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Physical and Mental Health Benefits of Walking your Dog

In a worrying statistic, it’s been reported that 59% of dogs in the UK are classified as overweight or obese. Overweight dogs can suffer from a range of conditions, such as osteoarthritis and diabetes, which can cause them a significant amount of pain, with the extra strain on bones and joints.

However, like humans, exercise can help dogs significantly when it comes shedding excess weight and staying in shape, and Lulu, a six-year-old chocolate Labrador, is a great example of how exercise and the right care can transform a dog’s life.

Lulu was handed into Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home in July 2018 with balding fur and bad ears, and very overweight. The Home’s staff quickly went to work and provided Lulu with all the veterinary care she needed.

She was given regular medical baths, steroid ear drops and had two lumps removed from her body. She was also spayed and given all necessary vaccinations. Throughout her various treatments, the Home’s devoted kennel staff worked hard to reduce Lulu’s weight, often taking her for long walks on the beach and to a local nature reserve, where she could spend her days walking and running around the beautiful surroundings. During this time, one of the kennel staff members, Lucy, fell in love with her. Happily, Lucy rehomed Lulu in January this year and they have been inseparable ever since.

The positive physical and mental health benefits for dogs — and their humans — was at the heart of a charity walk held in Edinburgh and simultaneously across five other countries.

The Agria Dog Walk 2019 took place on 25 May in Stockholm, Oslo, Helsinki, Copenhagen, Paris and several locations in the UK, from Edinburgh to Devon, to raise money for local animal rescue centres, with Agria Pet Insurance donating £5 for every dog walked.

Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home hosted Scotland’s only event, and all money raised went to helping rescue, reunite and rehome lost, stray and abandoned dogs and cats, and providing them with food, shelter and vital veterinary care while they await their forever home.

Says Edinburgh Dog and Cat Home Welfare Standards Coordinator, Kirsty McGinley:

“Walking outdoors with your dog has endless rewards for both you and your four-legged friend, from the physical benefits of gentle exercise to the mental stimulation of getting out of the house and exploring new surroundings. Walking also gives you quality time with your pooch, which is an important part of their socialisation and behavioural development.”

Robin Hargreaves, former British Veterinary Association President and Vet Panel Lead at Agria, says a combination of appropriate food and exercise are critical to avoiding and reducing obesity in dogs.

“It’s so much more fun to exercise together with your dog – and the fitter you both are, the more enjoyment you can both get from being out and about together in the great outdoors. You’ll never have a more enthusiastic exercise partner – make the most of having them there to motivate you!”

Did you know?

Walking boosts self-perception and self-esteem, sleep quality and mood, with studies showing that a walk in the countryside can leave you with a seven-hour high!
Stress, anxiety and fatigue are all reduced by walking
Physically active people have up to a 30% reduced risk of becoming depressed, and staying active helps those who are depressed to recover.
In older people, staying active can improve cognitive function, memory, attention and processing speed, and reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia.

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