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Obesity in Dogs

Excessive Weight in Dogs

Obesity is a nutritional disease which is defined by an excess of body fat. Dogs that are over nourished, lack the ability to exercise, or that have a tendency to retain weight are the most at risk for becoming obese. Obesity can result in serious adverse health effects, such as reducing the lifespan, even if your dog is only moderately obese. Multiple areas of the body are affected by excess body fat, including the bones and joints, the digestive organs, and the organs responsible for breathing capacity.

Obesity is common in dogs of all ages, but it usually occurs in middle-aged dogs, and generally in those that are between the ages of 5 and 10. Neutered and indoor dogs also tend to have a higher risk of becoming obese.

If you would like to read how obesity affects cats, please visit this page in the PetMD health library.

Symptoms

  • Weight gain
  • Excess body fat
  • The inability (or unwillingness) to exercise
  • An above-ideal score in a body condition assessment

Causes

There are several causes of obesity. It is mosty commonly caused by an imbalance between the energy intake and its usage — eating more than the dog can possibly expend. Obesity also becomes more common in old age because of the normal decrease in a dog’s ability to exercise. Unhealthy eating habits, such as high-calorie foods, an alternating diet, and frequent treats can also bring on this condition.

Other common causes include:

Diagnosis

Obesity is diagnosed primarily by measuring the dog’s body weight or by scoring its body condition, which involves assessing its body composition. Your veterinarian will do this by examining your dog, palpating its ribs, lumbar area, tail, and head. The results are then compared to the breed standard.

If a dog is obese, it will have an excess body weight of approximately 10 to 15 percent. In the nine-point scoring system, dogs which have a body condition score greater than seven are considered to be obese.

lumbar

The part of the back between the pelvis and the thorax

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Noisy Breathing in Dogs

Stertor and Stridor in Dogs

Unusually loud breathing sounds are often the result of air passing through abnormally narrowed passageways, meeting resistance to airflow because of partial blockage of these regions. The origin may be the back of the throat (nasopharynx), the throat (pharynx), the voice box (larynx), or the windpipe (trachea). Abnormal breathing sounds of this type can be heard without using a stethoscope.

Stertor is noisy breathing that occurs during inhalation. It is a low-pitched, snoring type of sound that usually arises from the vibration of fluid, or the vibration of tissue that is relaxed or flabby. It usually arises from airway blockage in the throat (pharynx).

Stridor is high-pitched, noisy breathing. The higher-pitched sounds result when relatively rigid tissues vibrate with the passage of air. It often occurs as the result of partial or complete blockage of the nasal passages or voice box (larynx), or collapse of the upper part of the windpipe (known as cervical tracheal collapse).

The upper respiratory tract or upper airways includes the nose, nasal passages, throat (pharynx), and windpipe (trachea).

Noisy breathing is common in short-nosed, flat-faced (brachycephalic) dog breeds. Inherited paralysis of the voice box, known as laryngeal paralysis, has been identified in Bouviers des Flandres, Siberian huskies, bulldogs, and Dalmatians.

Acquired paralysis of the voice box (laryngeal paralysis) is more common in certain giant-breed dogs, such as St. Bernards and Newfoundlands, and in large-breed dogs, such as Irish setters, Labrador retrievers, and golden retrievers, than other breeds.

Affected short-nosed, flat-faced dogs with inherited paralysis of the voice box typically are younger than one year of age when breathing problems are first detected. Acquired paralysis of the voice box typically occurs in older dogs. Inherited paralysis of the voice box has a 3:1 male-to-female ratio.

Symptoms and Types

  • Change or loss of voice – inability to bark
  • Partial blockage of the upper airways produces an increase in airway sounds before producing an obvious change in breathing pattern
  • Unusually loud breathing sounds may have existed for as long as several years
  • Breathing sounds can be heard from a distance without the use of a stethoscope
  • Nature of the sounds range from abnormally loud to obvious fluttering to high-pitched squeaking, depending on the degree of airway narrowing
  • May note increased breathing effort; breathing often accompanied by obvious body changes (such as extended head and neck and open-mouth breathing)

Causes

  • Condition of abnormal breathing passages in short-nosed, flat-faced animals (a condition known as brachycephalic airway syndrome), characterized by any combination of the following conditions: narrowed nostrils (stenotic nares); overly long soft palate; turning inside-out of a portion of the voice box or larynx (everted laryngeal saccules), such that the space for air to pass through the larynx is decreased; and collapse of the voice box or larynx (laryngeal collapse), and fluid build up (edema) of the voice box or larynx
  • Narrowing of the back of the nose and throat (nasopharyngeal stenosis)
  • Paralysis of the voice box or larynx (laryngeal paralysis) – may be inherited or acquired
  • Tumors of the voice box or larynx – may be benign or malignant (cancer)
  • Nodular, inflammatory lesions of the voice box or larynx (granulomatous laryngitis)
  • Reduction in the diameter of the lumen of the windpipe (trachea) during breathing (tracheal collapse)
  • Narrowing of the windpipe (trachea; tracheal stenosis)
  • Tumors of the windpipe (trachea)
  • Foreign bodies in the windpipe (trachea) or other parts of the airway
  • Inflammatory masses that develop from the middle ear or eustachian tube (nasopharyngeal polyps)
  • Condition caused by excessive levels of growth hormone, leading to enlargement of bone and soft-tissues in the body (acromegaly)
  • Nervous system and/or muscular dysfunction
  • Anesthesia or sedation – if certain anatomy exists (such as a long soft palate) that increases susceptibility to abnormal, loud breathing sounds
  • Abnormalities or tumors of the soft palate (the soft portion of the roof of the mouth, located between the hard palate and the throat)
  • Excessive tissue lining the throat (redundant pharyngeal mucosal fold)
  • Tumor in the back of the throat (pharynx)
  • Fluid build-up (edema) or inflammation of the palate, throat (pharynx), and voice box (larynx) – secondary to coughing, vomiting or regurgitation, turbulent airflow, upper respiratory infection, and bleeding
  • Discharges (such as pus, mucus, and blood) in the airway lumen – may occur suddenly (acutely) after surgery; a normal conscious animal would cough out or swallow them

Risk Factors

  • High environmental temperature
  • Fever
  • High metabolic rate – as occurs with increased levels of thyroid hormone (hyperthyroidism) or a generalized bacterial infection (sepsis)
  • Exercise
  • Anxiety or excitement
  • Any breathing or heart disease that increases movement of air into and out of the lungs (ventilation)
  • Turbulence caused by the increased airflow may lead to swelling and worsen the airway obstruction
  • Eating or drinking

Diagnosis

You will need to provide a thorough history of your pet’s health leading up to the onset of symptoms. Your veterinarian will use a stethoscope to listen to the entire area from the pharynx to the trachea. If the sound persists when your pet opens its mouth, a nasal cause can virtually be ruled out. If the sound occurs only during expiration, it is likely that airway narrowing is the cause. If the abnormal sounds are loudest during inspiration, they are from disease other than in the chest. If you have noticed a change in your dog’s voice, the larynx is the likely abnormal site. Your veterinarian will systematically listen with the stethoscope over the nose, pharynx, larynx, and trachea to identify the point of maximal intensity of any abnormal sound and to identify the phase of respiration when it is most obvious. It is important to identify the location from which the abnormal sound arises and to seek aggravating causes.

Internal imaging techniques, such as radiography and fluoroscopy, are important for assessing the cardiorespiratory system and to rule out other or additional causes of respiratory difficulty. Such conditions may add to an underlying upper airway obstruction, causing a subclinical condition to become clinical. X-rays of the head and neck may help to identify abnormal soft tissues of the airway. A computed tomography (CT) scan may also be used to provide additional anatomic detail.

In some cases, your dog’s physiological inheritance can make the diagnosis more apparent, such as with dogs that are brachycephalic. In these situations, your veterinarian will determine the location that is being most affected by your dog’s conformation and decide where to go from there.

regurgitation

The return of food into the oral cavity after it has been swallowed

sepsis

A medical condition; the contamination of a living thing by a harmful type of bacteria

radiography

A procedure of imaging internal body structures by exposing film

pus

A product made of fluid, cell waste, and cells

pharynx

A cavity in the mouth where the respiratory systems and gastrointestinal systems come together

stenosis

The act of making an opening narrower.

stenotic nares

Nostrils that are narrow or have been narrowed

upper respiratory tract

The section of the respiratory system that contains the mouth, nose, pharynx, larynx, trachea, and epiglottis.

tracheotomy

An incision into the trachea

trachea

The windpipe; it carries air from the bronchi to the mouth

subclinical

Does not show any signs of a disease

opportunistic

The ability to create a disease where a disease might not normally be found, usually due to an ill timed or unlikely weakness

mucus

A type of slime that is made up of certain salts, cells, or leukocytes

everted

Turned inside out

growth hormone

The hormones that stimulate growth of the body

edema

The collection of fluid in the tissue

brachycephalic

An animal with a wide head, short in stature.

biopsy

The process of removing tissue to examine it, usually for medical reasons.

inheritance

Transmitting genes from parent to child

laryngitis

Inflammation of the larynx

benign

Not being able to cause harm; the opposite of malignant.

malignant

Something that becomes worse or life threatening as it spreads

lumen

Any opening in an organ

larynx

The voice box; this is one part of the respiratory system

nasopharynx

The part of the throat above the soft palate

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You, Your Dog, and a Flying Disc

Some dogs are just born to fly. You see them at the park, leaping high into the air to catch a flying disc, reveling in the pure joy of the perfect catch.

Flying disc games, commonly known as “Frisbee games” and “playing Frisbee,” after the popular trademarked Wham-O Frisbee toy, are popular sport, and in most cities across the country, flying disc enthusiasts will hold organized “disc dog” competitions with their dogs.

Dogs that are lean, weigh less than 50 pounds, and have a passion for retrieval are best suited to play flying disc games. What type of disc is best, and how do you go about teaching your dog to play? We will discuss the basics here.

Getting Started

First, make no mistake: while the flying disc is a toy, playing the game is a sport activity. It takes a lot of energy and stamina to be a good disc player. Before you begin training, have your veterinarian evaluate your dog’s physical condition. If your dog is one of the breeds that are prone to hip dysplasia, for example, you will need to have him checked for any potential issues that could be worsened by this activity.

It is also important that your dog has already learned at least basic obedience commands, and that you can rely on your dog to return the disc to you and not go dashing off with it. If your dog is still learning how to control the exuberance of youth and is in the training process, give him time to learn self control and obedience before advancing to more complex maneuvers like disc games.

Second: not just any old disc will do. A soft, flexible disc that is resistant to sharp teeth — made specifically for dogs — is best for playing disc.

Introduce the disc during regular playtime, allowing your dog to hold it in his mouth so he can become accustomed to holding it. Show enthusiasm and praise your dog if he shows an interest in the disc.  In the beginning, throw the disc low, at the dog’s level, as you would a ball. You can also roll the disc on its side — again, as you would a ball — and let your dog chase it across the room or yard.

Once your dog has gotten into going after the disc and returning it to you to toss again for him, you can move to the next level. Try tossing the disc a short distance outside — in the yard or at the park. Give lavish praise when your dog gives chase. You may even want to incorporate training treats when he returns the disc to you. Continue to throw the disc low, at the dog’s height level, and for only a short distance. To avoid potential injury, make sure you are throwing the disc to the dog, not directly at the dog.

Next is teaching your dog how to properly retrieve the disc. Make sure to choose a safe location, where your dog cannot accidentally dash off onto a roadway in pursuit of the disc, preferably a fenced-in area. Here is where training treats can prove to be beneficial in encouraging your dog to return right to you. A long training lead can also help you to reel your dog back. Just make sure it is a non-tangling type of lead. Choose consistent command words to use for bringing your dog back to your side and for commanding the dog to drop the disc.

As your dog gets better at catching, retrieving and returning the disc, you can gradually increase the height and distance at which you are throwing it.

dysplasia

A condition in which growth and development are not up to normal standards

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Why Do Dogs Eat Grass?

Dogs love to munch away on grass, and some even make it part of their daily routine. Fortunately, most experts believe it isn’t something you should worry about. So why exactly do they gobble up that green stuff in your yard?

Scavengers ‘R Us

Dogs, unlike their catty counterparts, are not carnivores. But they’re not like your garden-variety omnivores, either. For tens of thousands of years, these opportunistic scavengers have devoured anything and everything, as long as it fulfilled their basic dietary requirements.

The modern dog, partly because of evolution and domestication, is no longer like its ancestors, which frequently ate their prey entirely, including the stomach contents of plant-eating animals. Instead, dogs today seek out plants as an alternative food source. Most commonly the plant is grass — since that is what is closest at hand — but wild canines are known to eat fruits, berries, and other vegetable matter, too.

Clearly, dogs can find their nutrients in a wide range of plant foods, but that doesn’t explain why Fido usually throws up after eating grass.

roughage

A type of animal feed that is high in fiber; may include hay or pasture crops

opportunistic

The ability to create a disease where a disease might not normally be found, usually due to an ill timed or unlikely weakness

graze

The eating of grasses and plants that are low to the ground

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Vitamin B12 Supplementation in Pets with EPI

Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) impairs an animal’s ability to digest and absorb the nutrients available in food. Because there are insufficient digestive enzymes created by the pancreas, food passes through the body basically undigested. The affected animal will begin to lose weight and have loose, foul-smelling diarrhea. Animals with EPI eat voraciously because they are not able to gain nourishment from the food they do ingest.

Treatment for this condition focuses on the use of enzyme replacements in the food. Replacements are typically required for the remainder of the animal’s life. Other factors will play a role in this disease condition, and your veterinarian will need to monitor your pet long-term to see if additional supplements, such as vitamin B12, or medications are necessary to maintain control.

 

Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin) Deficiency

Both dogs and cats with exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (EPI) are at risk of developing a vitamin deficiency at some point. Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) deficiency is extremely common in cats with EPI, and is seen in more than half of dogs with the condition. Because the body can store up the vitamin under normal conditions, it may take some time before it reaches a critically low point. The reason an animal becomes deficient is that vitamin B12 is not absorbed from the food eaten by animals suffering from EPI.

Dogs and cats with EPI may be additionally compromised by decreased production of a substance called intrinsic factor (IF) by the cells of the pancreas. This substance helps the body to absorb the vitamin into the bloodstream. Without sufficient IF, the animal will have even greater difficulty in getting enough vitamin B12. In the cat, the pancreas is the only site of intrinsic factor production. and when the pancreas is compromised, IF deficiency (and thus B12 deficiency) results.

Once a deficiency of B12 does occur, the animal will have difficulty gaining (or maintaining) weight, even when he or she may have been doing well on enzyme replacement therapy. The dog or cat will also become lethargic and confused. This is because vitamin B12 plays an important role in intestinal health, as well as brain function.

Because of this, any animal that is not improving on enzyme replacement therapy should be checked for B12 deficiency to determine if supplementation is necessary. Your veterinarian will need to run blood tests to check your pet’s levels of B12 in the blood. Low levels of vitamin B12 are sometimes associated with another condition called small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). This build-up of bacteria can lead to B12 deficiency in dogs as the organisms bind the vitamin and make it unavailable for absorption by the intestine.

Treating Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Those animals who are not properly treated for B12 deficiency will have a very poor prognosis and will not show improvement when only treated for EPI. Because animals with EPI are unable to absorb certain nutrients and have a diminished capacity to produce intrinsic factor, giving them oral supplementation of B12 doesn’t help. Thus, the most effective method of vitamin B12 supplementation is by injection.

Doses are typically given weekly for many weeks, followed by every two weeks for many weeks, then monthly. Your veterinarian may consider teaching you to give your pet these injections at home, depending on the situation. Blood tests will be taken again after the course of injections has been given. This will allow your veterinarian to determine if the animal has reached sufficient levels of B12.

Your pet will continue to receive injections of B12 until levels are high enough and any secondary intestinal problems are improved. Once an animal has a normal level of B12 in the bloodstream, he or she should begin to gain weight and improve considerably, even in the face of EPI.

Image: aspen rock / via Shutterstock

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The Post-Workout Cool Down for your Dog

Did you realize that just like you, your dog also needs to cool down after a run, hike, power walk, or game of fetch? Dogs that work or play hard need their owners to look out for them. Here are a few basic tips for a proper post-workout cooling down. 

Hydration, Hydration, Hydration

Always be sure to take along plenty of water for the both of you when you go out for a long hike, walk or run with your dog. Stop for water breaks, maybe around every mile or when you see that your dog is panting, allowing your dog to drink just enough to quench her thirst each time. Don’t allow her to gulp large amounts of water at one time, as this can lead stomach upset or bloating.

One of the more practical products available for dogs is a water bottle cap that releases small amounts of water when the dog licks the roller ball in the spout; they conveniently attach to standard disposable water bottles. You can also use a bottle with a pop-up spout, so that you can control the amount of water your dog is drinking.

Cool Down

Just as a cool-down period after exercise is important for humans, dogs should be allowed the same luxury. Toward the end of the run, power walk or hike, gradually slow down and walk casually for several minutes to allow your dog’s body temperature and heart rate to slow down. You might even consider giving your dog a muscle rub-down or help her to stretch her limbs once you get home.

If it’s a particularly warm day, douse a towel in cool water and drape it over the dog’s shoulders. If your dog’s starts panting heavily and the panting doesn’t slow down even after you have slowed down for a water break, or he becomes disoriented or weak, call a veterinarian right away.

Forgo the Food till Later

You should not exercise your dog right after a meal, as this can lead to digestive upset or bloat. Keep in mind that your dog will no doubt be very hungry after a long workout. After a period of cooling down and rehydrating with water — small amounts at a time so he doesn’t gulp too much down — feed your dog her normal meal.

Body Check

If you have the fortune of having a place to exercise in the great outdoors, away from the urban sprawl, you will need to be especially vigilant about checking your dog for ticks and other small hazards after every outing. Check inside the ears, under the belly, and between folds of skin (e.g., armpits, neck) where insects might hide. Run your fingers through her haircoat and remove any foreign objects like burrs. Even in urban areas, your dog can pick up little bits in her paws and nostrils. In fact, part of your post-workout routine can be a thorough and relaxing brushing.

Foot Care

Don’t forget that feet are an important part of your dog’s body and should be given special care. Inspecting the toe pads and nails after a day out running or playing is of vital importance. Check carefully for any cuts, cracks, blisters, or dirt stuck between the toes. If necessary, wash the feet and dry them carefully before checking them over. If you see any serious wounds or damage to the foot pads or nails, check with your veterinarian for care instructions.

Image: bigbirdz / via Flickr

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How Long Do Dogs Live?

By Jennifer Coates, DVM

Dog ownership is one of the great joys of life. Our furry friends provide us with unconditional love, companionship, and more smiles than can possibly be counted. There are pitfalls associated with dog ownership, however. We can deal with the messes and other passing aggravations; it’s the undeniable fact that people live longer than dogs that eventually brings most owners to tears.

Thinking about the inevitable loss of a beloved pet often compels owners to ask, “How long will my dog live?” Of course, there is no way to specifically answer that question when it comes to a particular individual, but averages are available for many well known breeds, including the Golden Retriever, Bulldog, Dachshund, German Shepherd and Pug.

dog breed life expectancy, dog ages, how long do dogs live, dog lifespan

Reference:Dog Longevity, Dr. Kelly M. Cassidy

How Long Do Mixed Breed Dogs Live?

For mixed breed dogs, owners can use an individual’s weight to help determine how long he or she would be expected to live. In general, small dogs enjoy longer lives than do their larger counterparts. A recent analysis of veterinary records revealed that dogs under 20 pounds had an average lifespan of 11 years while those over 90 pounds typically lived for only 8 years. Medium and large dogs fell in the middle at around 11 years. (State of Pet Health 2013 Report, Banfield Pet Hospital).

But average life expectancy isn’t the whole story. The very definition of “average” means that many individuals will have shorter lifespans while others can be expected to live much longer than the norm. Perhaps a better way to evaluate a dog’s longevity is to convert “dog years” into “human years.” In this way, we can understand just when a dog is an adult, a senior citizen, geriatric, or the equivalent of a human centenarian.

dog years versus human years, dog years, dog age, how long do dogs live

Information about a dog’s expected lifespan won’t help blunt the pain of his or her loss, but it can help owners plan how to best care for their companions during the time we do have together.

See Also:

Last reviewed on July 31, 2015

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Exercising with Your Dog 101

Do you feel guilty that your pet doesn’t get enough time with you? It’s a trap that happens to most of us, but one that can be easily remedied. Here are some guidelines for enriching your pet’s life and health through exercise.

Why Exercising Your Dog Makes Sense

Big or small, young or old, dogs need to exercise daily. While some breeds have special needs that have to be taken into account, and dogs do slow down as they age, they still need to take part in some form of daily physical activity. Without activity, your dog will become bored, frustrated and unhealthy. Exercise tones the muscles, helps the body and metabolic system to function properly, and engages the mind. Anyone who has had a dog that suffers from lack of physical activity and mental stimulation will tell you that they will often turn to destructive behaviors — behaviors that magically disappear once the dog is getting out everyday.

Physically, dogs will also become obese if they are not allowed to burn off the calories they take in during the day. This is especially true if they are being given a lot of treats in compensation for lack of attention.

How Much is Too Much Exercise?

Though exercise needs are based on a dog’s age, breed, size and overall health, your dog should spend between 30 minutes to two hours on an activity every day. Breeds in the hunting, working, or herding groups (e.g., Labrador retrievers, hounds, collies and shepherds) will need the most exercise. If your dog is in one of these groups and is in good health, she should be getting at least 30 minutes of rigorous exercise along with her 1-2 hours of daily activity.

Requirements aren’t as easily established for every other dog. Because most dogs are of mixed heritage, their needs will be different depending on the breed they are descended from. If your dog is a short nosed breed, like a Bulldog, for example, he will not need a lot of daily exercise. A casual walk around the neighborhood will be sufficient. Pay attention to your dog’s signals. If he is restless or pacing, he is probably itching to get out for a nice long walk. If, on the other hand, your dog is content to just lie around, there may not be such a great need for exercise. A short walk will be enough to keep everything in order.

Dogs that are less active or older may have conditions that are slowing them down. Whether it is because of too much weight, achy joints and muscles, or they just like to mellow out most of the time, they still need some activity to keep the body working as it should.

Even dogs that are handicapped, like those that use specially equipped wheelchairs or carts, often enjoy a walk through the neighborhood. Some can even continue to take part in water activities!

If you have any concerns about whether your dog can handle a long walk or whether you should implement an exercise plan for her, talk to your veterinarian. You don’t want to pressure your dog into doing things that are too strenuous or you could end up with bigger problems. Start slow if your dog has not been accustomed to being physically active, and observe her response, adding more activities or more mileage as she gets stronger. Your dog should be happily tired, not exhausted, when you are done exercising her for the day.

Tips Before Beginning an Exercise Program

Before you begin an exercise program with your dog, be sure to visit your veterinarian for a health check. Your doctor can recommend an exercises plan that is appropriate for your dog’s age, breed and condition. Plan to start out slowly and work your way up to longer walking or playing routines as they seem suitable. Additionally, don’t forget to allow for a warm-up period and cool-down time at the end of your session. A leisurely walk to the park or around the block before exercise should be enough to warm the muscles and prepare them for a serious game of catch.

And don’t forget that mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise. Don’t be afraid of taking new running paths with your dog, going to different dog parks in your area, or introducing new toys and games to your routine. Most importantly, spend time exercising daily, not just on the weekends, even if only for a short time. At the very least, dogs and humans alike can benefit from 30 minutes of physical activity each day. Start simple, without putting pressure on yourself or your dog, and you will find that you are both looking forward to this happy time of the day — every day.

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Biking With Your Dog…Safely

 

Are you a biker who feels guilty every time you buckle your helmet on and head out the door as your dog whines sadly, knowing that you’re going off to have fun without her? Maybe you have been worried that your dog can’t keep up with you, or that her leash will get caught in the bike wheels, but there are ways to include your dog in the ride. Here are a few of the basics.  

Getting Your Dog Ready for Exercise

If your dog actually has the energy and stamina to trot along side of you as you bike, great! This is a perfect way to get exercise. But even if your dog appears to be in the best of health, you should have your veterinarian check your dog over before starting a new exercise routine like jogging — which is essentially what this is. You will want to be sure that your dog doesn’t have any underlying conditions that could be worsened by strenuous exercise. Also, if your dog is overweight, jogging is usually not the best way to begin a new routine; it needs to be built up to with a regular walking routine first.

Once your dog has been cleared for exercise, you can buy the necessary gear. Essentials include a non-tangling lead; a body harness (attaching the lead to only a neck collar could be dangerous; attach the lead to a fitted body harness instead); a brightly colored reflective vest for your dog (you may also apply reflective tape to your dog’s vest); blinking lights for your dog and bike (you can get a collar that has lights embedded in it, or use an attachable tag sized light); a small first aid kit for little nicks that can occur; an extra lead for detaching your dog from the bike to do other things; and water bottles for you and your dog.   

Extras that can make the ride more enjoyable are dog booties — hiking grade to protect your dog’s feet from jagged objects and from slippery or hot (or cold) concrete; a bike lead “baton” that can be attached to the body of the bike to hold the lead — and the dog — away from the bike’s wheels (as opposed to holding the lead up by the handlebars); reflective rain gear or cold weather cover-ups for inclement weather; and a dog backpack so your dog can carry her own water bottle and treats.

Getting Used to Riding

If your dog has never been around your bike before, start off by walking the bike along with the dog — you on one side and your dog on the other — just to get her acquainted with being attached to the bike. If possible, try to use paths that are soft, like grassy or dirt paths.

As you do these practice “runs,” begin using the commands you will be using for biking, such as for slowing down, making turns, stopping, or for bringing your dog’s attention back to you when she is distracted by something. Try (as best as possible) to choose words that are specific to you and your dog so that she is not confused by hearing other people use the words. Over time she will become accustomed to these new commands and will be able to anticipate your actions

Don’t expect your dog to be able to run for long distances in the beginning. Just like us, dogs need some time to acclimate to an exercise routine. Start off by riding at a walking speed on an easy path for a short distance. As she gets used to this over a week or two, build up to a trotting speed after a ten minute warm-up walk. Observe your dog at all times and stop immediately if she appears tired, is panting heavily, drooling excessively, or loses coordination (this may be signs of hyperthermia). If she seems to be slowing down, stop and allow her to rest and have a drink.

Remember, this isn’t a race. Pedal at a pace that will allow your dog to keep up easily. Watch your dog closely. Any distraction (another dog, animal, or person) that causes your dog to pull away can cause both of you to take a tumble.

During the ride and when you take breaks, remember to give your dog lots of praise for being a good biking partner.  

hyperthermia

High body temperature

acclimate

To become accustomed to new actions, surroundings, environment, or companions. Ex: a dog may need to acclimate himself to a new home upon adoption from a shelter.

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Acupuncture for Pets

Getting to the Point with Needles and Other Veterinary Acupuncture Treatments

By Patrick Mahaney, VMD

Should you pursue acupuncture for your pet? This is a prickly question that should be answered by a veterinarian having been trained in traditional Chinese veterinary medicine (TCVM).

The appropriate application of TCVM treatments, including acupressure, acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and food energy therapy can be integrated into western (conventional) treatments as there are aspects of both perspectives that can work synergistically. Additionally, by integrating western and TCVM approaches, a veterinarian can achieve a thorough evaluation of a pet’s entire body to appropriately suggestion a combination of prevention and treatment.

Acupuncture and TCVM can benefit all life stages (juvenile, adult, and senior) and a variety of conditions. Determining and resolving the underlying reasons illness are occurring is one of the aspects of TCVM’s approach that can reduce the cumulative effect of chronic illness. Since most pets’ health problems are diagnosed once illness has become very advanced, it’s vital to strive to prevent disease from occurring.

What Can Veterinary Acupuncture Do for My Dog or Cat?

  1. Veterinary acupuncture stimulates the release of the body’s own pain relieving and anti-inflammatory substances. 
  2. Relaxation of muscles at the site of needle insertion and more distant locations body is achieved with veterinary acupuncture treatment, creating both a local and generalized pain relieving effect.
  3. Veterinary acupuncture improves tissue blood flow, oxygenation, and removal of metabolic wastes and toxins.
  4. Unlike prescription and over the counter pain medications, veterinary acupuncture lacks potential adverse side effects for your pet’s internal organs.
  5. Your pet’s medications or supplements will not adversely interact with veterinary acupuncture treatment; therefore it can safely be used to treat a variety of illnesses.

How Does Veterinary Acupuncture Work?

The goal of acupuncture is to promote the body to heal itself. From a Traditional Chinese Veterinary Medicine (TCVM) perspective, veterinary acupuncture encourages healing by correcting energy imbalances in the body. Acupuncture enhances blood circulation, nervous system stimulation, and the release of anti-inflammatory and pain relieving hormones.

Acupuncture involves the insertion of needles into body tissue where nerve bundles and blood vessels come together. These collections of nervous and vascular tissue are termed acupuncture points, which course over all aspects of the body’s surface on meridians (energy channels). The meridians permit a cycle of energy to occur throughout the entire body over the course of the day’s 24 hours.

Besides needle insertion, other acupuncture treatments include:

Acupressure

Administration of pressure to acupuncture points to elect an effect comparable to needle insertion. This is great for hard to reach locations, behaviorally challenging pets, and for circumstances needle treatment may not be available.

Aquapuncture

Injection of liquids (homeopathics, diluted vitamin B12, chondroprotectant medications [Polysulfated Glycosaminoglycans= PSGAG], etc). The liquid exerts an energetic change by pushing tissue out of the way.

Moxibustion

Application of a heated Chinese herbal compound to needles. Heat is very beneficial to pets that are older or suffering from conditions involving joint stiffness and/or muscular soreness.

Electrostimulation (Estim)

Coursing electric current into the body between needles inserted into acupuncture points. Estim relaxes spasming muscles and can aid the body in reestablishing nervous impulses when nerve damage has occurred (nerve root or spinal cord damage from a ruptured intervertebral disc, etc).

Laser

Using laser energy to stimulate acupuncture points. This “hot” topic in veterinary physical rehabilitation is actually very “cool,” as most lasers don’t generate significant heat that burns hair or skin. Lasers are great for providing “needle-less” acupuncture treatments especially on patients that don’t readily tolerate needle insertion.

nerve

A bundle of fibers that are used in the process of sending impulses through the body

pancreatitis

A medical condition in which the pancreas becomes inflamed

lethargy

The condition of being drowsy, listless, or weak

laser

A type of light device that transfers a bright beam; this is used for many medical purposes

intervertebral disc

The padding found between the vertebrae that keeps them from rubbing together

arthritis

A medical condition in which the joints become inflamed and causes a great deal of pain.