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How many calories does your dog burn through exercise?

As humans, we have dedicated a lot of time and research into how many calories we burn through exercise. You can get your hands on charts, articles, apps, and more listing endless types of exercise and the average calories expended on different intensity levels. We even have machines that do this for us, equipped with tools that track and monitor our calorie expenditure. What about animals though? How do we track what our dogs burn during exercise?

Studies on Calorie Expenditure in Dogs

You may be surprised to learn that we know very little about how our pets burn calories. There exists a 70/30 percent rule that is followed by many pet health practitioners and veterinarians, but unfortunately there isn’t any evidence to support it. The rule suggests that pets going through weight loss programs where they are subject to regular exercise regimes lose 70% of their calories due to what is referred to as calorie restriction, and 30% due to loss from physical exertion.

There exists an extensive amount of research on the physiological effects of exercise in horses, but when it comes to our beloved best friends, cats and dogs, there is little to reference. Based on our internet research, here is what exists in terms of studies on calorie expenditure in dogs.

According to one study, a dog walking at a pace of 3.7 -4 miles an hour (~15 minute miles) will burn .8 calories per pound per mile. As a result, this would translate to a 20 pound dog burning a low average of 64 calories per 1 hour walk. It’s also worth noting how unlikely it is that most owners will be able to maintain a 15 minute per mile pace, which brings down the average for calories burned in a one hour walk. There aren’t any studies pertaining to slower walking rates, which makes it hard to state facts on the topic.

Another study tracks results of a 22 pound dog walking at a strong pace on a treadmill while submerged in 10 inches of water would burn about 64 calories in 30 minutes if maintaining a pace of 6.8 miles per hour. Consider this though, this pace is 2 miles an hour less than that of a marathoner! It it highly unlikely that an overweight dog could maintain the suggested pace for up to 30 minutes. And even if they were able to, the results still amount to only 64 calories burned!

What does all this mean?

Despite there being so few studies and reliable fact related to the results of exercise in dogs, it’s still important to make time for physical activity and regular exercise. Even if calorie expenditure is low, and may seem insignificant, exercise is healthy.

Not only is it good for your dog to remain active on a day-to-day basis, it’s also important activity time to build stronger bonds between dogs and their owners. Consider it this way, as long as you are exercising at a pace that makes you sweat and that gets your dog panting, you are promoting a healthier lifestyle for the both of you.


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