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A vet’s guide to getting fit with your dog

We know the health risks for us and our pets of being overweight (diabetes, heart disease, joint pain etc), so how about a New Year’s resolution to get fit with your pet? Exercising with your dog is great for your physical and mental health, and for your dog's too.

Boy running with dogThe festive period is over and the Easter eggs will soon be in the shops. It is possible to have an excuse for overeating all year round but Christmas especially always seems to be followed by endless diet advice in the press. Most of us overeat at this time of the year and I am sure, despite our best intentions, that our pets have been spoilt too with extra treats. So waistlines may be expanding for pet and owner!

We know the health risks for us and our pets of being overweight (diabetes, heart disease, joint pain etc), so how about a New Year’s resolution to get fit with your pet? 

Exercising with your dog is great for your physical and mental health, and for your dog's too. Some studies even suggest that dogs benefit two-fold from walks with their owners as they cover double the distance. A win–win situation – so what is stopping you?

Get yourself motivated

Greyhound looking out on a fieldTime may be an issue and perhaps motivation. It is never easy to motivate yourself to get up a bit earlier on a cold, dark winter morning to take the dog out. But it is worth it! I bet your dog will be pleased to see you and keen for a walk. And once you are out there, I promise you will feel good. Also think how happy your dog will be for that bit of extra time and run around with you - their favourite friend.

The NHS recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise as part of your weekly exercise regime. This could be your 30 minute morning walk and even better if you repeat it in the evening. Let’s start the year by thinking what would our dogs like – watch the T.V or go for a walk? Make their year by turning off the television and going for a walk.

A healthy dog is a happy dog

We know that too many dogs are overweight and are left by themselves for long periods of the day (as shown in the 2015 PDSA PAW report), which is partly why dog health and welfare is a BVA priority area. But let's make it a priority for all of us this year. Let’s make sure that we are there that bit extra for our dogs and keep them and ourselves fit, happy and healthy. Walking or running with the dog is cheaper than the gym membership and much more fun and rewarding.

Top tips for getting dogs fit

Yorkshire terrier running in a fieldHere are some tips for improving your dog's fitness:

  • Go the extra mile – on country walks or do an extra circuit around the local park but remember that your dog should be on a lead in the countryside when there is livestock around
  • Think toys not treats – toys that a dog can play with and get fun exercise from can get that tail wagging as energetically as treats
  • Join a club – lots of vet practices run fit clubs and weight-control clubs
  • Get the right diet – make sure that your dog’s diet is right for the breed, the size, the age and the lifestyle of your pet
  • Ask your local vet – your local vet will know your pet and its needs better than most. If in doubt about your pet’s health, exercise regime or diet, ask your vet

When exercising your dog in winter, remember to be aware of certain hazards cold weather and dark nights can bring. See vets' advice on winter walkies.

We are a nation of dog lovers so let’s show it by spending some quality time with them out on a walk and look after their physical and mental health – and it is good for owners!


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