Walking for Weight Loss

Has your vet recently prescribed a weight loss regimen for your furry friend? Maybe even prescribed a prescription diet food? Or a regimen of long walks and daily play sessions? Well, walking can be a great way to get started–gentler on the joints than running, potentially more relaxing than throwing the toy over and over again, and you can explore on foot while bonding with man’s best friend.

While walking tends to be a more dog-centric activity (versus cat-centric), some cats–with the right harness and some training–can learn to enjoy walks as well. For cats who aren’t a fan of exploring the great outdoors, a few extra play sessions will help rid them of those extra pounds. Try a laser pointer or string toy to keep them moving. For outdoor adventures, be sure to invest in a cat-safe harness, since a cat can quickly and easily slip out of a collar.

If you’re starting up a dog-friendly weight-loss program, keep in mind the weather conditions and your dog’s breed and age. Older dogs and dogs with other health considerations might need to avoid very hot or very cold weather, or might need to keep walks short and frequent instead of putting miles in on the first day.

Also consider your high-energy dog–maybe a walk to the dog park, some time to run free in the park, and a cool down walk home is the way to go. Change up your pace to keep it interesting for you and your dog–walk one day, jog the next, and skateboard the day after. You can also simply change up your route to keep things interesting.

To aid in the weight loss efforts, throw in some opportunities for more activity on your walks–walk up hills, add in a few short jogging sprints, or toss a ball as a reward when you get home. If your dog is up to it, you can also get a doggy backpack for your pal to carry his own supplies during the walk.

While not all dogs will need a backpack, consider other equipment to make walks safer and more enjoyable, like head halters, walking harnesses, low-calorie treats to work on training during the walk.

The Association for Pet Obesity Prevention reports that about half of today’s dogs are overweight. So anytime pup-friendly activity is worth it–including walks. Stop by your vet’s office to check your pup’s weight as often as needed, and keep up the walking even after you’ve helped your pup reach his goal. Afterall, a dog is man’s best friend–and walking partner.

By Rachel Leisemann Immel