Canine Fitness Month with Helen Woodward Animal Center

SAN DIEGO (KUSI) – April is Canine Fitness Month which means now is the perfect time to focus on our furry friend’s diet and exercise.

Best of all, dogs’ enthusiasm for doing everything with their favorite humans provides a perfect diet-and-workout-partner.

Helen Woodward Animal Center Public Relations Director, Jessica Gercke, joined Good Morning San Diego to share some advice for canine fitness.

DOES YOUR PUP NEED TO SHED A FEW POUNDS?    Weight loss will increase your pets life span and decrease effects of heart, joint, and abdominal diseases.

FIRST STEP… FOOD!
• The weight loss formula for pets is similar to that of people; fewer calories taken in than expended will result in weight loss, and fat loss.  
• Animals that are picky or have specific requirements for their food can stay on the same food formulation and just reduce their intake by 20-25% initially.  
• However, sometimes pets are on unnecessarily high caloric food.  Foods that are high in protein and fat are typically meant for working animals and not every day household pets.  
• There are many over the counter weight loss foods available as well as prescription diets.  Discuss food options that are right for your specific pet with your veterinarian.  
• Remember that the vast majority of our pets are much smaller than people so changes of half to one pound are very impactful for your pets health!
• BONUS TIP:  If your pet does not seem full and continues to beg for more food, try adding canned pumpkin or sweet potato to add bulk but not increase calories.  Owners should slowly add a tablespoon at a time to leave their pet feeling fuller without unnecessary calories.

SECOND STEP… EXERCISE!
• When starting a new diet and exercise routine pets need to start out slow.  If your dog or cat is out of shape don’t push them too hard at first or they may get injured.  
Start with a small amount of exercise that you will both enjoy and increase by a 5-10 minutes increments every 4-7 days.  

• There is no one exercise routine that is best for every animal.  Each pet will enjoy something different and if you choose an activity they enjoy, the routine will be much more sustainable.  
Examples:  
1. Tugging on a rope toy,
2. Playing catch with a ball,
3. Toys that hold small bits of food may work if your dog is strictly food motivated,
4. Taking walks on a leash,
5. Running on the beach,

• AVOID EXTRA-STRENUOUS EXERCISE OR RUNNING WITH DOGS WITH ANY OF THE FOLLOWING CONDITIONS:    
o Many medical conditions will preclude dogs from running such as heart disease, respiratory disease, arthritis, recent surgery, or orthopedic conditions.
o Pets with short respiratory tracts such as pugs, French bulldogs, and English Bulldogs may also have a harder time running because they often cannot take in enough oxygen to support the activity.
o Young puppies should also avoid running because it can be hard on developing joints.

• CAUTION WHEN RUNNING WITH YOUR DOGS:    
o As summer comes closer consider the outdoor temperature as well as the temperature of sidewalks and asphalt to keep paw pads safe.  
o Dogs tend to overheat more than humans do because of their coat and the way they dissipate heat.  
o Be sure to bring water and take breaks in shade to keep your pet cool.

Categories: Good Morning San Diego, Health, Local San Diego News