Summer is a great time to be active. Being from the Pacific Northwest, where sunshine and warm days are few and far between, I try to spend as much time exploring the outdoors as I can. Whenever I hit the trails, I notice at least one dog working out with its owner. Even though my Shih Tzu doesn’t make the best exercise partner, it’s incredibly important to keep him active indoors and outdoors. But, just as with humans, you need to make sure active pets aren’t injuring themselves.

Here are a few things to keep in mind to prevent pet injuries!

  1. Lose the weight! By and large, the biggest reason I see for a dog getting injured is that they are already overweight. Any activity can be physically straining for an overweight pet. It seems like a catch 22: before you can keep your pet on a consistent exercise routine, you need to make sure you’re effectively managing their weight. The first thing you should do is talk to your veterinarian, he or she will help you come up with a plan to get your pet down to a healthy weight. Usually this involves monitoring and controlling your pet’s diet, and gradually increasing their play time.
  2. Build up! Once your veterinarian agrees it’s time for your pet to get more active, it’s important that you start small. You wouldn’t just go and run a marathon without training, and you can’t expect your pet to do the same. Your pet needs to start with easier activities before they can graduate to long hikes or runs!
  3. Always warm up! This is good advice for any active mammal. In order to exercise effectively, warm, stretched muscles are crucial. Make sure to take your pet for a short walk before doing anything more taxing.
  4. Beat the heat! When it comes to heat regulation, dogs and cats have two big disadvantages. First, they have furry coats that insulate them from the elements, which make them get hot faster. Second, they don’t have sweat glands all around their bodies, so they don’t have the same ability to cool off. You need to keep an eye on their behavior, if they’re panting or stopping more, they’re already very overheated. Make sure that cold water is always accessible and that your pet has plenty of time to drink it. They need to set the pace, not you. If your pet gets too hot, they can suffer from heat stroke.
  5. Keep watch! If your pet is showing any signs of lameness or lethargy, it’s time to stop and let them cool down. If you notice that your pet is having a lot of trouble keeping up, that’s a sign that something is wrong and you should see your veterinarian.

Getting exercise with your dog is a great way to spend a nice summer day, just be sure to be safe about it!