2826 Shader Rd., Orlando, FL 32808

(407) 295-3888 •


Exercise and Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is an abnormal formation of the hip socket, a hereditary condition and the most common single cause of arthritis of the hips in dogs.  In its more severe form, it can eventually cause crippling lameness and painful arthritis of the joints.

Just because a dog has hip dysplasia doesn’t mean you want to stop exercising. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Studies have shown that appropriate exercise, taking into account the severity of the condition, helps to provide nourishment to the affected joints, and keeps muscle mass around the joint, providing much needed joint stability.

Therefore, the primary goal of the exercise program should be to maintain or build muscle mass while also maintaining or improving cardiovascular function without causing much pain, stiffness and inflammation.  When starting an exercise routine, don’t over-do it – build up slowly.  This enables the dog to strengthen muscles and their hind end so that they can better support their weight and compensate for their dysplasia.

The proper amount and type of exercise helps to maintain muscle strength and stabilizes joints, resulting in improved range of motion. This ultimately keeps the dog more comfortable.  Swimming, especially in warm water is a great way to maintain muscle tone and range of motion without placing extreme force on the joint. Walking on grass with slight inclines for short periods may be another exercise option depending on the severity of the dysplasia and/or arthritis.

Generally, dogs with hip dysplasia will eventually develop secondary arthritis.  Developing an exercise program tailored to your dog’s individual issues will ensure that he is able to function and live a comfortable and active life.

Why Are Dogs Overweight?

That’s a great question. Part of the problem is that people just don’t think their dogs are fat and are just finFat dog lying down.e the way they are. Even if they do recognize their dog is overweight, they may not understand the health ramifications of being fat and believe it’s OK. So how are our dogs getting to this unhealthy state? According to Christine Zink, DVM, PhD, it may be because:

  1. People are feeding their dogs the same amount of food they were fed when they were younger – a common mistake.  Most of us eat less now than we did as teenagers and your dog needs less too.  Like us, a dog’s metabolism slows down with age and adult dogs need less food to maintain their weight.
  2. People believe what they read on the bag of dog food, that the suggested feeding guidelines of the food company are correct.  Even the most active dog doesn’t require that much food. The suggested guidelines show you how much you need to feed in order to get the required daily nutritional intake. The lower the quality of food, the more you have to feed in order to get the required nutrition. The best way to determine how much food to feed your dog is to feed him the amount that maintains his weight. This can be a matter of trial and error.
  3. A dog’s activity level changes, but people still feeding the same amount of food. In this case, he’s going to gain weight. Food intake needs to be adjusted to activity level. 
  4. Of guilt – we’re away from our dogs all day so we give them way too many treats while we’re with them. And most treats are notoriously high in calories.
  5. Lack of appropriate exercise. Most dogs don’t get the amount and quality of exercise they need on a daily basis to maintain their proper weight.

We have a real pet obesity problem in this country and it’s at epidemic proportions. According to a recent report by The Association of Pet Obesity Prevention not only are more pets overweight, but those with the problem “are getting fatter,”  and this problem keeps getting worse. Fifty-three percent of adult dogs and 55% of cats were considered overweight or obese by their veterinarians.

In 2011, results from a study by The American Humane Association found that 56% of dogs, 54% of cats, and 69% of humans (adults over 20 years old) in U.S. were considered overweight or obese. It doesn’t matter which results you look it, the story is still the same. The health problems associated with being overweight, such as diabetes, heart, joint, and breathing problems are plaguing more and more dogs. As a result, more overweight pets are being relinquished to shelters because their owners can’t afford the associated veterinary bills.

So what do you do?  Look at your dog with a clear eye.  If you don’t see a waist, if you can’t easily feel his ribs, or if he’s breathing heavily when active, it’s time to make changes in his diet and exercise habits. Decrease his food, cut out the high caloric treats and give him consistent exercise, and you will see a difference in your dog.  Healthy eating and appropriate exercise is the key to your dog’s health. 

How To Tell If Your Dog is Overweight

According to Chris Zink, DVM and PhD, our dogs depend on us to put food in their bowls, but more often than not we are putting too much in the bowl.  Working dogs and those that are expected to jump, run over rough ground, or compete in agility are more prone to injury because of excess weight. When overweight, these dogs experience more ACL tears, severe degenerative arthritis while still in their prime, degenerative disc disease and many more conditions.  Unfortunately, the same conditions can plague any dog that is overweight or obese.

Most people don’t know how to determine the correct weight for their dogs.  There is no standard weight for any given breed since dogs vary in height, bone structure and muscularity. To determine whether a dog is overweight there are four body parts to check: the neck, ribs, waistline and hips.

  1. To check the neck, press your thumb and index finger deep into the side of the neck just before the shoulder, and pinch them together.  If your fingers are more than ½” apart, the dog is overweight.  (Senior dogs carry most of their excess fat here but may be thin in other areas.)
  2. To check the ribs, stand with your dog beside you, facing his butt.  Place your thumb on the middle of his spine half way down the back, spread out your fingers over his last few ribs and then run your fingers up and down along his skin.  You should easily be able to feel the bumps of his ribs without pressing in.
  3. Your dog should have a defined waistline. To check this, stand over him viewing him from above. You should see his body curve in at the waist just beyond the last rib, between the last rib and the hips.
  4. To check the hips, run your hand over your dog’s rump.  You should be able to feel the bumps of his two pelvic bones without pressing down.

People worry that their dogs will not get enough nutrition if they feed them less.  In some cases that’s true – it depends on the quality of the food you’re feeding. If you’re feeding your dog a premium food, it’s packed with nutrients so you can feed less. You can also give him a supplement if necessary. If you maintain a healthy weight for your dog, the risk of injury and developing other conditions will be lessened. This translates into less time and money spent at the vet and a healthier and happier dog!

The Benefits of Regular Exercise for Dogs

Maintaining your dog’s health is one of the primary advantages of regular exercise.  It reduces the risk of heart disease and other illnesses such as arthritis and obesity as well as minimizing the development of behavioral issues.  Lack of exercise can result in boredom and frustration and in an attempt to relieve these feelings dogs often develop aggressive and destructive behaviors such as excessive barking, digging, chewing, or trying to escape.

An active and well exercised dog is:

  • Less likely to develop heart related problems and diabetes
  • Less prone to digestive problems (unless he is allergic to the food he’s fed). 
  • Less susceptible to urinary tract infections
  • Less likely to depression
  • Less stressed which allows your dog to get a good rest
  • More confident since anxiety levels are reduced

How much exercise is enough?  It varies according to size, age and breed.  Younger dogs and larger breeds need at least 40 minutes of moderate to intensive cardio a day.  Smaller breeds should get at least a 20 to 30 minute workout and 2 to 3 walks per day.  More active breeds such as terriers and hunting dogs may need more. It’s important to identify those activities that are stimulating and motivating and activities that will excite and encourage your dog to exercise.

Obesity is a huge problem today – 54% of all dogs are either overweight or obese.  With regular exercise however, obesity can be controlled. A regular exercise program is essential to helping your dog live a healthier and happier life. So get out and have some fun with your dog that gives you both quality exercise! You’ll be glad you did!