The inspiration to live your life a little better can sometimes come in unusual forms. Like four-legged, furry, and with an ever-wagging tail.
You may not think there’s a connection to your dog’s health and your own, but you’d be wrong. Turns out we share some of the very same issues as a result of the living in this very progressive world of ours.
“People really love their dogs, and sometimes they show that by giving them too many treats or sharing their own food with them,” says Shannon Pigott, business director and co-owner of City Veterinary Hospital. “What can happen then is that the dogs are being fed diets inappropriate for the amount of exercise they receive, and so they gain weight.”
Too much food, not enough exercise. Sound familiar? It’s a prescription for health issues not only for us, but for our furry friends, too.
“On a national level, obesity, especially in dogs, is a huge problem. It can exacerbate hip dysplasia and other orthopedic conditions, so anything pet parents can do is great for both of them,” says Pigott.
So maybe the time has come to start working on your pooch’s pooch. You know, get him to eat a bit better, and be a little more active – just like the rest of us, four legs or not. In the process you’ll be doing everyone a favor.
And now more than ever, opportunities exist for you and your pet to get out and do just that. Aside from all our area parks (most of which allow dogs on leashes or have their own dog runs), dog specific parks, and the continued growth of area walking trails and paths, there seems to be a bit of a boom in walks and runs encouraging your dingo to come along.
“These are family-friendly events, and are rewarding to people with a wide variety of fitness levels. They are a perfect combination of fitness and fun and many people’s first 5K,” says Janelle Fischer, director of staff education and fit expert at Fleet Feet Sports in San Antonio.
To wit, the running and sporting goods store will be one of the key sponsors for the 12th Annual Wilenchik Memorial Doggie Dash which benefits the Schertz Humane Society, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping animals in Schertz and surrounding areas. Slated for Saturday, May 25th, the event includes a 5K chip-timed run with or without your dog, a 3K walk with or without your dog, and special medals to the top five dogs. (For more information, or to register, click here.)
“Last year the event had more than 500 participants, and this year we are expecting about 800 or so,” says Fischer. “I think this is a great fitness and social trend for San Antonio and the surrounding communities.”
If you happened to attend the Fiesta Pooch Parade in the last couple years, you can see that these events are a huge draw and seem to be getting more popular. In fact, one of the other local dog friendly races almost doubled its growth in only its second year.
But it’s more than just numbers, it’s about improving quality of life all the way around.
Think about it: if you’re like most folks, chances are you’re hunched over a computer screen all day and not getting much activity. If you’re four legged friend is stuck at home while you’re at work, he’s likely not getting much exercise, either. So, you’re both prone to the unhealthy consequences.
“The difference is the dog doesn’t have a choice,” says Pigott. “The human has a choice, but the dog at home all day doesn’t have that option.
“But when dogs are able to go out and walk, it has a positive effect on the human as well. So they may not do it for themselves, but they’ll do it for the dog, and in the end, the benefit is mutual,” she says.
To help foster that relationship, the folks at Fleet Feet added an extra dimension to one of their recent destination runs. They made it dog friendly.
“It brought out families and children who wanted to go out and get some exercise with the family dog, and made it even more casual and inclusive,” says Fischer. “Pets are a big part of people’s lives, and adding them to an event can help bring more people out who may not be runners or walkers to begin with.”
If you plan to hit the road with your furry friend, make sure to ramp things up gradually and use some common sense. Just like people, pets need time to slowly adjust to the environment and any training you plan to do. And exactly how much activity is good for your animal will vary.
“Each breed has its own activity requirements,” say Pigott. “A bulldog may not have the same exercise requirements as a labrador retriever, so the recommendations aren’t universal. The best bet is to talk to your vet about the guidelines based on your breed. In general though, so long as they’re on a leash and their health isn’t compromised, dogs can walk every day.”
But be mindful, she says. With another south Texas summer headed our way, try to avoid taking your canine companion out during the heat of the day.
Aside from that, “any opportunity to get outside and to exercise and to mingle is a win all the way around,” says Pigott. “The opportunity to socialize and exercise is good for you and your pet’s physical and mental well being.”
Tom Trevino is a writer, artist and wellness coach based out of San Antonio. His column, “The Feed,” addresses health and wellness issues for San Antonians attempting to wade through the often-confusing diet and fitness world. He holds a B.A. from the University of Texas at San Antonio, with training and certification from the Cooper Institute. He has a fondness for dogs, the New York Times, and anything on two wheels. When he’s not writing, training, or cooking, you can find him wandering the aisles of Central Market.