Everyone needs exercise, including your pet

By DR. FRED SELF / Veterinarian

It is not unusual to see people out jogging along the street or to go to the gym and see a room full of occupied treadmills.

It is unusual to see someone jogging with their pet. Also, it is highly unlikely that you will ever go to the gym and see a dog on a treadmill.

Although taking our pets to the gym is not the best idea, getting them some exercise is important.

Like people, dogs and cats will gain weight if they are allowed to eat and not provided with a way to burn calories. We rarely think of our pets needing to be active. Our dogs seem always to be into something. Either roaming through the house or sprinting across the yard. Cats likewise appear to be investigating their environment on a regular basis.

However, the truth is that very few of our furry friends get enough sustained exercise to allow for calorie burning. As a result, like people, they develop joint disease and organ system failures.

The big question is, “How do I make my pets exercise?” It may be easier than you think. For dogs it takes about 15 minutes of walking without stopping to smell the roses or the tree trunks or the fire hydrants. That is not to say the walk should stop at 15 minutes, but it should last at least that long. Also, the first time out should be a shorter distance. Then build up over time. It does not have to be a walk around the neighborhood either. Some dogs will quickly learn to use a treadmill. That makes it easier for them to exercise when the weather is bad.

With cats you have to use a different set of tactics. It may be less time consuming as well. Few cats will use treadmills. In order to get them up and going you may have to play hide and seek with their food. Instead of putting all their food in a bowl, hide some around the house.

In order to eat their full meal, they will have to walk around to find it. Another idea is to provide your cat with places to climb. Cats like to sit on high places around the room. So give them safe objects to climb on, and they will get more of a workout.

Anything you can do to increase your pet’s exercise will be a big help.

Dr. Fred Self is a veterinarian at Shelbiana Animal Clinic, along with Dr. Charles Thornburg. You can reach him at 669-7717.