2013-03-01 / Columnists

Paw Prints

Exercise Season Is Approaching
By Dr. Karina B Salvo

Now, exercise can be complicated, from when, how much, how often and what kind...if you think about it, the same rules apply to each of us! We don’t see parents flying up and down the block on the roller razor scooter for hours and hours or jump on the trampoline, then play softball followed by a game of tag...we would be more than exhausted, not to mention sore for a few days! Same goes for our canine and feline companions. The young guys are anything but graceful with their romps around the house and their late night “zoomies” (my not so technical term for spurts of energy that usually is displayed as running as fast as they can thru the house, over the couch, into the kitchen, out of the kitchen, down the hallway and back again). The youngsters have much to be excited for, life is new and everything is worth exploring! Keeping that in mind, we have to be aware of what they are exposed to and what things they ”find.” Most of the youngsters ( 2 years and younger) can be compared to vacuums! Everything goes in the mouth! Puppy and kitten proof your home as if you would childproof your home! Make sure the toys you have for these little ones are durable and that pieces can’t be chewed off and swallowed! The first sign of a broken toy means it should be thrown away (for any pet)! Puppy play dates are a great way to get exercise as well! Socialization is very important before three months of age...according to veterinary behaviorists, puppies younger than 3 months of age should meet at least 100 people.

Certainly there are concerns with vaccines and time frames for exposure to other animals and this should be a discussion you have with your veterinarian because socialization at this time of their life is also crucial. Kitten play dates are never a good idea and can cause great stress and behavioral problems in our feline friends. Cats are very secure in their own home. Most cats run at the sight of a carrier, but show the dog a leash and he or she does the “wooo hooo” the crazy dance starts! Cats are territorial and feel secure in familiar surroundings.

That being said, they do need environmental enrichment, such as the famous fishing rod toy, catnip, ball with a bell, cat tree to climb and look down at the world from and of course the simple crumpled up piece of paper works wonders! As pets age, things tend to change, as it does for us. We still have bursts of energy, but with age, arthritis and incidence of disease processes tend to increase in our older population.

As a pet owner, you should have a discussion with your veterinarian as to what exercise program your pet should follow based on your pet’s age, weight, lifestyle, historical surgeries or illnesses and current ailments. Every pet is different in what he or she can do (just like us) and the otherwise healthy older pet should not be expected to take that one mile walk everyday...but rather take multiple short walks thru the day.

I can imagine some of you thinking ‘but it all adds up to the same thing, so what’s the difference?’... The difference is that the more OFTEN the dog or cat gets up to exercise for brief intervals, the less fatigued they are and the stronger their muscles are to make those movements of walking, stair climbing or chasing that catnip mouse! Again....a discussion with your veterinarian is a great idea and should be based on the individual pet’s lifestyle, health, weight and history!

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