Dog playing ball

Senior pet fitness: The importance of exercise

Senior dogs are more likely to have health conditions or other problems that might limit how much they can exercise. They tend to slow down a little or rest more, but it’s still important to keep them active so they stay healthy.

As dogs age, they may develop age or breed related health problems which stop them from doing certain activities or affect their day to day lives. These can include:

  • Arthritis, joint and mobility problems
  • Loss of sight
  • Deafness
  • Heart problems
  • Dog dementia (Cognitive Disfunction Syndrome)

If you notice your dog having problems with getting around or they don’t seem to enjoy the idea of exercise anymore, pop to your vet as there may be something they can do to improve their quality of life and ease any aches and pains stopping your dog from getting around

General Advice

There are a few tips to follow that will apply to almost all senior dogs:

  • Check with your veterinarian- Before beginning any fitness program with your dog, you must first get them examined by a vet. Your vet can tell you if it is safe to begin such a program and provide you with an estimate of how much daily exercise your dog needs.
  • Begin slowly- Go at your dog's pace. Don't rush them or try to make them exercise for longer than they are able to. If they stop chasing a toy or lie down on a walk, they need to rest.
  • Warm up- Everyone who runs daily will tell you the importance of stretching before running. Older dogs require additional time to stretch and prepare their muscles of a lengthy walk or run. Before you begin, let your dog run a few laps around the yard chasing a ball or a stick to get the blood and muscles working. A brief warm-up will lessen the likelihood of injury.
  • Keep it low impact- High-impact activities, such as jumping, can damage an aging dog that is losing weight and muscle mass, therefore you will need to limit the intensity of the dog’s training schedule. Walking and swimming are the finest low-impact activities to pick from. Dog parks are another excellent option, since they give your pet with the additional excitement of meeting new pals.
  • Watch for pain and discomfort- As previously said, you will need to be very cautious in the beginning for indicators of pain. So, you must be vigilant and halt if issues occur, stopping can assist in preventing damage.
  • Don’t forget a mental workout too! - Not all forms of exercise must be physical. Your dog will also benefit from mental stimulation. There are a variety of similar activities you can play with your pet, such as hiding goodies throughout the house to stimulate its hunting instincts. Puzzle toys and indoor games are a great way to keep your older dog happy and enjoy quality time together.

Good exercises for older dogs

There are still plenty of exercises you can do with your older dog, you just need to remember to go at their pace and stop if they look like they are tired or struggling.

  • Walking – no matter how old they get; dogs will still look forward to a walk. You may have to take a shorter route and make lots of rest stops.
  • Swimming – if your dog enjoys being in water, swimming can be a great exercise as it doesn’t put as much strain on sore joints. Remember to dry them off as soon as they come out of any water, so they don’t get cold and only let them swim if it’s safe to do so. Pools or lakes may have high sides which an older dog may struggle to get out of, so do be careful where you take them swimming.
  • Scent games – as long as they have a good sense of smell, dogs will benefit from scent games regardless of age. It’s a great way to keep not only their body but also their brain in good condition.
  • Playing – although their pace might have slowed down your dog can still enjoy playing. Some dogs never seem to lose their fun-loving puppy nature and will still love to play with you. You can still play their favourite game, even when they get older. Try to keep games low and a little gentler so they don’t try to jump or twist for toys.
  • Socialising – dogs are social pets. They might not be able to keep up with younger dogs as well and often get frustrated with puppy antics, but they’ll still enjoy seeing and hanging out with dogs their own age that they get on with even if they don’t end up playing.
  • Training – old dogs can still learn new tricks. Training is a great way to keep an older mind active. They’ll enjoy the extra opportunities to get their brain working.

Mobility aids for your senior dogs

If your dog’s activity is being affected by their mobility for any reason, it’s still important to keep them as active as possible and keep a close eye on their quality of life. There are lots of things that can help so have a chat with your vet to see what options are available.

  • Give them lots of brain games to keep their minds healthy and active.
  • Ask your vet about physiotherapy, hydrotherapy or massage techniques that might help them.
  • It can be difficult to physically help a larger senior dog that’s struggling because of their size. You might want to consider getting a support harness or sling for when they are walking.
  • You may want to use ramps around the home to help them get up steps to and from the house/garden or into the car.
  • Tiles and wood flooring can sometimes be slippery for our four-legged pals, especially if they aren’t as steady on their feet as they used to be! Consider putting down a rug or mat to make it easier for them to walk on.
  • If they can still walk just not very far, take them on shorter, flatter walking routes so they can still get outside and stretch their legs. You might even want to drive them to a park they used to enjoy walking to so they can still walk around it.

Remember that older dogs who struggle to get around might start getting longer nails as they aren’t wearing them down by walking. It’s important to check them regularly and get them trimmed when they need it.

Source: BestforPets