That dreaded annual trip to the veterinarian with Fritz is coming up.  You know what Dr. Adams is going to say, "Fritz is too heavy.  He needs to eat fewer calories and get more exercise."  You can hear the words ring through your head while you sit in the waiting room with Fritz nervously leaning against your legs.  The same thing probably happens to most of us as we sit waiting to see our own physicians.  We know what is best but sometimes eating right and exercising fall short of being highest on our priority list.  So today, we are going to focus on the exercise portion of the equation and in Part II we will start to explore the vast topic of nutrition.  Our goal is not to make your visit to AVH a stress-inducing event; we want to work with you in the lifelong journey of maintaining or improving your pet's health.  However, we need your help, so please do not cry when you get your reminder postcard in the mail but look at Fritz's wellness exam as an opportunity to get on the right track.  We are here for you to use as a resource and are always open to your suggestions and requests.



I have a quote that I like to mention when I am discussing the importance of exercise.  Once again it is as valid for the human species as it is for our furry companions.

 "Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise will sooner or later have to find time for illness." ~Edward Stanley

Not to say that bad things do not happen to fit beasts but an animal's ability to avoid disaster and recover from disease are markedly improved with a healthy body and immune system (which are often tied together).   I think that there are 4 goals that should be fulfilled with a good exercise plan.

1.  Improvement in quality of life - what dog does not like to go for a walk?  We do not often think of pets and mental health but many behavior problems could be avoided with regular exercise.  Our pets need mental and physical stimulation, as much as we do.

2.  Maintaining strength.  Pets need strong muscles to support their joints.  This is an important aspect of delaying the affects of arthritis and avoiding injuries.  Keeping a strong core is the most vital component.  Without abdominal strength your pet's back will suffer mightily.  We see many old dogs with a sway back, this is often a result of weak core musculature.

3.  Maintaining Flexibility - your pet must have flexible joints and spine to continue to do the things they like and need to do.  Watch a dog get up from lying down; they use their front legs, back legs, and abdominal muscles to go from a down to standing position.  This sounds like an easy task but as our pets age, doing simple things like rising can become extremely difficult without strong muscles and flexible joints.

4.  Endurance - this will improve your pet's cardiovascular and respiratory systems and help to maintain proper weight.  Weight management will reap the greatest benefit when it comes to keeping your pet’s joints and internal organs healthy over the course of its life.


One of the most common statements I hear from clients when I am discussing the importance of exercise is

"I have a big back yard and my dogs run around out there all day".  Really.... watch them, what kind of exercise are they getting in the big back yard (and more importantly are they annoying your neighbors)?  A single dart across the yard after a squirrel is more likely to result in a torn knee ligament than a good level of fitness.  Consistent and prolonged activity will improve health and endurance more than some sniffing around and an occasional run along the fence.  Nothing beats a good, long walk (or swim).


So a daily walk or two is a good start (for both you and your dog) but most pets need directed strengthening and flexibility exercises as well to round out proper fitness.  Playing with other dogs (or cats) or fetching a ball are great ways to introduce strength training to your pet.  If your dog is an only child, you may want to consider a trip to doggie daycare once or twice a week to provide the opportunity for play in addition to socialization.  I have also included some examples of my favorite exercises to get you started.  I love the Cookie Stretch, it is easy and provides a good bonding moment for you and your dog.  Have your pet in a standing position and hold a treat back by his/her hip, they will curl their spine and reach back to get the treat.  Do this at the level of the hip, the knee, and the foot on both sides.  To round it out, also get your dog to reach between his/her front legs to get another treat. The other exercise is a 2 leg diagonal stand, pick up the opposite front and back legs (give your pet time to balance) and hold for 10-30 seconds.  With older or injured dogs, you may only be able to lift one leg at a time.  If you can incorporate these exercises into your normal routine, you will often ward off back injuries in the future.                                                                            

The above discussion has focused mostly on dogs but cats need exercise too.  Indoor cats have an astonishingly high rate of obesity in the United States.  Cats are sometimes a little more challenging to get them up and moving from their favorite sun bathing spot on the window sill, but if you are creative, you can really add to your cat's quality and quantity of life with daily play.

If you have questions about fitness or diet, please feel free to send them via email.  We want you to be successful in providing the best care for your dogs and cats.

Commonly asked Nutrition Questions

- Is the most expensive diet always the best?  There is a lot of competition in the 

pet food market so yes, you will pay more for a high quality diet.  That being said, 

just because a diet is expensive does not mean that it is the right for your pet.  

Buyer beware.

- Does my pet need a “grain-free” diet?  The answer is generally no, but sometimes, 

yes.  Grain – free does not necessarily mean low in carbohydrates.  It is the high 

carbohydrate levels in certain dry diets that are going to pack the pounds on to 

your cat or dog.  If your pet possibly has a food allergy then one of these diets may 

be worth a try.  It is more important to make sure that the protein levels are 

appropriate in the diet that you select for your pet.

- Does my pet need a high protein diet?  The answer is maybe.  Many active dogs, 

especially working dogs do well on a high protein diet.  These diets are often very 

dense and high calorie so they may not be appropriate for less active or 

overweight dogs and cats.  Dogs need 1gm of protein per pound of their IDEAL 

bodyweight per day to maintain their lean muscle mass.

- Why is it that my pet is not losing weight on the “Less Active” / “Low Calorie” 

food that I bought at the store?  There are no store bought foods that are 

formulated for weight loss.  If you truly want your pet to lose weight and you 

want to do it is a safe and balanced way then a prescription diet from your 

veterinarian is best.  Cats are a bit different.  Some cats can lose weight on 

CANNED kitten food but if you want to stick with dry, a prescription diet will be 

needed for weight loss.

- How much should I feed my pet?  Great question and there is no right answer!  I 

will tell you to be cautious about following the directions on the back of the bag of 

food.  A very rough guideline for an adult dog is 1 cup per 25lb./ day and for an 

adult 10lb cat is ½ cup/ day.  This feeding recommendation is a place to start but 

you really should feed based on the body condition score of your pet and their 

activity level.  Pet feeding is a dynamic process and should change as needed.  We 

get in the habit of tossing the exact same amount of food in the bowl every day – 

rain or shine, winter or summer, and run at the dog park or not.  Try to anticipate 

your pets caloric needs and adjust accordingly.

- I give my dog lots of treats because he begs constantly if I don’t.  Is that ok?  NO!  

Treats and table food are not balanced and they are usually high in calories and 

salt and are probably the biggest contributor to our pet obesity problem in the U.S.  

Treats should always be <10% of your pet’s total caloric intake.  Feeding your pet 

intermittently and often will just reinforce his/ her begging behavior (ask 

Skinner).  Try to stick to meals and offer treats only sparingly or reserve them for 

training purposes.   I will take a step down from the pulpit to say that I am not 

against feeding your pets SOME high quality protein or vegetables but recommend 

that you adjust their caloric intake to accommodate these additions.  Baby carrots 

make great treats for dogs and most kitties would appreciate a few pieces of tuna 

every now and again.   Never feed directly from the table or your plate, and use 

your pet’s food bowl unless you are actively training.


- Hope that helps!!  Let me know if you have other questions.  Send them to  cc:  Dr. Adams nutrition question.


These answers are my opinion and are based on clinical experience and industry 


Pet Emergencies

Hopefully you and your pet will never need us on an emergency basis.  The reality 

though, is that emergencies do happen and we are here for you.  There are a few 

procedural tidbits that I would like to offer that may help to make your experience 

more “enjoyable”.   Also, the better prepared you are, the less stressful an urgent 

visit to AVH will be for you and your family.


1. Is this a true emergency?  We hear this question all of the time and it is 

actually often very hard for us to determine remotely if your pet is truly in 

trouble.  The top priorities for coming in to our Emergency Service should be,  

lots of bodily fluids involved (blood, vomit, diarrhea, urine, drool, etc.), 

difficulty breathing (this is always an emergency), collapse, an inability to 

walk, bite wounds, or severe lethargy.  The bottom line is though, if you are 

worried and cannot imagine having your pet wait until the next day to be 

seen by a veterinarian, you are likely being faced with an emergency.  I 

always recommend that owners enroll in a Pet First Aid class or certification 

program.  Having a good knowledge base is the best tool you can have when 

it comes to deciding what to do in an emergency.  A calm, cool, and collected 

caretaker is going to be more effective in determining how urgent a problem 

is and knowing how best to handle their pet if they are in distress.


2. Gather yourself and your history.  The more information we have, the more 

quickly and efficiently we can help you and your pet.  Keep all your pet’s 

medical information in a folder so that you can grab it quickly as you run out 

the door.  Also, talk to your family members about what they have seen as 

this will supplement your knowledge of the problem at hand.  It helps to 

check food and water bowls and take a quick look at the back yard or litter 

box so that you know the in’s and out’s.  Our pets cannot tell us what hurts or 

how they feel so we have to become Special Investigators and the 

interrogation begins the minute that you walk in our door.


3. Give us a call before leaving to come in.  If we know that you are coming, we 

can be prepared for your arrival, this is especially important in the event of a 

true life-threatening emergency.  Also, if you call ahead, we can usually offer 

some information on wait times, which brings me to my next topic…


4. Triage.  The definition of triage is “a process for sorting injured people 

(animals) into groups based on their need for or likely benefit from 

immediate medical treatment”.  You experience the same thing when you go 

to a human ER, we have to address problems based on how emergent they 

are not necessarily the order in which they arrived.  We always do our best to 

see every patient as quickly as possible because we know that you would not 

be in our hospital lobby unless you felt that your pet was in some degree of 

distress.  Occasionally we will have to ask for your patience if your pet is 

stable and we are managing a critical patient.


Our support staff is comprised of highly skilled technicians and veterinarians who 

are trained to manage all degrees of illness and trauma.  We are here for you and 

hope to gain your trust by offering the best care to our patients in a timely and 

compassionate manor.   Always feel free to call with any questions.


Natalie Adams,  DVM, CCRT, cVMA