Do Dogs Experience Runner's High?

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There’s compelling evidence that dogs experience “runner’s high,” a euphoria-inducing buzz experienced by regular runners and other athletes.

The discovery, published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, could mean that nature rewards many animals with this pleasant feeling, encouraging them to run and jump around.

David Raichlen of the University of Arizona and his colleagues wrote that “a neurobiological reward for endurance exercise may explain why humans and other cursorial mammals habitually engage in aerobic exercise despite the higher associated energy costs and injury risks, and why non-cursorial mammals avoid such locomotor behaviors.”

In short, we’re fools for exercise because it can feel good.

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Raichlen and his team made the determination after studying endocannabinoids that circulate throughout the body. If the word reminds you of cannabis then you’re not too far off, since these are the same chemicals found in marijuana. They function as neurotransmitters, affecting the brain by sending reward signals to it.

The study looked at humans, dogs and ferrets. Dogs are considered to be cursorial animals, meaning that they have legs adapted for running. While ferrets can speedily skittle around, they are non-cursorial.

After working out on a treadmill, the people and dogs in the study had “significantly increased exercise-induced endocannabinoid signaling following high-intensity endurance running.”

The ferrets didn’t feel bupkis, except for perhaps being tired.

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Humans and dogs, on the other hand, both likely experienced runner’s high. While the study didn’t involve cats, felines are cursorial animals too. It’s therefore very likely that they get the runner’s buzz as well.

Jogging with your dog and taking your cat out for a brisk walk on a leash are activities that can benefit both you and your furry friends. Keep at it, because you have to reach a certain threshold of aerobic activity before the high feeling kicks in.

Photo: MunstiSue, Flickr