Fitness for Fido: How Much Exercise Does a Pet Really Need?

how much exercise does a pet really needAs the winter months come to a close, we look ahead to the coming spring. Uh-oh. It’s that dreaded time when the shorts and swimsuits come out, and many of us will be back out the gym, aspiring for that bikini body and working on our fitness goals.

Along with your own exercise plans, you may also begin to wonder about your couch potato cat or pup. Should they be getting more exercise? What’s enough? What’s too much?

The team at Rocklin Ranch Veterinary Hospital can help answer the question: how much exercise does a pet really need?

Every Animal Needs Exercise

While your gerbil may not need to do pushups and your cat doesn’t need to jog 5 miles a day, every pet is built to move their bodies. When exercise is neglected, health and behavior can be affected negatively.

It may be easy to assume that pet exercise always centers on our dog companions, but what about other animals? Indoor kitties require a lot of help in the way of exercise and enrichment, so allocating 30 minutes to playing with your cat each day is imperative. Even small mammals and exotics, like hamsters, guinea pigs, and birds, need toys and opportunities to move and practice their innate physical behaviors.

Breed Matters

With dogs, there’s no denying that breed definitely influences how much exercise a pet will need. High-energy breeds that require more exercise and play each day include:

  • Belgian malinois
  • Border collie
  • Cattle dog
  • Akita
  • Dalmatian
  • Golden retriever
  • Weimaraner
  • Boston terrier
  • Jack russell terrier
  • Boxer
  • Labrador retriever

It’s important to note that many small dogs, like terriers, need exercise – sometimes more than what we assume. Similarly, dogs who need less, like basset hounds, may need some prompting to get the necessary amount of exercise each day to stay healthy.

Exercise Needs Change With Age

The amount and quality of exercise changes with age. Also with age comes secondary conditions like arthritis or hip dysplasia. Even with orthopedic issues or other health challenges, your pet should still receive appropriate forms of daily exercise. This may include a gentle walk, swimming in a warm pool, or basic exercises focused on mobility and muscle strength.

Even in elderly pets, the risk of behavioral problems and obesity points to the need for daily exercise and enrichment. A great way to think outside the box (or the bowl) is to switch your pet to a challenging puzzle or game that dispenses meals, as well as soft chew toys designed for added engagement.

How Much Exercise Does a Pet Really Need?

Ultimately, this question cannot be answered by one or two factors alone. In fact, each pet is unique and requires different levels and forms of exercise to be at their behavioral and physical best. A good rule of thumb is to allow your pet to guide their own exercise needs by observing their reaction to different forms of exercise. A good 20-30 minutes of walking or playtime can go a long way!

For your cat and small pet friends, the use of wheels, climbing accessories, hiding places, and other great additions can make for exceptional indoor recreation.

As always, your friends at Rocklin Ranch are more than happy to assess your pet’s exercise needs! Please call us for a consultation. Wellness appointments are the perfect time to discuss your pet’s daily exercise requirements.