As the dog days of summer approach, you may notice dogs and cats enjoying a peaceful snooze in the warm rays of the Sun. Since pets don't have jobs or school to go to, they do seem to have a lot of free time to spend lounging about.

Of course, pets don't really have hobbies either. With all that free time, you'd think that they might take up knitting or woodworking or even working out. If you've ever been to a gym, though, you know you won't see dogs or cats pumping iron or running on the treadmill.

That would be a funny sight, though, wouldn't it? Can you imagine walking into a gym and seeing dogs lifting weights or cats jogging? We're being a bit silly thinking of dogs and cats going to the gym, but we do have a reason. Even though dogs and cats don't go to the gym, they DO need regular exercise to stay healthy.

Just like human beings, pets that don't get enough exercise can become overweight. Overweight pets can develop serious health problems just like we can. So, if you have a pet, part of being a good owner is making sure that your pet gets the right amount and kind of exercise.

Before you start your pet on an exercise program, be sure to talk with your veterinarian first. Schedule a check-up for your pet and ask your veterinarian how much and what type of exercise your pet needs.

Just like humans, pets likely will need to be started out slowly. Over time, they will get fit and be able to exercise for longer periods of time. If you exercise alongside your pet, you'll benefit, too!

Starting out, you might want to play with your pet for 15-20 minutes at a time. Gradually, you can turn those play sessions into several 30-minute walks or jogs each week. If your pet is especially active, you can extend those sessions to an hour or longer.

Of course, some pets, such as cats, may not be easy to take for a walk or a run. These pets still need exercise, though. Don't underestimate the value of vigorous indoor play, such as games of chase, for these types of pets.

As you start exercising with your pet, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Make sure your pet has plenty of water before, during, and after exercising. Just like you, pets need plenty of water.
  • If you have older pets, don't push them as hard. Just like humans, older pets can't exercise as vigorously as younger ones.
  • Watch the heat! If your are outside, exercising with your pet will be best early in the morning or later in the day. Most pets have plenty of fur that keeps them warm. In the heat of the day, exercise can put a strain on them since they usually can't eliminate excess heat as easily as humans can.

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