Exercising with Your Dog


Exercise problem

Q: I have dog ( believe he is a rat terrier) weighs 17 lbs. Found him 2 yrs ago. I have recently started jogging and take him along. We go 1 mile. Actually I am jogging very, very slow and stop along the way for him to sniff and stuff. He isn't actually ever in a full run or even run...just very fast walk. I believe him to be 4 yrs old but cannot be certain. Question is this- after we jog, he is exhausted the entire evening. He lays around and cannot be coaxed to move. He isn't breathing heavy or behaving as though anything hurts...I am just wondering if this is too strenuous for him. We usually jog about 6pm and its hot...but it's always hot in So. Fla. Thank you very much for your time. Karen

Answer: I think that your Jack Russell will probably be OK with the exercise you have outlined but heat is always a factor. Seventeen pounds would be overweight for many Jack Russells. Running may help him lose weight. You might find that he gets in shape enough to want to run a little faster over time. Don't push this, though. Be careful and take your time and let him recover in the air conditioning as slowly as he needs to. If he doesn't begin to recover more quickly within a two or three weeks of steady "training" then it would be a good idea to let your vet examine him and make sure there isn't an inapparent problem. Mike Richards, DVM

Exercising with your dog

Q: Dear Dr. Mike-- I have a 19-month-old malamute-akita cross that loves to accompany me on mountain bike rides, hikes and cross-country ski trips. I always try to carry food and water for him if we're going to be out for any length of time, but I sometimes worry about his condition when we're on the trail. My questions: what are the signs of dehydration, overheating and hypothermia? Also, should I be checking the condition of his pads when we're out and what should I be looking for? Thanks for the information. Since I often see other people with their dogs when I'm out, I'm sure others would be interested in any tips you have to offer. Regards, Harold

A: Harold-You are right to bring water along for your dog. Dehydration does contribute to hyperthermia. Just like in people it is best to encourage your dog to load up on fluids prior to exercise on hot days and to drink plenty while exercising. I used to run ten miles or so a day with my dog when I was in high school and college (oh so long ago) and it is my personal opinion that dogs are not very good at handling steady pace long distance running but they seem to be able to adapt to hiking. It would be wise to pay attention to your dog's desires on the hot days. When he slows down, you should, too. These would be good times for water breaks. Most of the heat exhaustion/heat stroke cases we see occur on semi-hot days when overactivity occurs rather than on the really hot days when everyone is laying around exposing as much body surface as possible. The earliest sign of heat exhaustion is usually uncontrollable panting. This may be accompanied by excessive salivation. Shortly before muscle tremors, seizures, collapse and even coma occur the mucous membranes (gums, eye lining, rectum) start to take on a really dark appearance. In short nosed breeds there seems to be a very short period of clinical signs followed by "sudden" death. Bulldogs and other short nosed breeds can die in an incredibly short time when exposed to high temperatures. I know of at least one bulldog that died within 10 minutes inside the car on a hot summer day. The owners said the windows were open and a neighbor collaborated the timing. So be careful and use caution on the hot days, even though your longer nosed dog is less susceptible to this problem. If heat exhaustion or heat prostration or heat stroke does occur, get to your vet as fast as possible. Even if you just suspect this might be happening, go quickly. This condition can cause fatal complications very quickly. If it can be done quickly and won't interfere too much with getting to the vet's, cool your dog off with cool running water or a cool bath. Icepacks may cause constriction of the circulation at the skin level and delay cooling in some cases so it is probably best not to use them. Intravenous fluids in high volumes appears to be the most successful treatment for this condition. They bring the temperature down, reduce dehydration and help prevent secondary blood clotting disorders. There is very little information on footpad care for athletic dogs. I am presuming that this is because most vets don't see many footpad injuries from exercise. I don't. If I find some good tips for foot care I'll try to remember to post them. Mike Richards, DVM

Exercising with older dog

Q: I walk a lot and of course I take my 10 year old Golden Retriever with me. Jake loves to go for walks but I'm wondering if he should be taking these 2-5 mile walks with me? He shows a little sensitivity in his left hip but does not have displaysia. He loves to go and never lags behind. I go in the early a.m. or evening when it is cool and there is limited sun. Do dogs get too old for walks? I always thought that this kept him fit (as it does me). Thanks for your response. Linda.

A: Linda- I would advocate taking Jake with you until he decides he doesn't want to go anymore or until he indicates he can't keep up but stopping and waiting for you to return to him. Even if mild to moderate arthritis is present routine exercise is best, I think. You could use a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication such as aspirin or carprofen (Rimadyl Rx) to ease his discomfort if the left hip starts to bother him more. It usually isn't too hard to tell when the walks become a burden for older dogs but I suspect that is a while into the future for Jake. Mike Richards, DVM


Michael Richards, D.V.M. co-owns a small animal general veterinary practice in rural tidewater Virginia. Dr. Richards graduated from Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine in 1979, and has been in private practice ever since. Dr. Richards has been the director of the PetCare Forum...