A lot of people don't seem to realize, but dogs get sick just like people. The can bladder infections, kidney stones, ear infections, colds, and flu bugs. They can be sore after a work out, and they can be tired if they don't get enough sleep. They can even have allergies to things like pollen or ragweed! Since dogs don't always show their weaknesses, some people tend to assume that their dogs are robots or machines. This could not be farther from the truth.
I talk a lot about running with Cody. I love running with him, and he loves going out for a run, but there are a lot of precautions we take. I want to make sure I'm not hurting him, and I want to make sure he's comfortable. Granted, a run for me is really more of a fast walk / slow jog for him, but the principle still applies. Below are some of the things I do to keep him happy and healthy.
I cut his hair.
Summer is brutal. The heat and humidity can be awful on people and dogs alike. I run early in the morning to avoid the worst of it, but poor Cody can't escape his coat. So, every couple of months or so, I take him in to be groomed. I tell them to cut him short, trim the hair around his mouth, and even keep the hair around his ears short. He doesn't love the groomer, but he definitely loves the end result. He has so much more energy after a hair cut. He jumps higher for his Frisbee, he runs faster, and he just seems happier. It makes me feel good.
I provide him with high-quality food.
Cody has always had some mild allergy issues. I've had to make sure his food is low on the filler side for most of his life. Since we started running, I switched to entirely grain free (no wheat, no corn, no soy, no dairy), and the food I choose is higher in protein. Someday I hope to just feed him whatever we're eating, or at least people-quality food. For now, though, I've got him on some pretty decent dog food.
We stretch together.
At the end of a run, my legs start to tighten up. As a way to keep moving throughout the day, I take time to stretch out. Cody gets to stretch too. I'll lift, stretch, and massage his legs and body to help keep him loose and limber. Occasionally we'll even do Doga (dog yoga) to help him relax.
Hydration is important.
So far, I haven't had to stop for water on a run. Since we've only run 6 miles, and the weather has been cooler, water hasn't been a necessity. I can usually wait until I'm back home, and then I'll have some Gatorade or homemade fruit recovery juice, and I'll make sure Cody has a chance to rehydrate too. As distance start getting longer, though, I know this will need to change. I'll need to have fluids for myself AND for Cody. When looking at fuel belts, I've leaned towards the ones that hold 4+ bottles of fluids. That way half can be for me, and half can be for Cody. On longer runs I will even need to start bringing snacks for both of us. Luckily, that boy likes a variety of fruits and veggies (although he'd never turn down a bit of beef).
I watch for signs of fatigue.
This is true both during a run, after a run, and before a run. It's one thing to be tired due to lack of sleep. It's quite another to be tired because you've pushed to hard. The problem is, dogs can tell us when they hurt. It's our job to make sure they're OK. I have slowed to a walk because the dogs were tired. Before going out for a run, I do a fairly thorough physical exam of Cody. I rub him down, I watch how he walk, I even look to see what he's trying to tell me. Sometimes he just doesn't want to go. Sometimes he's actually sick. Right now, Cody is battling an ear infection. He was playful yesterday, and his ear was looking better, so I thought I'd try taking him out this morning. All it took was for me to watch him for ten minutes before I realized that was not the best idea. His head was low, his body was sagging. If I had to guess, I'd say he was running a mild fever. He came down to use the bathroom and then immediately went back up to bed (normally he prefers to be with us). He didn't show any interest in playing. I really wanted him to come with me, and if I'd put a leash on him I know he would have. That, however, would not only have been mean, it would have been dangerous. Instead, I gave Cody a kiss, told Hans to keep him comfortable, and I went out on my own. I think Cody appreciated that.
Someday I'll talk about all the types of illnesses a dog can get. For now, though, just keep in mind that dogs are more like people than we give them credit for. If you're sore after an activity, it's a safe bet that your dog is too. The difference is that your dog might not show you in the same way.