducing an exercise program are essential.

Exercise Helps Pets Avoid Muscle Loss

Pets can lose muscle as they get older or as a result of illness or injury. In some cases, you might think that an overweight pet is simply dropping extra pounds or losing fat, when in fact, they're losing muscle. Losing muscle can make a pet weaker and can also make it more difficult for them to recover from illness or injury. The sooner muscle loss is detected and treated, the better the outcome for your pet. If you're not sure if your pet is losing fat or muscle, a visit to your vet can help to clear up any confusion.

If your pet is losing muscle, one way to help restore it or to help them keep the muscle that remains is through exercise. Your pet's vet can recommend exercises that will work with your pet's age and physical abilities.

Exercise Helps Pets Avoid Health Conditions

Pets who are overweight have a higher risk of developing a wide range of health conditions. Pets who are sedentary are also at a higher risk for certain medical conditions. For example, a dog who doesn't move much has a higher risk of developing joint disorders compared to an active pup. Sedentary cats have a higher risk of developing diabetes.

Other medical conditions or health concerns that exercise can help your pet avoid include:

  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • High blood pressure
  • Certain cancers
  • Kidney disease
  • Respiratory problems

If you're concerned that your pet might have or be at risk of developing any of the above medical conditions, talk to their vet during their next checkup to find out more about your pet's risk and what you can do to reduce it.

Exercise Helps Improve Your Pet's Behavior

Pets get bored, and sometimes when they're bored, they'll do things that don't make you happy. A bored dog might decide to chew all your throw pillows or might start jumping on you and others in your household. A bored cat might turn your couch into a scratching post or start scratching you. Other behavioral problems associated with pet boredom include digging, getting into the trash, and being overly active.

Helping your pet get exercise gives them a chance to burn off that extra energy while they do something constructive, not destructive.

How to Exercise with Your Dog

Dogs come in all shapes and sizes and a variety of breeds. The type of exercise that's best for your dog depends in large part on their breed, size, and their current activity level and weight. For example, if your dog has spent most of their time sitting for the past few years, trying to take them out for a brisk run could spell disaster. But a puppy who's got a lot of energy might be thrilled to run around your backyard.

Some dog breeds aren't suited to certain types of exercise. Dogs that have short noses, such as pugs, can have difficulty breathing if you take them for a long walk or run. Short-nosed dogs can also be more sensitive to the heat than other breeds.

As a general rule of thumb, start slowly when exercising with your dog. An older, out-of-shape dog won't be able to handle a long walk or hike. Since puppies are still growing, long exercise sessions aren't usually recommended for them, either. Knowing what exercises are appropriate for your dog will help you avoid a visit to an emergency pet hospital in Jacksonville.

Most importantly, find an exercise for your dog that they like doing. Some dogs love swimming and will jump in a pool and splash around any chance they get. Others are terrified of the water. Some dogs love to go hiking in the woods, while others would prefer the chance to run around a dog run with their friends. Once you've found an activity your pet likes, you'll be more likely to keep it up.

How to Exercise with Your Cat

The exercise needs of cats are different than those of dogs. Most cat exercise programs focus on play and are much shorter than the exercise routines dogs need. While you might take your dog for a 20- to 30-minute walk, your cat will get the exercise they need if you engage them in a few 5-minute play sessions each day.

Those sessions can take multiple forms. Many cats love the chance to run around and chase a feather toy. Others love to chase and try and catch a laser pointer. Cat trees give your pet a chance to climb, stretch their legs, and keep up their agility. Having a few different types of toys on hand will help you keep your cat stimulated and moving each day.

Your pet's vet is happy to work with you to come up with an exercise plan for your furry friend. Whether that plan means taking your dog for a walk around the neighborhood a few times a day or buying a laser pointer for your cat to chase depends on your pet and their current weight and health. If you have any questions about why your pet needs exercise or what you can do to get them moving, Forever Vets Animal Hospital in Jacksonville is here to help. Contact us today to schedule a visit and to find out how your pet can become more active.

Serving Jacksonville, Orlando, Nocatee, St. Johns, St. Augustine, Ponte Vedra and more.