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Ask A Vet: Does My Dog Need Exercise?

| Published on April 29, 2016

We all have heard that exercise is good for us. We intellectually agree, even if we do not prioritize exercise for ourselves. The benefits to humans have been proven by many studies. What about your dog? Does she need to exercise?

We know that dogs are not small humans. They cannot take the exact same medications we can and they cannot eat some of the foods that we can. Obesity is a common problem and we try to apply what we know about human weight loss to dogs, but actually not much has been truly studied about obesity management in dogs.

Effects Of Obesity

We are aware that obesity contributes to other diseases, such as diabetes, pancreatitis, osteoarthritis, for humans and dogs. While calorie restriction alone causes reduction of body weight, we can lose lean body mass as well. If you have an overweight or inactive dog, here’s what you need to know.


Scientific Evidence

A study was designed to investigate obesity management for canine patients. Groups of dogs were divided into a weight loss program based on calorie restriction alone versus a second group of calorie restriction in conjunction with exercise¹.

Gene expression was then analyzed in fat and muscle tissues. The findings support that calorie restriction alone causes good changes in both issues, but the addition of exercise is enough to significantly enhance the positive effects.

The Good News

The best news is that even mild exercise was enough to impact results.  The dogs that did not exercise at all lost weight, but the dogs that ate less AND exercised (even a little!) were impacted significantly more in weight and improvement in lean body mass.

The next time you have a choice between lying on the couch with your dog or taking her for a walk, remember that even a little exercise creates such a positive change in her metabolism that it is a no brainer!

  1. Physical training and weight loss in dogs lead to transcriptional changes in genes involved in the glucose-transport pathway in muscle and adipose tissues. Vet J. 2016 Feb;208:22-7. doi: 10.1016/j.tvjl.2015.11.002. Epub 2015 Nov 10. Herrera Uribe J, Vitger AD, Ritz C, Fredholm M, Bjørnvad CR, Cirera S.

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