Canine Fitness: Dusty, spayed Labrador bitch swimming with toys
Dusty is one of Anne’s own dogs. She swims at least once a week partly for fun and canine fitness, but also because she has been spayed, which makes her more prone to putting on weight. Dusty has had 3 litters of puppies (usually Anne will only allow a bitch to have 2 litters) so she has a rather loose “undercarriage” which can spoil her appearance, making it even more important to keep her muscles toned and maintain canine fitness.
Dusty is 9 years old and is showing occasional lameness after land-based exercise. This is caused by the onset of arthritic changes, and by regular swimming she keeps her joints mobile, her weight down and maintains canine fitness.
Like a typical Labrador Dusty loves her food and even at her age she will sometimes steal food from the kitchen table if she has the opportunity. She is still full of fun, and whilst she won’t often compete for toys on the field she is very particular about getting her favourites in the pool, hence her having two at once!
Pregnant bitches who are regular swimmers at Canine Therapies can continue controlled swimming during their pregnancy (obviously with the consent of their vet) up to about 7 weeks, although it is not generally recommended for a bitch who has not been swimming before becoming pregnant. Just as for humans, the buoyancy of the water can really help a bitch to feel more comfortable without that additional weight on her joints.
Bitches who have been spayed have a tendency to put weight on because the change in hormones can slow down the metabolic rate. Consequently they do not burn energy as fast, and unless their food intake is reduced the pounds will creep on.
Swimming burns much more energy than a similar amount of exercise on land, so can be a positive contribution to weight management and improves overall canine fitness.