A worrying statistic has revealed that 59 per cent of dogs in the UK are classified as overweight or obese. Carrying extra weight increases strain on bones and joints, and dogs that are overweight can suffer from a range of conditions – such as osteoarthritis and diabetes, which causes them a significant amount of discomfort.

As for humans, exercise is vital for our pets and can help significantly when it comes to shedding excess weight and staying in shape. Six-year-old chocolate Labrador Lulu is a great example of how exercise and the right care can transform a dog’s life. When Lulu arrived at Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home in July 2018 with balding fur and bad ears, she was also very overweight. The Home’s staff quickly went to work and provided Lulu with all the veterinary care she needed.

She was given regular medical baths and steroid ear drops, and had two lumps removed from her body. She was also spayed and given all necessary vaccinations. Throughout her various treatments, the Home’s devoted kennel staff worked hard to reduce Lulu’s weight, often taking her for long walks on the beach and to a local nature reserve, where she could spend her days walking and running around the beautiful surroundings. During this time, one of the kennel staff members, Lucy, fell in love with her. Lucy rehomed Lulu in January this year and have been inseparable ever since.

EDCH Kennel Assistant Lucy Sullivan and Lulu

Exercise is not only extremely important for pet’s physical and mental health, but yours as well: even a simple walk can reduce stress, anxiety and fatigue. In older people, staying active can improve cognitive function, memory, attention and processing speed, and reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia. Walking also boosts self-perception and self-esteem, sleep quality and mood – with studies showing that a walk in the countryside can leave you with a seven-hour high.

A charity walk is being held in Edinburgh and simultaneously across five other countries next month (May), which is also National Pet Month and Active Dog Month. The Agria Dog Walk 2019 will take place on 25 May in Stockholm, Oslo, Helsinki, Copenhagen, Paris and several locations in the UK, from Edinburgh to Devon, to raise money for local animal rescue centres – with Agria Pet Insurance donating £5 for every dog walked.

Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home is hosting Scotland’s only event, and all money raised will go to helping rescue dogs. Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home Welfare Standards Coordinator, Kirsty McGinley, said, “Walking outdoors with your dog has endless rewards for both you and your four-legged friend, from the physical benefits of gentle exercise to the mental stimulation of getting out of the house and exploring new surrounds.

“Walking also give you quality time with your pooch, which is an important part of their socialisation and behavioural development.”

Robin Hargreaves, former British Veterinary Association President and Vet Panel Lead at Agria, says a combination of appropriate food and exercise are critical to avoiding and reducing obesity in dogs. “It’s so much more fun to exercise together with your dog – and the fitter you both are the more enjoyment you can both get from being out and about together in the great outdoors. You’ll never have a more enthusiastic exercise partner – make the most of having them there to motivate you!”

Carolyn Menteith, Agria Behaviourist and Trainer, adds, “A walk is a wonderful break in the day for your dog, mentally, physically and emotionally. It’s important to know your dog and give them the right kind of exercise, doing what they enjoy. For some dogs, this can be short off-lead sprints, for others long physical exertion is better, and for some, they just want to play with their ball while they’re out and about!

“The best thing about walking your dog is that this is the time you can 100% focus on being together – no distractions, no phones or work – just the two of you.”

To find out more about Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home and The Agria Dog Walk 2019, please visit the website.

Images by Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home 

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