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By Dr Bob Encinosa

This is the time of year when everyone wants to write articles warning pet owners about the dangers of holiday foods, which of course is worthy of mentioning. But you’ve all heard it before. Don’t let your dog eat candy and chocolate and don’t let any of your pets indulge in too many fatty treats or foods to which they are unaccustomed. That just about covers it.

But, what I think of every fall, is that this is the time of year when the cooler mornings and evenings make it so much more enjoyable to exercise your pets. Dogs and cats naturally get more active and the Florida bugs finally begin to take a break. For pets and their people who retreated to air-conditioned comfort in May, this is the time to break out the leash and walking shoes and get moving. Controlling food intake is great for all animals, but it’s even better to burn of the extra calories by exercising instead.

The majority of dogs and cats are over- weight and under-exercised and the same can be said of people. And the simple fact is that summer in Florida is a tough, perhaps even miserable time, to exercise outdoors. It’s particularly tough to begin an exercise regimen in the summer. The truth is that we are spoiled by air-conditioning and so are many of our pets.

Fall is the perfect time to turn over a new leaf, turn off the TV and get off the couch. The physical benefits of exercise are only part of the story. The mental benefits are perhaps even greater, and that goes for pets as well. Half an hour of walking each day can extend the life of people and pets by years. Dogs especially derive great enjoyment from the sights, sounds and smells of an outdoor walk. This is the best time of year to get everyone back in shape. There is a lower risk of heat stress for overweight pets and people and the cooler weather also makes it safer for those suffering from heart or respiratory disease.

Once acclimated to a greater level of exercise in cooler weather, people and pets can much more easily transition to exercise in warmer weather as summer approaches. And, by then, everyone is leaner, making warm weather exercise that much more tolerable.

Speaking of exercise, check out our new YouTube video. Go to and click on the link to our new pet exercise video. At the end of the video you’ll find instructions for sending us video clips of you and your pet exercising. From the clips you send us, we’ll make more videos starring you and your pet.