3 min read

Dr David Liss of Goodheart Animal Health Center on avoiding excessive exercise for pets.

Max, a Labrador, joined his owner Jake on a long bike ride on Bear Creek Trail last summer. Jake called us in a panic when Max collapsed from over-exertion at mile 4. We treated Max for dehydration and heat exhaustion. And helped Jake understand his new pup’s limits.

While regular physical activity is essential for a dog’s health, over-exercise can cause severe health issues. Especially in the summertime.

We asked Dr David Liss, a veterinarian at Goodheart Animal Health Center on Broadway, about the dangers of over-exercise in dogs. He explained what affects their exercise needs. It’s important to adjust your dog’s exercise routine based on their individual traits and the environment.

What are the signs that dogs might be getting too much exercise?

Dogs show signs of over-exercising through various behaviors. Look for excessive panting and frequent stops during walks or runs. These pauses show that your dog is having trouble keeping up.

Another clear sign is your dog looking tired and lowering their head.

What are the potential health risks of over-exercising a dog?

Exerting too much energy during a workout can worsen your dog’s heart and breathing problems. This is especially true for dogs with existing heart and lung conditions.

Puppies, in particular, need to avoid high-intensity exercise to protect their development. Keeping exercise low-intensity and short can help prevent these issues.

As pet parents, says Dr Liss, “we can certainly exacerbate heart conditions or respiratory conditions” by driving our pets too hard.

How do breed, age, and health conditions influence a dog’s exercise needs?

Breeds like pugs and bulldogs struggle with breathing during intense activity. Simply put: dogs in this smoosh-faced or short-nosed family (brachycephalic) need less exercise.

“Even without heat and exercise, they have much more trouble breathing,” says Dr Liss. They struggle with “getting the air they need.”

Older dogs with diseases or arthritis need lighter exercise.

Puppies need careful routines to protect their growing bones and joints.

How does the summer heat affect a dog’s exercise routine?

The heat intensifies everything: it can increase the strain on your dog’s heart and lungs during exercise.

Heat makes physical activity more strenuous and raises the risk of overexertion. For example, arthritic dogs and puppies might need even less exercise than normal on hotter days. Talk with your veterinarian to get tips for your pet.

Watch your pet for clues they’re tired. And stop exercising when that happens. Your pet will want to continue running/playing so you have to end it for them.

We recommend more ways to keep your pup safe here.

Dr Liss says, “The heat itself just makes everything work a little harder” on a dog’s body, leading to a higher risk of overexertion.

Can over-exercise be mistaken for other health issues in dogs?

Symptoms like panting, fatigue, and collapsing may also show other issues such as heart disease.

Dogs with tracheal collapse, common in smaller breeds, might show similar signs. They can be energetic one moment and lethargic the next, which may need emergency attention. If you’re worried about your pet, please call us. We’re always here for you.

As we enter summer 2024, Jake and Max have all the information they need to stay healthy during outside time. We hope these details have helped you as well.

Goodheart Animal Health Center is always available for help if needed. Call us or use our NEW online booking tool to schedule at your convenience.

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