20 December 2021
January is “Walk Your Dog Month!”
This dog-walking drive was created to highlight pet behavioural problems and help tackle pet obesity. Did you know that almost 12% of the dogs owned in the UK are overweight? BVNA member, Donna Wills, tells us below about the importance of walking, both for humans and dogs.
Walking your dog is one of the most important parts of dog ownership. As a physio I see this both physically and mentally as both are linked. A walk improves the mental health and lifts the mood. This brings feels good endorphins and the body’s own natural pain relief. That means even with an ailment like the dreaded arthritis, movement is both possible and essential.
Walking raises the heart rate, improving the cardiovascular system, increasing blood flow and getting nutrition around the body, essential for health and healing. Sedentary syndrome is a problem. Many dogs when middle aged will not bother to move around the home much in the day so their walks are their only chance to stretch out and flex the joints. We often see it when you grab the lead and the dog gets all excited and starts stretching forward and backwards preparing themselves. This is great stuff, but might not happen if you don’t take them out.
A joint that is arthritic and not put through its full range of movement can develop what we call adhesions, and this in time can become scare tissue. The adhesions feel tight and make you feel like to don’t want to open a joint properly, but you still can. Once it becomes scar tissue its almost impossible to reverse. We can only maintain these ranges but putting the joints through them. The easiest way to do this is to go for a walk and engage the natural movement.
If we don’t use our bodies, we also don’t build muscle. We need muscle to support the joint. I liken it to scaffolding. The joints are the rods and the muscle is the bolts. If you don’t have tight bolt, it falls down or isn’t stable. Same with bones and muscles. Muscles also require lots of energy to function so having more of it means your dog can use more of its calories its being fed. This can help with weight control.
Us physio’s can help rehabilitate any problems with mobility but we often use walking as part of our therapies so if you crack on and do the walks now you are already doing your own therapy. We do use walking in a controlled way when we are treating a patient, so if you do have any mobility problems you are worried about you can consult a professional and get the perfect walking plan.
Walking is amazing for humans and dogs alike. The benefits are very similar. When I set a walking plan for a patient, I often get feedback from the owner that is been great for them too!
Donna Wills RVN, PgCert A Phys, MIRVAP(VP)
Registered with RCVS
Member of the British Veterinary Nursing Association (BVNA), International Association of Animal Therapists (IAAT) and International Association for Veterinary Rehabilitation and Physical Therapy (IAVRPT)
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