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Exercise and Cage Rest Restrictions

Original post Keeping Dogs Calm During Heartworm Treatmenton Pooch on a Couch

How I Restrict Exercise

During exercise restriction, I stop the following activities:

  • I keep dogs from running up and down stairs

  • I stop brisk, long walks and replace with shorter, leisurely walks.

  • I put away the fetch ball

  • I crate all dogs before I answer the front door

  • I leash walk the heartworm-positive dog outdoors for potty time using a longer lead. Other active dogs are kept inside.

  • I do not allow games of chase

  • I manage how much jumping up/down off furniture happens.

  • I anticipate zoomies all the time so I can prevent them. I foster Boston terriers, usually. They zoomie often!

How I Cage Rest

Cage rest is pretty self-explanatory. It means cage rest! Your heartworm positive dog, after receiving melarsomine treatment will be instructed to remain caged, crated or penned for the duration of this phase of treatment except when they need to go outside to potty. The duration of this phase may be as short as 30 days, or as long as 120 days, but most of my foster dogs were under cage rest for 60 days.

I always “size up” the crate for cage rest. The goal is to keep their body “at rest”, not immobile. Your heartworm positive dog should be able to stretch out and lay comfortably in any position they choose. They for sure should be able to stand up and easily turn around while in the crate.

During cage rest, I stop the following activities:

  • continue all of the exercise restriction activities already implemented.

  • stop all walks except potty strolls in the back yard.

  • stop all play and active training that will encourage excitability.

  • do not allow the heartworm positive dog to have any free reign in the home or yard.

  • throttle down the activity of the other dogs in the home.

How I Keep My Heartworm-Positive Dogs Happy During Exercise Restriction and Cage Rest

During the exercise restriction phase I:

  • give my dogs several, short leash walks during the off-temperature times of the day. These are SHORT walks, 10 minutes max at a leisurely pace.

  • provide more exploration and sniffing activities than actual walking. Sniffing is an enrichment activity, good for the dog’s nose, brain, and mood! (Check out this link for DIY snuffle mats!)

  • practice carefully chosen obedience training skills indoors, or if outdoors, controlled. This works! As long as your dog is not becoming overly excited about food rewards, you can really wear your dog out by a 15-minute training session.

  • teach impulse control work. An example is, teaching a dog to hold a sit or a stay for longer and longer periods of time until it’s released.

  • use enrichment toys, carefully chosen. Active enrichment toys, like a Wobble Kong or a Buster Cube, might be too active, so I use toys like the Kong Genius Mike or the West Paw Qwizl toys – ones that allow the dog to quietly work to get the food out.

During the cage rest phase for non-symptomatic dogs:

  • I continue to use enrichment toys

  • If I conduct training sessions, it is very controlled and very stationary. Training I might do: “leave it”, “take it”, “give it”, “drop it” cues where the dog does not have to move about.

  • I make sure heartworm positive dogs are crated near other calm dogs when I’m not home. Cage rest does not have to mean isolation. They need to feel connected, not alone.

  • I allow short breaks for a stroll around the yard and continue to encourage sniffing and gentle exploration.

  • If it’s a pretty day and my dog is calm, I may sit outside on the porch with my heartworm positive dog tethered next to me for a bit.

  • In the evening, when all is quiet and if the heartworm positive dog can tolerate, I allow a dog to join me on the sofa for quiet time. The dog is on a leash and the dog is tethered to me. My other dogs are also in a calm state of mind or they are crated in a different part of the house.

What About My Other Dogs?

I think that my personal dogs are affected when I have a heartworm positive dog in my home. I know they are because I change their routine too! I find that it is much easier keeping dogs calm during heartworm treatment when all dogs in the house are asked to somewhat restrict their activity.

Here’s how:

  • I change where we play active games. If I normally allow fetch and tussle games inside, I direct those activities outside, so my heartworm positive dog cannot see or hear the play happening. How unfair to a caged dog to see play and not be able to participate!

  • All dogs are fed in their crates. I think if my heartworm positive dog is fed in their crate, my other dogs should, too.

  • I restrict window access and door access to all dogs. How upsetting to a caged dog to hear commotion when the UPS driver approaches the house and not understand what’s happening?

In other words, a caged dog is going to experience some frustration just by the nature of being confined. I don’t want to add to that frustration because my other dogs are allowed to participate in normal rowdy dog activities right under its nose.


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