Preventing Congestive Heart Failure in Dogs Through Exercise

Congestive heart failure in dogs can be the result of parasitical heartworm infection, or even caused by congenital deformity. However, obesity can also put your dog at risk for congestive heart failure. Here are some ways in which you can use an exercise program to prevent congestive heart failure.

Maintain a Lean, Healthy Dog

Don't wait until your dog becomes obese to start making sure he gets plenty of exercise. Walk your dog two or three times a day from the time he is a puppy. Your dog might also enjoy swimming, jogging, running alongside your bike, or playing fetch.

Play With Your Dog

A daily play session is a great way to make sure your dog gets plenty of exercise; it also allows the two of you to form a strong relationship. Outdoor games played with balls, sticks, and Frisbees are always fun, but even if the weather is bad, you can play with your dog indoors.

If you have a multi-level home, encourage your dog to run up and down the steps. This is great exercise for him. You can also play quiet games inside; use soft, plush toys to play fetch or tug-of-war in a living area. You can teach your dog tricks to help tone his muscles and sharpen his mind.

Consider Your Dog's Special Needs

If your dog has special needs due to an illness, don't let that stop you from instituting an exercise regimen. All dogs need exercise, even dogs who are ill. But consult your veterinarian to make sure the program you have in mind isn't too much for him. If your dog is at risk for canine congestive heart failure due to a congenital heart defect, as is often the case, he may be able to perform only mild exercise.

Don't Push Too Hard

If your dog is already obese, then his risk of congestive hear failure is high and you'll want to take steps to reduce it immediately. However, you'll have to approach exercise more slowly with an obese dog. Start with short bouts of exercise, ten to fifteen minutes long, several times a day; allow your dog to set the pace. You may also want to consider a weight-loss diet in conjunction with exercising your obese dog to prevent canine heart disease.

If your dog is obese, remember that many forms of exercise, especially those involving running and walking, can place additional strain on his joints. If your obese dog is older, he may be at especially high risk for arthritis as well as canine congestive heart failure. Choose a low-impact form of exercise, such as swimming.