By Matthew Kearns, DVM
The first week of May is National Pet Week and it reminds us to spend a little more time with our pets. While my sister, Jenevieve, was spending time with her cats and talking to me on the phone she used the word “zoomies.” It was the first time I heard the word and she was describing a brief burst of energy. Her cat, Saulie, was running around the room chasing who knows what. My sister was very amused.
Turns out that zoomies are not only fun to watch, but also could be good for our pet’s health. A study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that just 75 minutes of moderate exercise per week, or 11 minutes per day can help all sorts of medical conditions in humans including depression, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. The same is true for our pets.
Pet obesity in America is a problem. It is estimated that 35-50% of pets are considered obese. Obesity has been linked to arthritis, respiratory issues, diabetes and other diseases. Exercise reduces weight, increases ranges of motion, and improves pet mental health acting as a bonding experience. In one study, exercising your dog 30 minutes per day has been shown to decrease compulsive disorders such as tail chasing, excessive licking, and spinning behavior. This reveals exercise addresses both physical and mental health of pets to not only extend their quantity of lives, but also improve their quality of life.
Exercise can be a variety of walks, runs, playing with other dogs, or chasing a ball or toy.
Keep in mind that some precautions should be taken. Remember dogs have a permanent winter coat on and regulate their body temperature by panting. The coat and obesity increase the risk of heat stroke. Certain breeds called the brachycephalic breeds (a smooshed in face) can naturally have difficulty breathing and regulating body temperature.
First do not try to lose the weight all in one day. Consider a short, brisk walk around the block, rather than a five-mile run and slowly increase the duration of your walk. Throwing a ball in the backyard involves a lot of changing direction and rapid rise in body temperature. This could possibly lead to orthopedic injuries or heat stroke. Start by throwing for a shorter period of time and consider shorter exercise times more often staggered throughout the day.
Cats instinctively stalk and “kill” their toys so feathers on a string or stuffed toys one can drag around are great exercise (especially for indoor only cats).
Let’s all enjoy National Pet Week by exercising with our pets and zoom, zoom, ZOOM all around!!!
Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine.