Veterinarians and physicians all agree: exercise is good for both the body and the mind. Working out relieves stress and helps people and dogs alike establish routines that help us make sense of our lives. However, those same experts warn that too strenuous or too frequent exercise can be bad for you and in dogs, even cause death. If athletes suffer from injuries related to their sport, then surely dogs can have the same problem.
But most dogs love to exercise. How do you know when enough is too much? Here are some key ways to know he’s getting too much exercise.
- If Buddy usually enjoys your daily run but refuses to go with you, check his paw pads (especially if you run on hard surfaces). Since dogs will tolerate pain for the fun of exercise, by the time Buddy refuses to participate, chances are his paw pads are painful. Look at the bottom of his feet. If you see tears, redness, thin or worn-away pads, or the swelling or pus of infection, he has a problem.
- Since your dog’s desire for fun is so strong, it’s up to you to avoid injuries and soreness associated with “weekend warrior syndrome.” Buddy will keep going until he can’t. By that time, his muscles might be extremely sore. Although you may not notice his pain when he’s having fun, you can recognize that it’s already too late after he’s rested. If he cries or struggles to get up, he’s in pain. Some dogs refuse to eat because it hurts to lower their head to the food bowl, and stairs are out of the question. Unfortunately, rhabdomyolysis may occur. This serious, acute condition leads to muscle death which the kidneys have a hard time dealing with, possibly leading to kidney failure.
- The heat of summer can cause heat exhaustion or heat stroke in a dog that overheats from too much exercise. If a dog’s temperature reaches to 106°, it can become life-threatening. Buddy can also become dehydrated and have trouble breathing. This is seen most rapidly in brachycephalic breeds, those that have short noses. Their flat faces make it even more difficult to cool off. And if Buddy’s an old or young dog, he may have trouble regulating his temperature.
- Extreme exercise—especially jumping—can damage a young dog’s growth plates, causing permanent injury. For dogs of any age, toe joints are particularly susceptible to strain or sprain injuries. Because dogs carry about 60% of their weight on their forehand, wrist and elbow joints are easily injured. Long breeds, such as the Dachshund, have a greater risk of injury to the back or legs. Too much exercise in older dogs may exacerbate osteoarthritis, causing immediate pain and often accelerating the degenerative condition.
Some people give their pets too many treats resulting in problems relating to obesity. Most people who like exercise don’t overfeed their pets. However, too many don’t recognize the damage they are causing by over-exercising their dogs. It’s up to us to protect our pets from our own excesses.