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Spring Training: Time for Your Pet (and You) to Shed Winter Weight

It’s a fact of life that we tend to gain weight during the winter months because colder weather and shorter days mean fewer opportunities for exercise.

What’s true for us is also true for our pets. And, just as with humans, excess weight on pets can lead to heart and respiratory problems, as well as an increased risk of skin disease and cancer. Obese dogs are also prone to arthritis and other orthopedic problems, and a poor diet in your cat can result in urinary tract infections.

Unfortunately, experts say that about 60 % of all adult dogs are overweight or likely to end up overweight due to activity level. You can tell if your dog is overweight with a "rib check." When you run your hands over your dog, you should be able to feel his ribs and actually see a waistline.

Get out and exercise

Now that spring is here and the days are longer, it’s time to get outside and get some exercise – for both of you. Young and middle-aged dogs should be exercised for at least 20 to 30 minutes each day. That exercise can be divided into two sessions of 10 to 15 minutes each.

Exercise can include a brisk walk, an active game of fetch in the backyard or a romp with canine friends at the local dog park.

If you want to take your pet running or jogging with you, remember that asphalt and other h ard surfaces can be damaging on your pet’s paws and joints. Choose soft surfaces or hiking trails if Rover is going to be your jogging companion. If your dog isn’t accustomed to strenuous exercise, start slowly. A training regimen can consist of running or walking your dog around your neighborhood, increasing the distance as you and your dog become conditioned.

Safety first
Ready to head out with your pet for some spring training? Be sure to follow these basic safety rules:

  • Always use a leash – except when you are in a fenced dog park. Even if your pet is well-behaved, he could dart off in pursuit of a squirrel or other animal and become lost or hit by a car or truck.
  • When you walk or run with your dog, always face oncoming traffic. This puts the dog, if he is heeling correctly, on your left – away from the traffic.
  • If you are going out for a long walk or run or to the dog park, carry water and offer your dog some every 20 minutes.
  • On warm days, watch for signs of overheating, including heavy panting or salivating. Dogs don’t tolerate the heat as well as humans because they don’t cool by sweating. If you see signs of overheating, stop and cool your dog down.
Not into the active lifestyle yourself? Enroll your dog in daycamp or a playgroup. It’s a great way to keep him happy and active. Your local Best Friends center can help you find a program to encourage your pet to stay fit.