Get Out and Play!

Warm weather is a great time to have fun outdoors with your pet!

Obesity is one of the most common canine health problems, and according to the U.S. Census Bureau's Census 2000, nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults weigh too much. With warmer, beautiful weather on it's way, there's no better way for both you and your pet companion to spend more time together, and help both of you stay healthy and fit than to go out and play! Controlling weight and getting sufficient exercise are important for your dog. If you want to improve your dog's fitness and enjoy the healthy benefits of exercise for yourself...go toss a ball, throw a frisbee, break in a new pair of sneakers while your dog breaks in a new leash.

Carrying too much weight may also increase the severity of hip, back and knee problems, especially in large breed dogs. Diagnosis of joint disorders is often what brings an animal's weight to the veterinarian's and owner's attention for the first time. Pet dogs and cats add excess pounds as easily as people do for many of the same reasons-too much food and too little exercise. Our pet companions can lose weight the same way we do, by eating less and exercising more. Many pet owners try cutting back an animal's food by 20 to 30 percent, which may help some, but may find that reducing calories alone may not be enough. Simply changing only your dog's diet won't make them lose weight, but dietary changes combined with persistent daily exercise will.

Overweight pets are more likely to suffer from other diseases much like overweight humans. "Dogs and cats do not get coronary artery disease because they eat too much fat; their metabolisms don't work that way. However, fat dogs can get hypertension and congestive heart failure because they are overweight, and fat cats are predisposed to diabetes and fatty infiltration of the liver, which can be deadly. Owners of overweight pets will find that enlisting their veterinarian's help to set up a weight reduction program and exercise regimen will help a great deal. Working with a specialist trained in veterinary nutrition may also help. It is important to remember that specific reductions in calorie intake should be based on each individual animal's needs, for best success.

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There are lots of activities suited for nicer weather, that both you and your pet can enjoy. Try one of the following activities and reap the extra rewards of a closer bond between the two of you:

Take a Hike

Get outdoors in the fresh air, and clear your mind while your dog relishes in the many scents and sights that lay around the bend, such as a brook to wade in or a fallen tree to sniff. You'll lower your cholesterol, according to the American Hiking Society, and burn calories. The American Heart Association says a person weighing 150 pounds walking at a rate of 2 mph will burn 240 calories an hour. So, you and your dog can shed pounds along the trail, while enjoying new terrains and each other's company.

Get Agile

Dog agility training can bring out the athlete in both of you. Your dog jumps over hurdles, runs through tunnels, and weaves through poles on the course while you run alongside, coaching your dog through the various obstacles. Scoring and testing play a huge role in dog agility competitions, but you don't have to compete to get involved or have fun. You can also do agility runs at home on your own terms without any pressure. While providing a fun way to exercise, agility training can help you and your dog manage your weight.

Take a Dip

Swimming provides low impact, easy-on-the-joints exercise for dogs and owners. Swimming works many muscles at the same time, strengthening you and your dog's physique. If your dog hasn't been around water much, do assess first whether or not he likes the water and can safely enjoy it. Not all dogs are natural swimmers, and some are afraid of water.

Enjoy a Walk

Walking is always a great way to spend time with your pet and burn calories easily. You don't need to try make you or your dog athletes, just 20 to 60 minutes of persistent daily leash-walking will make legs stronger, tone muscles and burn calories for both of you.

Patience is one of the most important ingredients in trimming your dog down to its ideal weight, which could take anywhere from six to 12 months. Just remember to make the extra time spent exercising your dog, an enjoyable experience.and a great opportunity to explore new activities and great health for both of you!

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