Is it good for dogs to run? "Yes," says veterinarian Marcia Smith. "But you have to take some precautions and keep an eye on them."
Smith doesn't recommend starting to run with a puppy until it is fully grown."You can start working many smaller dogs at six months, but I wouldn't start a large breed dog until a year," she says. "Bones and cartilage are not mature until then."
Don't expect a large dog to be a great runner past seven years. Even small dogs often have to cut back their mileage after they reach the age of 10. Remember that dogs are just as susceptible to the aches and pains of aging as human runners.
"Arthritis is common among older dogs," Smith says. "Exercise is good for a dog with arthritis, but not to the point of pain. If the dog is in pain, give it enteric-coated aspirin not Advil or ibuprofen, which can cause gastric ulcers, and see your vet."
Start slowly, especially if you'll be running on asphalt. A gradual increase in miles will toughen up your dog's pads and make him or her less susceptible to injury. Sore pads are usually the biggest indicator that a dog has done too much too fast. Tenderness, raw spots and bleeding are reasons for your canine pal to take a few days off.
Most importantly, you need to monitor your dog for overheating. Dogs do not sweat; they cool themselves by panting.
"You definitely can kill your dog," Smith says. "And it happens fast."
Warning signs that your dog might be in trouble include slowing down, an extremely lolling tongue, foaming at the mouth and glazed eyes. The dog may become weak and wobbly or even collapse.
If you suspect heat exhaustion, get to the closest source of water and immerse your dog.
"You need to dunk them," Smith says. If immersion isn't possible, cool the dog's abdomen with water.
Smith also cautions against feeding a dog a large meal before running. "Filled with food and gas from digesting carbohydrates, the stomach dilates and twists back on itself," she explains. "The dog can die within 12 hours."
But light snacks are OK, even good, if you'll be running for more than an hour or two. Milk bones, granola bars and energy bars (except chocolate, which can cause heart attacks in dogs) make good munchies. And now there's PowerBone, a sports bar designed just for dogs.