How often should I walk my dog?
19 May, 2017
It is 5:45am, dark and cool, what do you need to do? If you say, pull up the blanket, sleep for another half hour and walk the dog later then read on…
Regularly skimping on your dog’s daily exercise can seriously affect their health, especially if they are an older dog or rehabilitating from an injury.
Lack of physical activity can lead to….
Muscle atrophy – loss of muscle mass
Muscle atrophy or at least weakness can occur after only a few days of inactivity due to changes in protein synthesis in the skeletal muscles. Short periods of inactivity can result in a decrease in the rate protein synthesis required to maintain muscle mass and an increase in the rate of muscle protein breakdown.
Reduction in muscle mass equates to a decline in muscle strength and endurance. When the muscles surrounding a joint are weakened this can place stress on the joint which can exacerbate the symptoms of joint disease. Weakened muscles can also cause the dog to move abnormally, like shifting their weight to a different limb. Compensation during movement results in muscle strain and ultimately leads to injury. In a dog that is rehabilitating, compensatory muscle strain can cause secondary injuries which slows the healing process.
Indications from human studies are that the rate of muscle loss is greatest in the early stages of disuse; another reason not to skip your dog’s daily walk.
Higher levels of physical activity that require active muscle contractions stimulates protein synthesis rates and maintains muscle mass and strength. This is particularly important for ageing dogs, so their muscles maintain their functional capacity. In older humans, there is a marked decrease in their ability to regain muscle loss after a period of disuse or inactivity even when activity levels are resumed. Another reason to keep up your dog’s daily exercise regime.
Bones also weaken when dogs are not moving sufficiently. Lack of physical activity results in bone resorption rates increasing and bone deposition rates decreasing. This process results in weakness in the skeletal structure.
Healthy bones requires loading forces such as walking or trotting to maintain their strength.
Loss of strength in ligaments and tendons
Ligaments connect bones to one another. Their mass and strength decreases when the dog is not doing sufficient physical activity. Loss of ligament strength increases the dog’s risk of serious ligament damage such as ruptured cruciate ligaments.
Similarly, tendon mass and strength decreases when the dog is not moving. Lack of activity, results in changes in collagen synthesis in the tendons. Weakened tendons affects muscle function and makes them more prone to injury.
Thinning articular cartilage
With lack of physical activity, the surface layer of articular cartilage thins. The articular cartilage is located on the end of bones that meet or articulate at a joint. The purpose of the cartilage is to protect the bones from abrading against each other. Thinning of the articular cartilage increases the risk of developing or the progression of joint disease such as osteoarthritis.
Healthy circulatory system
Regular physical activity, lasting more than 15 minutes, can increase capillary density and vascularity of the muscle tissue. Good circulation to the dog’s skeletal muscles ensures sufficient oxygen and nutrients are delivered and metabolic waste produced from muscle contractions is efficiently removed.
Other benefits of a healthy circulatory system include delivering oxygen and substrates to the organs and other tissues so they can perform their functions. This benefits the dog’s health generally.
A healthy circulatory system also aids in regulating the dog’s body temperature, which is a consideration as the weather cools.
Lack of physical activity can adversely affect the rehabilitation program of dogs that are healing from an injury or have a chronic condition.
Quality of life
Apart from the physical health benefits of exercise, dogs seem to enjoy getting out and exploring their world. As dog carers, we typically believe our dogs’ quality of life is better if they are able to run, sniff and play in the natural environment.
So you know that physical activity is necessary for your dog but walking around in the dark is not your cup of tea. What is the solution?
Easy…. A dog walker.
Brisbane has a range of professional dog walkers who are able to tailor a service to meet you and your dog’s exercise needs.
Here is a list of skilled professionals who work throughout Brisbane who may help you keep up your dog’s exercise and rehab programme through the cool, dark months.
Brisbane City Dog Walking
Generally, works on the south side of Brisbane.
Brisbane Home and Pet Services
Kat’s Kritters Pet Sitting
Works on the north side of Brisbane.
Spot the Dog Walker
Works across Brisbane.
So now you have no excuses not to keep up your dog’s exercise. Leave me a comment about your best tip for getting out of bed to walk the dog on cool dark mornings?
Until next time, enjoy your dogs.
Kainer, Robert A & McCracken, Thomas O 2003, Dog Anatomy: A Coloring Atlas, Telon New Media, Wyoming USA.
Millis, D.L, Levine, D & Taylor R.A (ed) 2004 Canine Rehabilitation and Physical Therapy, Elsevier Inc, Missouri USA
Wall, B.T. Dirks, M.L. van Loon, L.J.C 2013 “Skeletal muscle atrophy during short term disuse: Implications for age related sarcopenia” Ageing Research Reviews