As your dog ages, many pet owners are inclined to neglect routine walks and daily exercise. However, just like you, the more active a dog remains, the less risk there is for painful ailments such as arthritis or obesity.
Here we offer some of our favorite tips for exercising your senior dog to keep them happy and healthy.
Continue to Enjoy Walks
Walking is one of the best exercises for senior dogs. Dogs love to get out of the house, enjoy the fresh air, and get in some sniffs. Although their pace might change as they age, walks help avoid boredom and stimulate your dog’s mind. However, be sure to keep an eye on your pet to see how they are managing. Chances are you’ll have to slow your pace and avoid pushing your dog too hard to keep up.
Change Your Schedule in Summer
Your older dog becomes more sensitive to extreme temperatures as they age. In the summer consider going for walks earlier in the morning, or later in the evening when the temperatures tend to be cooler.
Dress Appropriately in Winter
Even if you’re not prone to playing doggie dress up with outfits or costumes, as your dog ages, dressing appropriately in the winter is very important. Invest in a sweater or jacket for frigid days, as well as some little booties to protect their pads.
You might find your older dog doesn’t want to walk on asphalt and gravel as they age. This will be particularly noticeable in the heat of summer when hot asphalt can burn their sensitive pads. If possible, choose a grassy park where they can enjoy walking on softer surfaces while receiving some senior dog exercise.
Pay specific attention to how your dog moves and if they seem stiff following a walk. Although they might still enjoy getting exercise, you will have to reconsider how much exercise is too much for older dogs. Take cues from your pet and look for signs of shortened breath, panting, stiffness and tiring. These are all signs you need to shorten your dog walks.
Water helps protect your dog’s muscles and joints. You can add swimming to their activities to switch things up a bit, and also allow them to work out more effectively. Whether it is a doggy pool or local lake, swimming is a great form of exercise that strengthens their body without stressing their muscles and joints.
In fact, swimming and water exercises are often prescribed for dogs recovering from surgery or accidents. Senior dogs should always wear a life vest to be safe. As well, if you have a bulldog, pug or brachycephalic breed, swimming is not recommended as they are at higher risk of aspiration pneumonia.
If the only exercise your dog gets is walking, it puts too much stress on the same muscles and joints. Cross-training for older dogs focuses on other parts of the body to reduce strain on the legs and hips. Believe it or not, you can find all kinds of exercise programs for dogs including yoga and Pilates. These exercises are good for the mental and physical health of older dogs. Your vet might be able to recommend a local trainer or facility offering cross-training for your chum.
Discuss Weaknesses with Your Vet
If your pet has certain ailments such as hip dysplasia or arthritis, your vet can recommend the best exercises for them. Certain conditions weaken specific muscles and/or joints so choosing exercises that help strengthen those areas can help. Your vet can also offer advice on what types of exercises to avoid so you don’t aggravate their condition and interfere with their ability to keep active.
Be Sensitive to Their Needs
If you are a particularly active person, it might be tempting to push your older dog to keep up with your level of activity. However, you need to be sensitive to their needs and understand they might not be capable of joining you on that five-mile run every morning. Pay attention to their ability to participate in activities and adjust your time together to ensure you are not overdoing it.
You can continue doing the things you love on your own, and make special time to introduce new activities better suited to your dog’s aging body. You may even consider buying a dog stroller so you can still enjoy your time running together.
The trick to exercising older dogs is to avoid falling out of an exercise routine that can cause your pet to stiffen up and gain weight. Finding the right balance of exercise and rest will ensure your older pet enjoys a happy active life into their senior years.