Dogs and Cats Fitness: Optimal Exercise for Pets

Fitness for dogs and cats featured image - Dog resting after an intense workout
By: Jennifer

Unfortunately, obesity is not just a “people problem” in America anymore. Over half of the nation’s dogs and cats are overweight or obese. Is your pet one of them? Or, are they at risk? Read on to learn about pet fitness for dogs and cats.

You may not think so but listen to these startling stats: an estimated 50.5 million cats and 41.9 million dogs are at risk for obesity and the health issues that are associated with being overweight.

It makes sense that the obesity issue in America has now spread to our pets. People are less active than ever so why would their pets be out getting physical exercise? Pet owners are not intentionally hurting their pets, of course, but – just as with humans – obesity can cause all sorts of physical and mental health problems.

However, some basic daily exercise can have huge positive effects that you will see quickly. Pets will be happier, less anxious, weigh less and feel better if they are active. We cover pet fitness for both dogs and cats in the Q&A that follows to learn how to keep your pet’s weight down, energy high and health a priority. You can also find more about this topic in our animal health and wellness category.

The Animalista fitness for dogs and cats. Dog making agility course look easy. This is one healthy dog
Adorable dog getting his workout in for the day

Dog workout: How much exercise do dogs need?

This is a complicated question because the breed of dog has a lot to do with the type of exercise requirements they will have in their daily life. Some breeds are very high-energy and will require extensive exercise. Other dogs are larger and may have hip problems or health issues that make intense exercise not-so-safe. Bulldogs and Basset Hounds do not need the same type of daily exercise as a Border Collie, for example.

In general, about an hour total of exercise throughout the day is sufficient but if you are not sure, ask your vet.

What if my dog is a senior or has health problems?

Hip dysplasia, heart or respiratory issues are among some of the concerns that you need to talk with your vet about. They can help you develop an appropriate exercise routine that will help him stay healthy without causing him discomfort.

How can I exercise my dog if I don’t have a yard?

One word: Treadmill. If you have one already, your dog can use it. If not, they are not terribly expensive and can be an amazing way to exercise your furbaby indoors. Treadmills are especially helpful when it comes to very hyperactive breeds. 

No treadmill? If you’re looking for a great dog accessory to help tire out your furry friend then dog backpacks are also a great choice. They are similar to people’s wrist and ankle weights that increase the intensity of a run. This dog strength training tool is definitely worth checking out!

*One more note about dog exercise: When choosing a puppy, considering the type of exercise the breed needs is prudent. If you live in small quarters or don’t have a yard, choose a dog with lesser exercise requirements. It is irresponsible to keep a large, active dog in a small apartment and will result in unwanted behaviors as well as weight problems.*

Workouts are better with a partner. Dog running with his owner outdoors.
Working out is so much better with a partner

Do I really need to exercise my cat?

YES! About 57% of U.S. felines are overweight or obese. This is partially because owners don’t necessarily focus on keeping their cats active. People know that dogs need to be walked but they often forget that their cats also need to be physically active.

Regular physical activity sessions with you will improve their mental health, keep them agile, activate their instincts and allow them the opportunity to spend quality time with YOU.

How can I encourage a cat workout?

As a general rule, about 10-15 minutes a few times a day will be sufficient. Kittens and younger cats will often engage in play on their own (climbing furniture, chasing bugs, etc.) but older cats are not as energetic on their own and may require encouragement from you.

What types of exercise do my cats need?

The best activities for cats are those that stimulate their hunting instincts. A robotic mouse to chase can provide hours of fun and physical activity for your cat. Ask any cat owner: simply waving a ribbon in front of a cat is enough to get them excited and ready to work out.

Pet fitness for dogs and cats is not rocket science. Humans who are couch potatoes will raise pets that are also sedentary. Sedentary lifestyles lead to obesity. Just as with humans, maintaining a healthy weight is very important for overall well-being.  Obesity can precipitate all kinds of mental and physical health and fitness issues. But, getting active and keeping moving is the easiest cure for this.  In addition, the bonding between pet and owner is a really great side effect!


By: Jennifer

Contributing Professional

The Animalista professional contributors are comprised of licensed Veterinarians and certified Veterinary Technicians who have been vetted by our team and have either authored or reviewed this content for accuracy. 


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