Guest Post: the benefits of exercising your pets

Exercise is so important, not only in our lives, but also our pets. We have an obligation to make our pets' lives as happy as they can be and exercise is a big part of that. It is fun for you and your pets and allows time for you to enjoy each other’s company. Did you know exercise can actually increase your pet’s life by up to 30% and can decrease the incidence of orthopedic problems by a third!

Exercise keeps your dog trim, and helps to maintain muscle tone and actually helps build strong bones (sounds like Wonder Bread!) If our life consisted of a continuous nap, interrupted twice daily to chow down, we also would be a blob. Everyone needs to burn off at least as many calories as we take in or we will gain weight. It ain’t rocket science folks! Get up and make your pets move.

Here's a question for you: how would you like to have your dog or cat around for 4 more years? One of the fastest growing conditions in our pets, is diabetes. Exercise can greatly reduce the incidence of diabetes, in people and dogs. The typical pet with diabetes is an overweight, middle aged female. Much the same is true in humans. Diabetes in animals is almost always type 2, meaning it is not a genetic disease; it is an acquired condition, a lifestyle disease. In the USA we have more diabetic pets then the rest of the world combined. Not much of a surprise there.

Another great benefit of exercise, is that it actually increases new brain cell growth. What do you think about that? The cells that grow the most are in the part of the brain involving memory. So…exercise will make you and your pet smarter. Pretty cool huh?

There are other effects on the brain. Exercise has been shown to be as effective as antidepressants in people, when they exercise for 30 minutes three times a week. That is not very much time. It does this in part by increasing endorphins, the happy hormones. Those happy hormones also relives stress, And yes, your pets do have stress. Maybe not stress that we can appreciate, but it is there.

For me, cycling is my therapy. Now let’s make something clear here, I am not advocating your cat take up cycling, but I am addicted to cycling. I am at peace when I am on my bike. It helps me clear my mind. Exercise just calms our brain down and lets us focus on the good things in life.

Finally, for all you Lab, Golden, Weimeraners, Visula and puppy owners out there, exercise will improve sleep. Yours and you dog. It gives them an outlet for all that seemingly never ending energy. Get up and enjoy the outdoors, it was a brutal winter and we all need the fresh air.

To end here is a quote to remember:

“Never complain about getting old, some people don’t get the chance.”

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Dr_RiggsDr. Rex Riggs grew up in Wadsworth, Ohio, near Akron. Dr Riggs is co-owner of Best Friends Veterinary Hospital in Powell, Ohio. He is also on the board of the North Central Region of Canine Companions of Independence, a board member of The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine Alumni Society and Small Animal Practitioner Advancement Board at The Ohio State College of Veterinary Medicine.

Dr. Riggs lives in Lewis Center, OH with his wife Nancy, their dogs Maggie and Ossa, and cat Franklin. Outside of work, Dr. Riggs is an avid golfer and cyclist, and enjoys travel and photography.


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