Exercising with pets has physical, mental benefits, DVM says

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Owners exercising with their pets not only improves the health of both but can strengthen the human-animal bond.

Manhattan, Kan.

-- There are numerous exercises that pet owners can do with their pets that not only improve the health of both but can strengthen the human-animal bond as well, according to a Kansas State University veterinarian.

"Obesity is a big problem in pets just as it is with people, and exercising helps keep the dog's weight down," says Dr. Susan Nelson, an assistant professor of clinical sciences at KSU.

The amounts and types of exercises that are best for dogs vary widely according to their age, breed and general health, so a blanket recommendation for workout times and frequency can't be given, Nelson says.

But she does offer some general guidelines. For example, larger and working dogs usually have higher energy needs while smaller/toy breeds need less exercise. And, ideally, dogs should get out twice daily for exercise, from 15 to 60 minutes depending on the individual, and aerobic exercise should be continuous with few breaks.

There are some health concerns to take into consideration, Nelson adds. These include making sure the dog is in shape before doing long or intense workouts, acclimating them gradually to hard surfaces to avoid damaging their pads, taking precautions to avoid heat exhaustion in hot weather or frostbite in cold weather and limiting very young dogs to shorter runs until they are 12 to 15 months of age.

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