As the first post in our new series, Wunderdog looks at exercise. Whether you are a new dog owner or an owner with a new dog, PDSA’s Kristiana Shirley gives us some basic rules about the right amount of exercise
From fat to flat-faced, agile to aged, our dogs’ exercise needs vary greatly. With rescue dogs, it can be even trickier to know what’s right, because we owners don’t always know the breed of what we adopted. Wunderdog asks Kristiana Shirley, a vet nurse at the UK's leading veterinary charity, PDSA, for advice – not least because of Wunderdog’s new canine editor, Goldie.
I just adopted a street dog and have no idea of her breed. What do you suggest?
In cross breeds, go with the stronger breed and use that as a guide for the exercise requirements. You can find our guidelines for breeds on our website.
Exercise is really important as it reduces the chances of obesity. Usually, your dog will tell you how much she needs – let her roam free and at her own pace, or if you are walking on leash, go at her pace.
Having said that, it’s more complicated with flat-faced dogs, such as pugs or Shih Tzus, because they can’t breathe very well. They want to please you and will walk beyond their capability – that’s when they get in trouble. Build up their stamina gradually.
My dog is fairly young – about a year. Are there different rules for puppies and juveniles than for adult dogs?
It’s important not to over-work them. Young dogs don’t know their own limits, and they try to keep up with bigger dogs in a pack. And please don't forget to get all the vaccinations up to date for your puppy before socialising (find information on our website).
For dogs of any age it’s very important not to walk them in mid-day sun. Heatstroke is a major concern, and you can find advice on our website how to help a dog that displays symptoms including heavy panting, dribbling more than usual, foaming at the mouth or – even worse – blood coming from mouth or nose.
I advise dog owners – specially now that it’s getting hotter – to plan their route, bring water for both of you, and watch your dog: if he/she pants and lags behind, go home.
Do you deal with heatstroke at lot at PDSA?
Yes. It happens a lot during lunchtime walks, but also on the weekends. Some owners are ‘weekend warriors’ who over-compensate for the lack of exercise during the week. A long walk on the weekend doesn’t make up for a boring week, and it can lead to over-exercising and heatstroke.
What other signs that we are over-doing it should dog owners watch out for?
Joint problems can occur, particularly in over-weight or old dogs. Arthritis is quite common in oldies, which makes them reluctant to jump on the sofa, go up and down the stairs, and they can be quite stiff the day after a long walk. For older dogs hydrotherapy is a great way to relieve joint pain.
In over-weight dogs, it is important to slim them down before starting serious exercise. Do not take a fat dog for a run – diet first! Build up exercise gradually and keep up a healthy diet. Also, PDSA runs the Pet Fit Club every year, where we crown the biggest losers. Find out more on our Pet Fit Club page.
PDSA offers vet care at reduced rates for people who receive eligible benefits and live in a PDSA catchment area. PDSA is a charity and currently fundraising for a new animal hospital in Manchester. To find out more and to donate, please visit PDSA.