Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Importance of Winter Exercise

Coastal Animal Hospital-Kitty Hawk
The winter months provide us time catch up on projects we put off during the summer and finally get to those pesky home improvement projects. Unfortunately, they are also the more sedentary months where the temperature falls, the northeast wind blows and our belt size goes up a notch or two.

Our pets, particularly our canine companions also see an increase in weight. It is important that we exercise our dogs in the colder months.

Us humans often bristle at the thought of going out into the colder weather, but for most dogs, especially the larger breeds, the winter is their summer. The milder temperatures are a relief from the oppressive heat of the summer months and is actually the ideal time for an increase in outside activity. Dogs stamina is increased and they have a spring in their step. It is also critical in keeping their weight down.

To avoid excess weight gain in the winter for our pets there are 2 options. The first is to maintain their activity level, which helps their joints and maintains muscle mass which is important in longevity studies. The dogs love the cooler temperatures and the beaches are less crowded enabling them to run unrestricted, so they are actually able to burn more calories in a shorter amount of time. If the dogs activity level is maintained this also allows their caloric intake to stay at summer levels.

The second option, which is less desirable, but adequate if maintaining their activity at summer levels is not an option is to decrease their caloric intake. This is critical in order to avoid excess pounds which put an increased burden on their joints and as well as their metabolic system.

Overweight dogs are predisposed to diabetes, hypertension and a variety of other health conditions. It is critical that we, as owners, daily measure our dogs chow intake with a measuring cup. This way we can know what their actual caloric requirements are and if needed make a measured cut in food if we know they will not be maintaining their summer activity level.

If your dog seems insatiable with a decreased volume of food, then you should consider changing to a light or restricted calorie diet that increases the fiber content thus allowing for the total cuppage to remain high enough to satisfy their hunger.

So when the wind is blowing and Fido is staring at you take him out this winter for a brisk walk, follow his lead. Both of your waist lines will be happier in the end, and summer will be here before you know it.

Stephen M. Samson, DVM
Coastal Animal Hospital
Kitty Hawk, NC

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