How many times have you heard, “We have the puppy or the dog, to go for a run with me or my…” Many exercise enthusiasts would love to exercise with their pet. They imagine keeping fit not to mention sharing adventures and exploring new horizons together. Little do they realize that forced exercise would be causing serious lifelong damage and pain to their pet.
Before you inadvertently cause serious injury and likely permanent damage to your puppy’s or young dog’s joints and bones, there are a few things to keep in mind. First of all, never allow forced exercise to any puppy younger than 6 months. Forced exercise is any repetitive movement, over an extended period of time, that puts stress on developing joints and bones. That includes jogging, biking, rollerblading, skateboarding, or even pulling sleds or go carts.
Not all dogs or breeds are capable of extreme endurance and forced exercise. Particular attention should be paid to the types and amount of exercise that brachycephalic (i.e., short-headed) breeds can get, for example Boxers, English Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, and Pugs. Large and giant breeds, such as Great Danes, Irish and Russian wolfhounds, and Mastiffs, also require unique considerations when putting together an exercise program for dogs and owners.
Just like human babies, puppies have growth plates that need to form and seal. It’s called an epiphyseal scar. If hardening of the soft area where bone growth originates is not allowed to occur, your puppy’s or young dog’s bones will bow because they do not meet end to end with the connecting bone. The epiphyseal plate is a palatal cartilage at the end of long bones. It can also be the location of endocrine bone disorders, fractures, metastases, and even infections.
Dogs have 14 sets of growth plates. With small to medium sized dogs, the process usually takes between 12 and 16 months. With those who will weigh more than 100 pounds, the process typically takes at least 18 months to complete. Most reputable breeders and veterinarians believe that large and giant breeds may not complete the process until they are about 2 years old. Be patient. Starting your dog too young will most likely cause concussion damage such as fractures or joint damage that can lead to arthritis, elbow and hip problems.
It is suggested that your puppy or young dog be X-rayed so that there is a baseline to work from. With that, your vet will be able to estimate how long you should wait for the plates to close and you can start exercising your dog.
While you wait for your pet to mature, you can work on his stamina. Focus on your cardiovascular and muscular development with non-stressful exercises like swimming. Swimming is a fantastic way to get and keep your dog fit, without straining bones and joints. It’s also a wonderful way to continue exercising your dog well into his old age, when you can no longer join him on those runs.
Once you get the go-ahead from your vet, start slowly. Don’t expect your puppy or dog to maintain his usual distance and speed immediately. They have to work gradually to achieve it.
Watch for heavy panting, limping, and whimpering. Your dog may be distressed or in pain.
Take lots of water. Find a shady spot. Give only a little water at a time. Dogs don’t cool off by sweating like we do. They need water to prevent overheating, dehydration, and heat exhaustion.
Run only during the coolest hours of the day.
Do not feed your pet immediately before or after your run. You are at risk for cramping and gastric dilatation volvulus (GDV), commonly known as “bloat.” GDV is the second natural cause of death in dogs.
Check his paws and pads periodically. It is much easier and more comfortable for them to be able to return home from a shorter distance.
If your dog shows signs of limping, isn’t comfortable in certain positions, won’t stop shifting his weight, fusses, seems in pain, shows no interest in joining you, or doesn’t want to be touched in certain areas, ask him to make. your vet
If you’re lucky, too much damage hasn’t been done and your dog hasn’t been sentenced to a lifetime of chronic pain.