Dogs and food don’t always go hand in hand, especially if it has anything to do with exercise. If you’re looking for some support in figuring out how to work mealtimes around his walk times, here are some tips!
Whenever it comes to food and exercise, the general rule is to make sure that you separate his meals from his walks by at least 30 minutes, though 1-2 hours is preferred. If you walk and feed directly one after the other, he’s going to trouble digesting, as well as possibly fatal complications!
Should I feed my dog before or after a walk?
Vets and experts agree that you can walk your dog either before or after a meal. Both have risks and benefits to them, both of which you’ll want to factor in when making your decision. As with anything related to your dog’s overall health, you can always check with your vet and ask for their professional opinion, too!
Benefits of walking a dog before eating
The main benefits of taking your dog for his daily walk before he eats include the following:
- Restore organs
- Reverses digestive issues
- Weight loss
Those sound kinda scary, huh? Your dog’s organs need time to restore and ramp-up to speed to work properly. When you walk him before he eats, this is what happens. As his heart rate jumps up, blood circulation improves, and this gives his organs time to, essentially, push out the “junk” and better themselves. Think of a walk as a cleanse for his organs!
If your doggo is a little on the chubby side — more of him to love, right? — then this is also great for weight loss. As your dog works out, he burns energy. Since he hasn’t eaten anything that he can burn, he needs to burn his fat instead. This will help his fat burn off gradually and safely.
Benefits of walking my dog after eating
You can also take your dog for a walk after he eats, too, if you aren’t really interested in going out before his main meal. Its perks include:
- Fuelled to enjoy his walk
- Better digestion and circulation
- Weight control
Since your pooch has now had his delicious meal and is feeling great as it starts to digest, he can easily feel energized and excited to take on his walk with energy and lots of gusto. He’ll be able to enjoy his walk mentally and emotionally, but also physically, too. For those active families who want to go for a long walk or something more strenuous, this is great.
As he’s already eaten and his food is starting to digest, his digestion and circulation (which go hand in hand) are going to be improved. This can help his metabolism and digestive tract keep working as it should and this will be better for his overall health short- and long-term. Think of the walk as a hiatus for the dog’s digestive tract. This helps it recharge to digest part 2 when he gets home!
Also, if your dog is a healthy weight, this will help him stay healthy! He won’t gain weight or lose weight (assuming he doesn’t get too many treats and his walks are long enough) and it is a prime part of keeping your doggo in perfect health!
Risks of walking a dog after eating
As with anything, there are risks to be aware of when it comes to eating both before and after a meal. In these cases, this refers to taking your dog for a walk before the 30-minute window, of course, so that you can understand why that window is there in the first place. Risks include:
- Stomach pain
- Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV)
Stomach pain, of course, is because he’s got a tummy full of kibble and he’s trying to run, jump, investigate, roll in the grass (or snow) and more. There’s only so much the stomach can handle before it gets sore.
Vomiting is another common problem. As your dog runs and bounds and generally enjoys life, his stomach’s contents are sloshing around (sorry for the visual…) and if they get agitated enough, they’ll come back up and he’ll vomit.
A dog’s stomach can also extend into bloat. While we use the term “bloat” to describe things like lactose intolerance or eating too much and puffing up like a balloon, in dogs, this is a serious issue. It can create a problem with the sphincter that connects the stomach and the esophagus if it happens enough.
This can often lead to GSV, which is where the stomach twists itself into a pretzel, basically, and it cuts off circulation as well as access. In large dog breeds, this can actually be fatal very, very quickly. The most likely scenario is that he will require surgery to manually fix his stomach, but oftentimes this only improves survival by about 30%, so it’s important to really watch that clock when you are going to take him out for his walk after his meal
Risks of walking a dog before eating
We know, we know, you’re feeling frustrated now that there are risks after eating. However, there are risks to taking him for his daily walk before his meal, too! This include:
- Low mood and energy
- Light-headed and lethargic
- Weight gain
Because he’s hungry, he won’t really be moving around a lot and he often won’t enjoy his walk because he’s got some serious hunger pangs going on. In some cases, if he’s really hungry, he may even get light-headed and lethargic as he tries to bound around like normal, only to find he just doesn’t have the energy.
Weight gain can sometimes happen as a result because, as you likely guessed, he just isn’t putting his effort into the walk and he won’t be able to get the same exercise benefits. This can be challenging for those that are trying to keep his weight consistent or even get his weight down.
Which is better for his health?
If you’re feeling discouraged between the risks and the benefits, take a moment and remember that there is a solution! This is, of course, waiting for the proper time between his meal and his walk itself. It makes more planning on your part, of course, but it will really help make sure that his health doesn’t suffer.
Since walking him before his meal (assuming we’re talking about a long walk and not a stroll) can make him feel light-headed and low-energy, this mostly defeats the purpose of his walk in the first place, right? So, in this case, walking him after his meal is going to be better.
However, walking after his meal can present digestion issues or GSV which sounds absolutely terrifying, right? So, what’s a responsible pet parent supposed to do? Here are some tips!
Focus on your schedule
Dogs work well on schedules, and so do you! If you know that you may not have time to wait the full 30 + minutes before his walk after the meal itself, perhaps you should take a look at the idea of moving his mealtime. For instance, feed him at 4:00 instead of 5:30. This gives him the extra time to digest and be okay. Your dog won’t mind it, either!
If you must walk him before his meal, make sure you are extra careful and pay attention to his energy levels. If he’s tired, make sure that you are respectful of his energy and take him home. Or, at least give him a break and some water to get him through to getting home again.
Talk to your vet
Your vet can often recommend some great ideas that are more targeted to your dog’s individual personality and preferences, especially if you know that he has a history of an upset stomach or even vomiting up his meal. Always take the advice of your vet, much like you’d take the advice of your own doctor over general advice!
Try it both ways and listen to him!
When all else fails, you can always ask your dog! Well, kinda. Unfortunately, doggos still can’t actually talk to us, but they can give us some great support with their cues! Take stock of when he most prefers to be active. If he likes to play before supper, maybe he wants to go for a walk then. If he likes to be out and about after his meal, this is another clue.
Try it either way for a few weeks and then you can see which he prefers based on his energy level and excitement over the walk itself. If he doesn’t seem to care, you can then decide what works best for you!
Your dog depends on you, his responsible pet parent, to take proper care of him. When it comes to eating and his exercise, make sure you focus on that 30-minute minimum separation to make sure that he gets the most out of both important parts of his life!