Petplan’s Running Safety Rundown

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Pet insurance provider digs into dog-running do’s and don’ts

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As days lengthen and temperatures rise, colorfully clad runners burst forth outside like so many spring blossoms. And whether they’re trading the treadmill for the trail or newly embarking on the path to fitness — many will find an eager training partner in the family dog.

“Dogs can be wonderful workout buddies,” says Petplan staff veterinarian (and veteran runner!) Dr. Kim Smyth, DVM. “Besides the physical and emotional benefits of getting in shape together, a dog’s natural enthusiasm can be highly motivating — contagious, even!”

That assertion is supported by the Wellness Institute at Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital, whose “People Pets Exercising Together” study found that people who exercise with pets are more likely to stick to their workouts than those who pound the pavement solo.

But before lacing up to log a 5K with a furry friend, Smyth cautions that not every canine is built for speed or distance. Pet parents of would-be jogging dogs would do well to take these tips to heart:

Do: Choose your running partner wisely. Sporting and hunting breeds are excellent choices because of their history accompanying two-leggers over long distances.
Don't: Expect your Bulldog to go the distance. For short-legged or lower-energy breeds, genetics will win this race every time.

Do: Break into a jog on walks with your older puppy to see if she likes it. Limit the first few runs to brief trips around the block to avoid exhaustion, which can set in quickly.
Don't: Start running long distances with your puppy before her bones are mature. Too much high-impact activity could lead to orthopedic problems. The right age can vary by breed, so ask the vet when it’s safe to go the first mile.

Do: Keep your dog on a short leash – three to six feet is best. This allows runners to keep their dog close and remain in control.
Don't: Use a retractable leash. (Ever.) It’s easy for dogs to develop pulling habits, get tangled up, and get out of control – and for that cord to cause injury to both of you!

Do: Feed your new running partner a high-quality, balanced diet. Consider adding some banana slices on run days – they have the same restorative benefits for pets that they do for people.
Don’t: Feed Fido just prior to a run. No one likes running on a full stomach, but in dogs doing so could lead to life-threatening bloat. Wait at least an hour before leashing up.

Do: Pace yourself and your pup, adding no more than a mile a week to runs. Ever heard of a “couch to 5K” training program? Dogs need that same time to ease into longer runs.
Don’t: Run more than 10 miles at a time with your dog. Remember, pets are essentially running “barefoot,” and sustained cardiovascular activity can be hard on even the healthiest dog.

Smyth stresses the importance of mastering basic obedience commands like “sit” and “stay” — potential life-savers at busy intersections — and staying up-to-date on flea and tick preventive, especially when running on trails or wooded areas, where the ticks that carry Lyme disease are more prevalent.

“Most of all, I encourage pet parents to talk to their veterinarian before beginning any training regimen,” Smyth says. “Running should be something fun you do together, but as a runner and a veterinarian, I’ve seen far too many preventable and costly injuries,” Smyth says. According to Petplan’s 2015 claims data, something as common as lameness costs an average of $966 to treat, while a cruciate ligament injury (similar to an ACL tear in humans) runs an average of $3,480.

Petplan has created a companion infographic with this and other running information for pet parents. Visit to download the infographic and learn more about protecting your pet’s health.


Petplan is more than a pet insurance provider. We’re dedicated to giving pet parents the support, resources and tools they need to keep their pets not just surviving—but thriving—into old age. Simply put, we aim to be the kind of company that will make our pets proud. For the third consecutive year, Petplan was listed among the top 50 of Forbes' annual ranking of America’s Most Promising Companies – a list of 100 privately held, high-growth companies with bright futures. Petplan is the only pet insurance provider to have been included on Inc. Magazine’s list of 500 fastest-growing, privately held companies in America.

Petplan’s fully customizable cat and dog insurance policies provide comprehensive coverage for all hereditary and chronic conditions for the life of the pet as standard. Petplan policies are underwritten by AGCS Marine Insurance Company in the U.S. and by Allianz Global Risks US Insurance Company in Canada. The Allianz Group was rated A+ by A.M. Best in 2015. For more information about Petplan pet insurance, visit or call 1-866-467-3875.

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Jessica Kinney
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