Expert Advice for Your Over-Exercised Dog

Updated August 17, 2021
Woman jogging with her dog

Exercise has numerous physical and mental advantages for your dog. Daily exercise is also known to enhance the bond you share with your dog. But, what happens when a dog is overexercised?

Symptoms of Overexercise in Dogs

A dog's exercise needs depend on myriad factors, including age, energy level, breed, and health. Be on the lookout for indicators of your pet's energy or physical stamina fading. They might be pushing themselves too far. Symptoms of overexercise manifest in your dog's behavior and carriage.

Sore Muscles

Sore muscles usually appear after the dog has slept following a period of intense exercise. The owner may sense a struggle when the dog is ready to get up. The dog may refuse to walk up or down stairs, and may have a decreased appetite. Whining when standing or stretching may also occur with sore muscles.

Torn Paw Pads

Examine the bottom of your dog's paws; specifically, the paw pads. Overwhelmed pads may have tears with apparent skin flaps, appear to be red, worn away, or look thinner than normal. You may see swelling or pus if the pads are infected.

Human bandage a shetland sheepdog

Heat Exhaustion

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are particularly dangerous during the summer months, when dogs can easily become overheated. It can be life-threatening if the dog's body temperature rises above 106 degrees Fahrenheit. Aside from the potentially fatal heat, dogs can also become dehydrated or have respiratory difficulties.

Short-nosed dogs, such as Bulldogs, Pugs, Pekingese, Boxers, and Shih Tzus, are at an even higher danger because they can't cool off as easily as other breeds.

Dogs who are very young or very old have trouble controlling their body temperatures, so too much exercise might lead to overheating.

Joint Problems

Extreme exercise can cause strain to a dog's joints. The toe joints are especially vulnerable, although the wrist and elbow are also susceptible to damage.

Dogs bear nearly 60 percent of their weight on their front limbs, putting a lot of force into those joints. Excessive exercise in dogs with very straight back legs can cause difficulties in the stifle (knee) joints, including strain, sprain, meniscal tears, and cranial cruciate ligament tears.

Some dogs are more susceptible to joint injuries than others. Long and low-to-the-ground breeds, such as Basset Hounds, Dachshunds, and Pekingese, have strangely formed joints, putting their limbs at risk of injury if they are overworked. These breeds are also prone to back problems.

Over-exertion in an older dog with osteoarthritis can cause instant pain and hasten the degradation of joint structures.

Young puppies (especially large breeds) require some exercise, but not excessively so, as too much exercise can lead to joint problems later in life.

Senior black labrador relaxing on armchair

Exhaustion and Fatigue

You know your dog best, so it's important to pay close attention to their energy levels during periods of exercise. It's true a tired dog is a happy dog, but don't push a dog to the point of complete exhaustion. Exercise is meant to encourage mental and physical stimulation, but not to the point of fatigue. Some breeds are so game for work or play, they will push past the point of exhaustion. It is up to you to gauge their level of fatigue. If you have already taken your dog for a walk today, and you grab the leash to go for another but the dog appears sluggish, don't force additional exercise.

How Much Exercise Does Your Dog Need?

The amount of daily exercise a dog needs to stay healthy is determined by a variety of factors, including breed, age, size, body type, and overall health. As a general guideline, dogs should get between 30 minutes and 2 hours of exercise per day. Larger breed dogs, such as Golden Retrievers, Border Collies, and Australian Shepherds, require the most exercise, while smaller and toy breed dogs, such as West Highland White Terriers and Chihuahuas, do not. Short-nosed breeds such as English Bulldogs and Pugs, often known as brachycephalic breeds, do not require much daily exercise to remain healthy.

Dogs with medical issues often require less activity than dogs who are in perfect health. If your dog has medical difficulties, you should see a veterinarian about the ideal exercise routine for your dog. For example, some dogs with medical issues are advised not to run or put undue strain on their joints and are recommended to swim instead -- which provides strenuous exercise and strengthens the muscles while generating less wear and tear on the body.

dog training: corgi puppy

Find the Right Amount of Exercise for Your Dog

Lack of exercise can cause a slew of complications beyond weight gain and physical pain. When dogs, especially large breed dogs, are not adequately exercised, they can become very anxious. This can result in a variety of undesirable behaviors, including barking, destructive chewing, digging, and hyperactivity within the home. The right amount of exercise for each dog varies, and it is up to dog owners to figure out what that is. Do some research on your specific breed to determine what the basic guidelines are and make adjustments as needed.

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Expert Advice for Your Over-Exercised Dog