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Is Your Dog A Weekend Warrior?

By: Dr. Amanda Landis-Hanna
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We have all heard the term ‘Weekend Warrior’ in relation to people we know.  Some of us may even be weekend warriors ourselves!  These individuals may be somewhat less active during the workweek, only to squeeze a full week’s worth of activities or exercise into a weekend.  That makes for a very active Saturday and Sunday!  In humans, this can lead to a few issues, such as injuries.  Muscles not worked during the week, then overworked on the weekend, may have difficulty recovering.  But what about our dogs?  Can they be weekend warriors?  Can they suffer these same injuries?

In veterinary practice, Monday’s are incredibly busy for just this reason.  The dog that spends her days asleep on the sofa (ahem, Sophie…) during the week goes on a 5-mile hike with Mom and Dad on Sunday.  As her veterinarian, I am likely to get a call early Monday that she is limping, or not eating well, or lethargic.  When I review her Voyce data, I can see a big spike on the weekend, while the days leading up to it were mostly sedentary with a normal resting heart rate and respiratory rate.  I obviously want to treat the current issue, but more importantly, how can we prevent weekend-warrior-syndrome?

This question is one that human medical doctors have been working on for quite awhile.  The simple solution would be to even out exercise and activity over the week.  Unfortunately, in today’s society, this plan can be difficult to achieve or maintain.  Many of us have desk jobs, or spend our evenings looking at our smart phones.  Our dogs suffer as well.  While many of us are spending time sitting, few of our dogs are getting the exercise they need during the week.  These effects are compounded because lack of exercise can lead to muscle imbalances, poor range of motion, and obesity.  When an overweight, stiff dog attempts to run on the weekend, she is much more likely to hurt herself. 

The goal with this issue should be a form of compromise.  If maintaining an exercise schedule for 1 hour a week is too difficult, consider breaking it into 10-15 minute segments.  Your dog will benefit from frequent, shorter bursts of activity, as it makes her less likely to overstress her muscles and joints.  Also, finding 10 minutes to squeeze in an additional walk or two during the day may seem much less problematic than carving out a larger chunk of time.

Another way to prevent weekend-warrior-syndrome is to properly warm-up and cool down.  Usually when I explain this concept to my clients I get a surprised statement, “You mean my DOG needs a warm-up, too?”  The answer here is yes.  Your dog need the opportunity to get her heart rate up a little, and warm up her muscles a bit before chasing the ball or going on a long hike.  It can be as simple as a moderately paced walk, or some gentle ball throwing, before you get into the peak of your exercise.  If she seems to get a bit winded from the warm-up, you should adjust your plans so you don’t overstress her during exercise.

The cool down is equally important.  Once she has exercised, her muscles are warm and her joints are loose.  This time is key to enhancing her flexibility and building endurance.  You can repeat the activities you performed for her warm-up.  You can also consider stretching or massage.  Think about where you may tighten up after exercise, such as shoulders and hips, and see if she enjoys a rub down over that area too.  You can stretch her shoulders by picking up her forelimb and stretching it out in front of her, supporting her body weight with your hand.  Even just reducing the speed or impact of the exercise, but continuing the movement for 5-15 minutes can be a great cool down.  Usually by the time we are done with our jog, Sophie is ready for a bit of a leisurely walk to sniff and explore.

So, ready to get moving after reading Medical Monday?  Grab your leash and go get your pup…it will be great for both of you!

How do you like to exercise with your dog?  Are you a weekend warrior?  Let us know by connecting with on social media: @mydogsvoyce !

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Posted on Sep 07, 2015 by VOYCE Lifestyle
Vets & Experts