It’s no secret that regular physical activity is beneficial to the health of both people and animals. Maintaining mobility is especially important for pets with osteoarthritis (OA). The great thing about walking is that the duration, frequency and intensity can all be adjusted based on the individual pet’s needs. Plus, dogs make great exercise partners and can help motivate owners to get moving!
- Walking is a great way to bond with your dog.
- Exercise, including walking, helps with weight control. Since dogs with OA often need better management of their weight, walking is an important part of a weight loss plan.
- Walking gives you the chance to get in tune with nature! Too little stimulation can contribute to a number of behavioral problems, and a daily (or frequent) walk can reduce boredom, provide interesting sensory interactions and opportunities for socialization. If your dog is not used to being around other pets use caution if you meet other dogs on your walk and use a leash when necessary.
- The positive impact of dog walking motivates some people to get moving themselves. Having a dog as a walking buddy overcomes some of the barriers of finding an exercise partner. A dog always has time, as opposed to a friend who might not be able to schedule time. Dogs can also make walking more fun and help a person stick with the exercise program. Dogs love routine and once you get into a walking routine, your furry companion will likely not let you forget your daily walk.
- The key is consistent and controlled exercise. High intensity activities over a short period are more likely to cause injury.
It’s good for you too!
The Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI) Foundation recently announced the results of a study that explored what happened when participants were sent emails with incentives to walk. Pet owners were sent reminders about the benefits to their dogs of walking, and non-dog owners were reminded of the benefits to themselves. Although both groups increased their walking times, the dog owners accumulated significantly more walking minutes per week than the non-dog owners! The powerful human-animal bond can help change behavior in a positive fashion.*
A positive exercise experience is a happy and healthy one
Walking is a good exercise even for pets with OA, but be sure to keep the experience a positive one. Some pets will benefit from being on supplements or pain relieving medication before starting an exercise program. Make a pledge to take more walks together and reap the benefits of better health. Talk to your veterinarian about how to get started and then hit the trail!
*Randomized Controlled Theory-Based, E-Mail-Mediated Walking Intervention: Differences Between Dog Owners and Non-Dog Owners. Richards, E. A., N. Ogata, and C.-W. Cheng. Clinical Nursing Research (2016): 1-21. 1 July 2016