What Are the Best Types of Exercise for a Dog with Heart Disease?

April 8, 2024

Maintaining an active lifestyle is essential for your furry friend’s overall well-being. Exercise is especially crucial if your pet has a heart condition. However, not all workouts are created equal—some may be beneficial, while others could do more harm than good. With this in mind, it’s important to understand the best forms of physical activity for a dog with heart disease.

Understanding Heart Disease in Dogs

Before diving into the suitable exercises, it helps to comprehend what heart disease in dogs entails. Similar to humans, heart disease in dogs can either be congenital, meaning they are born with it, or acquired, which develops over time due to factors such as age, injury, or illness. Regardless of the type, heart disease affects your pet’s heart’s ability to function properly.

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The American Kennel Club (AKC) lists several heart conditions that dogs may suffer from, including heartworm disease, dilated cardiomyopathy, and degenerative valve disease. These conditions lead to heart failure, where the body does not receive enough blood, hence oxygen, to function correctly.

Symptoms of heart disease in dogs may include persistent coughing, difficulty breathing, reduced willingness to exercise, loss of appetite, and sudden weight loss. It’s essential to consult with a vet if your dog shows any of these signs.

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Discussing Exercise Needs with a Vet

Once your dog has been diagnosed with heart disease, the first step is to discuss their exercise needs with your vet. They will consider your pet’s breed, age, overall health, and the extent of the heart disease before suggesting a suitable exercise regimen.

The vet’s guidance is crucial since overexertion can exacerbate your dog’s heart condition, while insufficient exercise can lead to weight gain and other health problems. Therefore, a carefully balanced exercise routine is necessary to keep your dog healthy without straining their heart.

Tailoring Exercise to Your Dog’s Breed and Body Weight

Different breeds have different exercise needs. For instance, smaller dogs usually require less exercise than larger breeds. Dogs with heart disease may need to reduce their activity level, but this must be balanced against the need to maintain a healthy weight.

Gentle exercises such as short walks or light play can be beneficial for dogs with heart disease. However, these activities should be tailored to your dog’s body weight and breed. Overweight dogs may need more exercise to lose weight, while underweight dogs might require less strenuous activities.

Walking as a Beneficial Exercise

Walking is one of the best exercises for dogs with heart disease. It’s a low-impact activity that helps maintain a healthy body weight, improves muscle tone, and can help manage symptoms of heart disease.

To ensure your pet is not overexerted, start with short, slow walks and gradually increase the duration and speed as your dog’s health allows. Always monitor your dog during walks. If they show signs of distress, such as excessive panting, coughing, or reluctance to move, stop the walk and rest.

Other Suitable Activities for Dogs with Heart Disease

While walking is a great starting point, other activities can also benefit a dog with heart disease. Gentle play, such as tossing a ball in the backyard or indoor games, can provide mental stimulation and light physical activity without overexertion.

Another beneficial activity is swimming. It’s a low-impact exercise that’s easy on the joints and beneficial for the heart. However, always supervise your dog while swimming to ensure they don’t overdo it.

In conclusion, a dog with heart disease can still lead an active and fulfilling life with the right care and exercise routine. Always consult your vet and monitor your dog closely during any physical activity to ensure their heart health is not compromised. Remember, the goal is to help improve your dog’s quality of life, not push them to their physical limits.

The Role of Dog Sports in Managing Heart Disease

Dog sports can serve as a fun and effective way to engage your dog in physical activity without causing overexertion. These sports are typically low-impact, mentally stimulating, and can be tailored to fit a dog’s individual health requirements.

One such sport is nose work, where dogs use their keen sense of smell to find specific objects or scents. This sport provides mental stimulation which is as important as physical exercise when considering your dog’s overall health. Importantly, nose work is low-impact and can be modified to accommodate your dog’s physical limitations due to heart disease.

Rally obedience is another dog sport that combines obedience and agility training. The dog and handler navigate a course with various commands to perform. The pace and intensity of this sport can be adjusted to suit your dog’s health condition, thus providing an enjoyable and beneficial exercise that doesn’t strain the heart.

The key to incorporating dog sports into your dog’s exercise routine is to ensure the activities are suitable for your dog’s health condition. Remember, the goal isn’t to push your dog to the extreme, but to provide them with regular, low-impact exercise that helps manage their heart condition without causing distress.

Importance of Regular Checkups and Monitoring Heart Health

Keeping up with regular checkups is essential in managing your dog’s heart disease. These checkups allow your vet to assess the progression of the disease and adjust the exercise routine as needed. Regular examinations ensure your dog is getting the right amount of exercise without putting undue stress on their heart.

In addition to regular checkups, monitoring your dog’s heart health at home is also crucial. Keep an eye on your dog’s energy levels, breathing patterns, and any changes in behavior, especially during exercise sessions. These could be signs that your dog is being overworked or that their heart disease is progressing.

When monitoring your dog’s heart health, use a heart rate monitor specifically designed for dogs. This tool can provide valuable information about your dog’s heart rate, alerting you to any potential problems before they become serious.

In between vet visits, monitor your dog’s weight regularly. Maintaining a healthy weight is essential for dogs with heart disease as excess weight can put additional strain on the heart. Balanced diet and regular exercise can help your dog maintain an appropriate weight, contributing to better heart health.


Managing a dog with heart disease requires a delicate balance of regular exercise and rest. The right types of physical activity, such as walking, gentle play, swimming, and certain dog sports, can help manage your dog’s heart health without causing overexertion.

Regular check-ups with the vet and close monitoring at home are essential to managing heart disease in dogs. These help ensure your dog is getting the right amount of exercise without causing undue stress on their heart. By taking these steps, you can help your dog lead a longer, happier life, despite their heart condition.

Remember, each dog is unique and what works for one may not work for another. Always consult your vet for a personalized exercise routine that is best suited to your dog’s breed, age, body weight, and overall health. The goal is not to challenge your dog physically but to improve their quality of life and help your dog manage their heart disease effectively.