By Kim Campbell Thornton

Universal Uclick

Let's say it up-front: I'm not a runner. If you see me running, it's most likely because something scary is chasing me. But one of the reasons I love having dogs is because they are an incentive to get outdoors and go for long walks or hikes every day. And if you are a runner or jogger, there's no better partner than a dog. He's not bound by work or family obligations, and he most likely has energy to spare. This is one running buddy who'll always push you to keep going. Most important, running will help keep your dog fit both physically and mentally.

Like any athlete, though, dogs need gradual conditioning. You can't just start them out on a three-mile run. They'll be tired and achy and run the risk of injury. I talked to some canine sports experts to get the skinny on the best dogs for runners and how to prepare them for the activity.

-- What kind of dog? With some exceptions -- short-faced dogs, dogs with crooked legs and tiny dogs -- most dogs can make good running companions. The best dogs are attentive and obedient. They don't veer off to chase a squirrel or run in front of you and trip you. Hunting breeds, hounds and working dog breeds generally make good running companions, says Michael Davis, DVM, who studies sled dogs and exercise physiology at Oklahoma State University. Other good choices include herding breeds and certain non-sporting breeds such as Dalmatians and standard poodles.

-- When to start? We always hear that the best time for dogs to start running is when they reach skeletal maturity, but what does that mean? It varies by breed and may also depend on whether the dog has been spayed or neutered. Large breeds generally reach skeletal maturity at a later age -- usually 18 months to 2 years -- than smaller dogs. Growth plates close at 14 months for intact (unaltered) dogs and 20 months for dogs who are spayed or neutered, says Chris Zink, DVM, a canine sports medicine and rehabilitation specialist. Have your veterinarian give your dog the once-over before you start running with him.

Dr. Davis believes that brief periods of running prior to skeletal maturity can help "train" a dog's skeletal system for the types of forces encountered during running, but emphasizes that to avoid the risk of injury, it's important not to overdo it.

"The best bet is to keep the time of exercise to a modest level, not substantially fatiguing the dog," he says.

-- How far? It's not a hard and fast rule, but if you plan to run more than three miles at a time, it's best if your dog is taller than 16 inches at the withers, Dr. Zink recommends. Shorter dogs have to work harder than taller dogs at the same speed. Start with short distances of no more than a mile. Increase distance gradually so that distances of more than three miles are not reached until the dog is at least 2 years old.

-- Keep him hydrated. Dogs are highly athletic, but one area where humans outpace them is thermoregulation. Dogs lose large amounts of water as their body attempts to stay cool.

"It is not uncommon to cause heat injury in a dog, but not a human, when the two are exercising side by side," Dr. Davis says. "In moderate conditions, less than 70 degrees Fahrenheit, I recommend stopping at least hourly to let the dog drink. In warmer conditions, every 30 minutes, at least." Avoid running on hot or humid days.

-- How often? Dr. Zink recommends limiting runs to three or four times a week. Intersperse runs with walks or play. Remember that for both of you, rest is essential for your bodies to recover and perform even better the next time out.


Easter lilies

deadly to cats

Q: Every year my mother-in-law sends us an Easter lily. I think she's trying to kill our cat. Could you please print some information about how dangerous they are for cats so I can share it with her? -- via Facebook

A: You are absolutely right! We don't know why, but cats are highly sensitive to all parts of the lily: leaves, flowers, stems and possibly even the pollen and the water in which the flowers are placed. A cat who nibbles even a single petal or leaf of an Easter lily can go into severe kidney failure and die unless he receives aggressive treatment right away. That usually means a two- or three-day stay in the hospital receiving intravenous fluids and other supportive treatment to keep the kidneys functioning and flush the toxins out of his body. Even with extensive treatment, the prognosis is guarded. That all adds up to big bucks and lots of heartache!

Lilies of all kinds, not just Easter lilies, are popular ornamental plants that you can buy just about anywhere. It's very common to see them in bouquets and flower arrangements. The Pet Poison Helpline says to beware of tiger lilies, day lilies, Asiatic hybrids, Japanese show lilies, rubrums, stargazers, red, Western and wood lilies and lilies of the valley.

Normally if people are having problems with cats chewing on ornamental plants, I advise them to keep the plants out of reach, but I don't think that's a safe enough method to prevent lily toxicity. If you are a cat lover or love someone who is, you should never allow lilies in your home or yard or send them as gifts, no matter how beautiful and fragrant they are. -- Dr. Marty Becker

Do you have a pet question? Send it to or visit


Search dogs dig

seeking buried skiers

-- If you're skiing in Alaska, avalanche search-and-rescue dogs have your back. At Alyeska Resort in Girdwood, outside of Anchorage, three Nova Scotia duck tolling retrievers are specially trained to seek out people buried beneath the snow and help dig them out. The dogs begin training as puppies, encouraged to chase and find people, work over increasingly longer distances and times, and work in difficult conditions, such as heavy rain and snow. They become certified after two to three ski seasons. Two more dogs are currently in training, a Mudi -- a Hungarian herding breed -- and another duck toller.

-- Ohio may join 25 other states and the District of Columbia if legislators there pass a proposed ban on tethering animals. The bill would fine owners who tether animals outdoors in extreme weather conditions, overnight or while they are away from home. Tethers may not be shorter than 20 feet or used with choke or prong collars. It would also be illegal to tie an animal up for longer than six hours at a time. First offenders would be fined. Fines for subsequent violations can go as high as $1,000. Violators whose dogs become ill or injured while tethered could also receive jail time.

-- Cats rule on Aoshima Island in Japan. More than 100 felines populate the island, which is primarily a fishing village. Their presence has begun to make the island a popular stop for tourists, according to a photo essay by Alan Taylor in The Atlantic. The cats live in abandoned houses and schools -- or wherever they want -- and thrive on a diet of fish as well as cat food left for them in a designated area. Residents must shoo them away if they don't want to trip over them as they leave their homes. Apparently, a cat underfoot is a universal experience. -- Kim Campbell Thornton


Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.



Caption 01: Running is great exercise for dogs, but it needs to begin gradually at an appropriate age. Position: Main Story

Caption 02: Dogs chained outside are at risk of attack by other animals and are more likely to behave aggressively toward people. Position: Pet Buzz/Item 2
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