Exercise boosts pet health!

OK, let us accept up front that exercise is a loose term when it comes to pet health. It really is a "horses for courses" scenario with the species of pet you own determining how much and what sort of activities the pet needs.

Other factors that may play a role (and might call for exercise restriction!) include age (young and growing, old), weight (over or under), athritic conditions, heart disease etc.

Let us, for the moment, put aside the less athletic types of pets (fish, cagebirds etc) and cats (for whom running madly around at the behest of a human is way below their dignity!) However, more on cats later.

Exercise is one of the joys of life. When you are fit and in good shape, you not only feel good but also can deal with crises far more effectively. You can of course overdo it and then the positive benefits of exercise can be negated by the negative effects of overstressing the body. The same applies to pets. Whether it is a hamster on a wheel in a cage or a sheepdog tearing over the field, the sheer exultation of exercise is clear to see.

Most pets are self limiting when it comes to exercise. Given the choice, they will exercise until they are tired and will then stop. It's when a human gets involved that the boundary tends to be pushed and this is when problems can arise.

It is therefore vitally important that you understand your pets exercise limitations. For example, when you go running with your dog, take into account the weather. Dogs get rid of excess body heat by panting. They do not perspire and their ability to decrease their body temperature is not as good as ours. Thus running on a lead with you, especially in hot weather, can result in life threatening heat exhaustion for the dog long before you feel any discomfort.This is particularly true of Brachycephalic breeds (e.g. boxers, Staffi's etc)

The problem of course is that they will run till they drop out of a sense of loyalty and devotion. The onus is thus on the human to be aware of the possibility of trouble brewing and to take the appropriate action - i.e. STOP, get the dog some water, and if the rapid panting and pounding heart rate does not return to normal, get the dog to a vet!

Exercise intolerance can be the first indicator that all is not well with your pet.This might be the first indication you have of a heart problem, or of arthritis developing. Whatever the cause, if your pet suddenly displays exercise intolerance -don't force it to continue! There is a reason for this change in behaviour and you need to find out the underlying cause. Note exactly what happens and consult your Veterinarian.

Some are built for speed and some are built for comfort! This is as true in the animal world as it is in the human world. In animals, some species are more energetic than others, while within a species, some breeds are more athletic than others.As humans we need to recognise these differences and take them into account right from the beginning. Don't buy a sheep dog if you have limited space outdoors and are not keen on getting out yourself.That is rapidly going to decline into a lose/lose situation.

Cats and exercise

Yes, well. Although we have all seen or heard of the odd individual cat enjoying a stroll on a lead with it's owner, the average cat will turn it's nose up at that sort of activity. Despite this, cats do love exercise - they just do it in a cat-like way! If you live somewhere other than in a block of flats, most cats will take themselves off to chase butterflies, ambush various innocent insects and climb trees in the immediate surrounds.

It's when they can't get out and about that you need to get a bit inventive. Visit your local petshop and you will be amazed at the variety of toys that are available that will keep them both amused and in shape.A good example of this is cat furniture which can come in an amazing range of shapes and sizes, all designed to amuse and exercise your feline friend!

Caged Pets

Here again, a visit to the petshop is in order (or you can utilise that budding engineering genius in you!). Exercise wheels, balls, pipes, mirrors etc all add interest and variety and encourage these pets to move and explore.Try to change the placement of these toys regularly and buy new ones whenever you can think of an excuse to do so.

Other Pets

Some pets just don't lend themselves to the traditional forms of exercise. Aquarium fish, Rabbits, Snakes and the like are in a league of their own - they do their own thing regardless. The secret here is to make their environment as stimulating and as spacious as possible and let them get on with it.


There is no doubt that exercise , in it's broadest sense, is good for pets and their health. Some thought needs to go into the "how" this is going to be achieved and one needs to be aware of the potential hazards and limitations that individual pets may face. But get it right and you will have made a huge contribution to having a healthy and happy pet in the household.