Dogs are active animals. So, as dog owners, it’s important to make sure they get daily physical activity and exercise. Not only will exercising keep them healthy, but it’s also a wonderful bonding activity for you and your dog.
However, along with exercise, dogs need to be fed the proper amount and type of food. But when, exactly, is the best time to walk dogs? Before or after eating? Before you decide whether the meal or the walk should come first, we’ve broken down the risks and benefits of both.
Once you have all of the information you need to make a researched and informed decision, you can choose what is right for your dog. Keep in mind, that if you have multiple dogs in the household, the routine might be different for each of them—age, health, activity level, and other factors all play a role in this decision.
Can I Walk My Dog After Eating?
Should you walk your dog after eating? There are several pros and cons to taking your dog for a stroll after a meal and you’ll need to weigh the risks for your unique pup. Is there a ‘right’ answer? Not necessarily.
Every dog will have its own specific tolerances and needs and it will also depend on how far you’ll be walking and how fast. If you’re going for a 10-minute walk, your dog may not need much fuel, however, a long-distance walk may require a meal beforehand.
It’s up to you as a pet owner to educate yourself on the pros and cons of this topic. Here are some of the common risks associated with walking your dog after a meal. And you can always learn more by following WagWell on Facebook.
Risks of Walking Your Dog After Eating
#1 Dog Bloat/Twisted Stomach
If you’ve ever heard of dog bloat, twisted stomach, or gastric torsion, these are common names for a condition called Gastric-Dilatation-Volvulus or GDV. GDV is the twisting of the gut—in other words, the twisting of the dog’s stomach.
The condition can be caused by a variety of situations including large meals, vigorous exercise, stress, anxiety, and overexcitement. While exercising, dogs may swallow a lot of air, combined with a large meal, this can cause extreme bloat and discomfort. However, GDV can occur with or without eating.
GDV usually occurs within the first two hours before or after feeding a dog, especially if they ate the meal extremely fast or it was a large meal that occurred close to exercise time. Deep-chested breeds like greyhounds, labradors, and german shepherds are at greater risk, however, it can happen in any breed.
Signs of GDV can include restlessness, pacing, drooling, swollen or painful abdomen, whining, dark red gums, or the inability to stand. Call your vet immediately if your dog is experiencing any of these symptoms.
Dogs vomit or regurgitate for a variety of reasons, some of those reasons may be serious while others aren’t a major cause for concern. First, let’s explain the difference between vomiting and regurgitation.
Vomiting is generally defined as the forceful ejection of stomach contents and upper intestinal contents. Vomit can contain partially digested food, bile, and has a sour smell. Regurgitation is simply a mild ejection of undigested food that never made it to the dog’s stomach and does not involve heaving.
Both vomiting and regurgitation can occur after eating, however, according to PetMD, exercising after eating can increase the chances of either. Of course, if vomiting persists, your dog may be experiencing a more serious illness—call or visit your veterinarian immediately.
#3 Interruption of Digestion Process
Food can stay in a dog’s stomach for up to 12 hours, and, of course, you would walk your dog within that amount of time considering your dog eats twice a day. However, tied in with the two risks above, vomiting and Gastric-Dilatation-Volvulus can cause interruptions with your dog’s digestive process.
Whether they vomit, experience symptoms of GDV or something similar, your dog is unable to eat or keep down the nutrients and proteins that they need. That’s why it’s best to consider all factors when making the best decisions for your pooch—if you notice that your dog tends to exercise or run vigorously when you take them out for physical activity, feeding them beforehand may not be the best option.
Benefits of Walking Your Dog After Eating
We’ve taken a look at the risks regarding walking your dog after eating, but are there any benefits? Of course, there is always another side to the coin. Once again, these pros and cons will also be determined by your particular dog, their age, activity level, how much water they drink, etc.
Walking your dog is a daily requirement and it is so beneficial to their health and happiness when done properly. Here’s a quick look at the possible benefits of walking your dog after eating. Plus, find out what else you can do to keep your dog happy at healthy by following WagWell.
#1 Stabilizes Glucose Levels
After eating, glucose levels tend to rise. Taking your dog for a walk after a meal can help stabilize their blood glucose levels. The muscles used while walking uses glucose as energy.
Consult your veterinarian if your dog has diabetes as this could result in low blood sugar levels. If your dog is experiencing any health issues or obesity issues, your veterinarian will be able to recommend the ideal eating and exercising plan.
#2 Weight and Body Conditioning
By getting in the habit of walking your dog after a meal, it can help keep their weight in check and within a healthy range. Plus, dogs tend to experience lethargy after eating and this will help them stay energetic, get their blood pumping, and aid in digestion.
#3 Creating a Regular Bathroom Schedule
Dogs tend to use the bathroom fairly quickly after eating. So, by taking them for a walk a reasonable time after a meal, it helps create a consistent bathroom schedule—which is beneficial to both the owner and the dog.
Having a regular bathroom schedule can greatly improve the way you interact with your dog. You will establish certain cues like body language, vocalization, and, in this case, a meal, to help you communicate about ‘going potty’ in any situation.
How Long Should You Wait To Walk Or Exercise Your Dog After Eating?
So, how long exactly should you wait to walk or exercise your dog without having to worry about any potential risks? According to some professionals, it is recommended that you wait two hours before physical activity after a meal. However, this will vary and depend on your particular dog and the size of the meal that was eaten.
In general, here are three rules of thumb to follow when it comes to time management:
- Wait 30 minutes after a small snack
- Wait 1 hour after a small meal
- Wait 2 hours after a big meal
Can I Walk My Dog Before Eating?
Should you walk your dog before eating? You might be thinking that the answer would be obvious—to avoid all of the risks mentioned above. Of course, those benefits are obvious, however, there are also some associated risks as well. You’ll get a closer look at both below.
Please note that a 30-minute rule should apply when exercising or walking your dog before eating. This means you should wait at least 30 minutes after physical activity before feeding your pup their meal.
Risks of Walking Your Dog Before Eating
Much like mentioned earlier, these risks are increased or decreased based on your particular dog, the length of the walk, and the difficulty of the walk. Dogs are built to sustain long fasting periods, so risks are minimal.
Dogs may become exhausted or overexerted if they go on walks without any food or ‘fuel’. If your dog is old, lactating, injured, or ill, keep walks to a minimum, especially if they haven’t eaten.
If you know you want to go for a longer, more strenuous walk or hike with your dog, it’s best for them not to do it on an empty stomach. In this case, you’d probably want to feed your dog a hefty meal before that trek. Reference the “rules of thumb” above for how long you should wait after feeding before exercising.
#2 Interruption of Bathroom Schedule
Taking your dog for a walk before a meal can cause them to have to postpone or “hold” their urination or defecation after the meal if the owner isn’t paying too much attention.
Make sure to keep an eye on their body language and vocal communication after the meal in case they need to go out afterward as well. If you went on a walk before the meal, you might not be thinking they have the urge to go—but they most likely will.
#3 Potential Stomach Issues
If the exercise is strenuous, dogs are not out of risk of developing GDV before the meal as well. Monitor your dog for any of the symptoms mentioned above after any intense exercise or activity.
Benefits of Walking Your Dog Before Eating
Walking your dog on an empty tummy may have its benefits as well, below are just a few to consider when making your decision.
#1 Weight Loss
Walking your dog before eating can help them lose weight, this is especially beneficial if your dog is obese. Research has shown that humans who do physical activity in a fasted state can burn more calories than after eating—the same may be said for dogs.
When a dog hasn’t eaten before going on a walk, its body can focus on burning fat calories instead of focusing on digesting food.
#2 Energy Exertion
By taking your dog for a walk before eating, you’re helping them exert pent up energy. Remember that dogs, although domesticated, have a wild instinct. Their wild instinct is to hunt for food.
So, instinctively, dogs should be working for their food. By taking them out for a walk before the meal, it helps them associate this in their mind. Exercise equals meals.
#3 Preventing GDV
As you may have noticed by now, GDV can happen at any time. However, in some breeds, walking your dog prior to feeding them can decrease this risk—this is especially true for deep-chested dogs and large breeds.
Conclusion: Is Walking Your Dog Before or After Eating The Best?
So, what is the best time to walk your dog? Before or after the meal? As you might have gathered by now—it depends. Ultimately, there is no right or wrong approach, it will simply depend on the unique characteristics of your dog, the type of walk you’re going on, how much they’ve eaten already, and other factors.
By feeding your dog before exercising, it helps fuel them for physical activity. Another wonderful reason is that it helps establish a regular bathroom schedule, which again, is beneficial to the entire household.
On the other hand, by feeding your dog after taking them for a walk, you can help keep them healthy if they are overweight, as well as exert pent up energy before the meal. Just make sure you take a moment to calm down after the walk so they don’t eat their food too fast.
All in all, as a dog owner, the choice is going to be yours. Use the rules of thumb mentioned above to determine how long you should wait before or after feeding your dog before taking them for a walk.
Experts recommend feeding your dog twice a day, so keep this in mind when you are creating a feeding and exercise schedule for your dog. The size of the meal will get smaller as the dog gets older. Although it’s not necessary to take your dog for a walk after every meal, it is recommended that your dog gets 20-30 minutes of physical activity every day.
For more information on dog health, dog nutrition, exercise, and more—WagWell Box has you covered. Every month, you can have both the essentials for your pup and the fun stuff all delivered to your front door. Learn more at WagWellBox.com.