Health & Wellness Articles

How Much Exercise Does My Dog or Cat Need?

Find Out if Your Pet is Active Enough

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We all know that exercise is an important aspect of an overall healthy lifestyle. The same rule applies when it comes to our four-legged friends. Unfortunately, many of our pets are much too sedentary these days, which can take a toll on both their physical and mental well-being. A well-rounded exercise regimen is necessary to keep your pet looking and feeling his or her best.

Similar to the feel-good benefits we reap from physical activity, a sufficiently exercised pet is generally happier, healthier and less stressed. As a pet owner myself, I know that my pups never seem more satisfied than after a nice long walk or a trip to the dog park. But beyond how it makes them feel, a lack of activity can contribute to pet obesity, behavioral problems and even certain medical conditions. But how much exercise does your pet truly need to stay happy and healthy?

How Much Exercise is Enough?
Most veterinarians would probably agree that, aside from pets with specific medical conditions, every dog or cat can benefit from some form of daily physical activity. However, the exact amount can vary greatly. For instance, a rambunctious Labrador retriever puppy is going to require considerably more exercise than an older, more sedentary dog or cat. Factors such as age, breed and health status can all contribute to the amount of exercise your pet requires.

Here are a couple of general guidelines you can use to help determine whether your pet is getting the proper amount of activity:

1. Perform a weight check.
Assessing your pet’s weight and body condition is the first step in determining if he or she is receiving enough exercise. Just as with people, obesity can have a negative effect on your pet’s overall health. Overweight pets can be more prone to allergies, joint problems and certain medical conditions, such as diabetes. Excess weight can also hinder your pet’s normal daily activities such as running, jumping and even grooming. (Some obese dogs and cats are simply not physically able to groom themselves.)

Ideally, your pet should have an hourglass shape when viewed from above. If your cat or dog’s body condition isn’t up to snuff, it’s probably time to take action. First, talk to your veterinarian to establish that you are feeding a proper amount. Then, once your pet’s dietary needs are met, you can evaluate his or her exercise regimen. For pets that already have a fairly active lifestyle, this could be as simple as adding on an extra 10-15 minutes of walking or play time per day. For more sedentary pets, you might be starting from scratch. (Please note that even if your pet is already in good body condition, he or she still requires daily physical activity to stay that way!)
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About The Author

Kristi Snyder, DVM Kristi Snyder, DVM
Kristi is a veterinarian and author of LifeSprinkles.com, a healthy living blog where she shares her passion for wellness and inspires others to live healthy, balanced lives. She lives in Phoenix with her three dogs (Eddy, Alan and Jelly Bean) and her cat Smush. She loves animals, cooking, running--and all things chocolate.

Member Comments

  • Love taking my girl for a walk, but it's been brutally hot, and I have had to settle for indoor play. Now with the weather hopefully cooling off we can get outside more and I can get her running around in the yard playing chase or introducing her to some agility equipment I bought her for Christmas. Slowly of course. - 9/4/2014 10:12:39 AM

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