Why Run With Your Dog?

Personal training for dogs. You’re kidding, right? Actually, no, we’re not. Research suggests up to 40% of our dogs are overweight, and they suffer from the same health complications that overweight people do. Veterinarians (including myself) are becoming more and more concerned about the increase in joint pain, heart disease and other obesity related illnesses in dogs. Hence, Pooch to 5k. Dogs can’t lift weights, or use the gym. If you’re going to increase their fat burning, you need to increase the intensity of their exercise. This means that a daily stroll just won’t cut it any more, it’s too laid back. The Pooch to 5k program will help you get your dog from doing nothing much to comfortably running 5km, over a period of 12 weeks.

Because you’ll be running with your dog, you’ll also get a great workout three times a week, as you train yourself to run 5km. Why not subscribe to our dog health and fitness newsletter and grab your dog, and you’re ready to go!


Exercise for Weight Loss


dog swimmingEvery weight loss program should include exercise. If you increase the amount of calories your dog uses up, it means there are less to add to his waistline. The difficulty is that it’s often uncomfortable for overweight dogs to run, so you will need to look at alternatives until he has lost a few of those excess kilos.

Just like with people, it’s a great idea to have your dog checked by your veterinarian before you begin, to make sure his body will cope with the extra workload.

Walking is the obvious choice for exercising dogs. You can take your dog further each week, and by doing so, burn up more calories. The main disadvantage of walking is that it is very hard on his legs. They have to carry his excess weight and they can become tired and painful.

When your dog has lost some weight, walking will be more enjoyable for both of you. In the meantime, think about taking him swimming. Water supports his body as he exercises, and this is easier on his joints. There are several ways you can use  water to exercise your dog.

If you live near the beach or a lake, this will be easy. Wade in with him until he is out of his depth, so he has to swim. You’ll end up paddling too, but your dog will work hard to swim alongside you.

Some towns have a canine hydrotherapy facility, where dogs can wear a life vest while they swim safely in an indoor heated pool. This is a great way to exercise your overweight dog, but there are costs associated with it, and it may not fit your budget.

Another option that is often available in a hydrotherapy center is an underwater treadmill. These treadmills have see-through plastic sides, and once your dog is on the treadmill, it is filled with warm water until the water level reaches his chest. As he walks, the water supports his body so there is less impact on his joints.

Some people like to sit back and throw a ball for their dog to retrieve. This way they get to relax, while their dog gets all the exercise he needs. This isn’t a good option for overweight dogs, because they can tear the ligaments in their knees as they twist and turn to catch their ball. Most dogs also don’t know when to stop, and if they play too long they will end up with stiff sore legs after their game.

Exercise is a vital part of any dog’s life, but particularly so if they are trying to lose weight. Not only does it use up calories, but the endorphins that are released during exercise will leave him feeling calm and happy. Treat your pooch carefully in the early stages of weight loss, and he’ll not only enjoy the exercise but will also avoid injury.


Categories : Dog Health



Hi Dr Audrey. Had a client a short moment who is training for full marathons with her German Shepherd. The dog is anxious when meeting other dogs on the run but is successfully treated with an anxiolytic medication. The problem is the medication occasionally causes vomiting (at the 14K mark in this case). I advised giving the medication with a small meal but the client is concerned about bloat if food is given before a run. My question is – will a small amount of food (e.g. balanced canned food) cause bloat? Thanks Cam (the client may contact you).


Hi Dr Cam
I think bloat is every running dog owner’s nightmare!

The cause is poorly understood but the main predisposing factors include having a relative that has had bloat/volvulus, a deep chest, lean body condition, eating quickly and eating one large meal a day. Interestingly, having a nervous temperament is also listed as a risk factor. The research I’ve done recently doesn’t specifically mention the timing of feeding as a risk factor.

A study of over 2500 dogs that was published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association found a statistical reduction in the risk of gastric dilation/volvulus in dogs that “ran along the fence line after eating” so perhaps exercise after eating isn’t as frightening as we think. Anxiety was listed as a factor that significantly increased the risk of gastric dilation/volvulus. A European study found a lower risk of bloat if a canned food was fed as did a review published in Veterinary Evidence journal.

There’s no way of predicting for sure if a dog will bloat but it may well be that for this girl, her nervous temperament is more of a risk factor for her than having food before exercise. If you look at the studies on how diet may contribute to bloat, then a small meal of a highly digestible canned food with low fat content would be the best choice to give her with her medication before a run.

Here are links to the articles I mentioned; your client may want to have a closer look. There are abstracts or even full articles in some cases online.



Raghavan, M., Glickman, N., McCabe, G., Lantz, G. and Glickman, L. (2004). Diet-Related Risk Factors for Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus in Dogs of High-Risk Breeds. Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association, 40(3), pp.192-203.

Pipan, M., Brown, D., Battaglia, C. and Otto, C. (2012). An Internet-based survey of risk factors for surgical gastric dilatation-volvulus in dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, 240(12), pp.1456-1462.

Buckley, L. (2017). Are Dogs Fed a Kibble-Based Diet More Likely to Experience an Episode of Gastric Dilatation Volvulus Than Dogs Fed an Alternative Diet?. Veterinary Evidence, 2(2).

Uhrikova, I., Machackova, K., Rauserova-Lexmaulova, L., Janova, E. and Doubek, J. (2016). Risk factors for gastric dilatation and volvulus in central Europe: an internet survey. Veterinární Medicína, 60(No. 10), pp.578-587.

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