Old age – It’s only for the brave – both human and animal!
Our pets, once in their golden years, don’t run as fast and jump as high as they once did. They get a bit of grey around the muzzle and enjoy their afternoon naps more. Sometimes it’s hard for us to see or admit.
The best we can do for our “mature” dogs is to confront ageing right on. Tune in to your fur buddy’s and improve his quality of life.
They may be slower, but they still enjoy interacting with the world. Brisk walks become leisurely strolls. They still enjoy their outdoors!
Let your buddy choose where he wants to go, how far and how fast he wants to walk. He knows his limits. Don’t go further than he can handle.
Despite physical limitations, keep an environment that is physically and mentally stimulating. Boredom sucks worse than getting old!
Anybody that doesn’t move isn’t healthy.
Exercising older dogs is an important part of their daily care. It helps maintain muscle tone, maintain a healthy weight, improves circulation, boosts mood and improves quality of life.
But how much is too much. It is important to understand your dog’s limits. Let’s help you create an exercise routine that you will both enjoy.
HELP YOUR SENIOR FUR BUDDY KEEP AN ACTIVE LIFESTYLE – HERE ARE 12 TIPS:
1. Weight management
Overweight dogs have increased the risk of all sorts of diseases. This includes osteoarthritis, diabetes, heart problems improves mood!
Keep your senior dog at a healthy weight. It’s one of the best things you can do to help him stay mobile – and happy!
2. Indoor Exercise
Raining and you don’t feel like venturing outdoors? Provide mental and physical stimulation indoors!
REMEMBER: Only exercise on flooring with good traction. Even minor slips and slides on slippery floors can cause injury to your senior buddy. Slippery floors? Consider putting down rugs or non-slip mats.
Some indoor activities:
- Use treat dispensing toys.
- Keep them moving.
Encourage them to move around the home to keep their joints moving. If your dog is clearly having problems negotiating stairs, invest in ramps.
- Play games.
Keep him active and interested! Try hide and seek. Nose work and sniffing games are always fun for seniors. These games provide mental stimulation and excitement without strenuous activity.
3. Outdoor exercise
Senior buddies still love their daily outings.
Keep the walks short or go to dog-friendly cafes. Limit strenuous or fast-paced activities. Examples – games of fetch, swimming for long periods and walking in deep grass or sand for long periods. These types of activities are tiring for a senior dog.
If your dog enjoys a game of fetch he can still enjoy his favourite game as long as you’re careful. His old joints will not support him the way they used to and jumping to catch a ball is just a bad idea.
Throw a ball at a low trajectory and a short distance away. This way he can catch whatever you throw easily and without sliding and turning too quickly.
Remember to ensure that the area where you play is level and has good, non-slip footing for your dog.
Watch for holes, kerbs and hills.
4. Protect your dog from extreme temperatures
Even if your fur buddy has never had a problem with heat or cold before, he may now have more difficulty regulating his temperature.
If it’s hot outside it can strain an older heart and he will tire quicker. If it’s cold, he’ll likely feel the chill more than he used to.
Use a warm sweater or jacket can help keep old bones warm and comfortable. Choose a jacket that covers all the major muscle groups and allows freedom of movement.
For long-haired dogs, trim the long hair under the paws. Furry paws can cause dogs to slip on smooth surfaces (tiles or laminate flooring) and injuring themselves. This long hair will also attract grass seeds and prickles.
If your dog comes in from relieving himself with debris remaining on his behind, consider giving him a closer haircut on his behind.
The most important part of a grooming session is keeping those nails short! Long nails can cause much discomfort and pain to your dog. They are unable to balance, walk or run comfortably with long nails.
Your senior buddy may also need to have his nails clipped more regularly. His nails get less wear with his lower level of activity.
Do a lump-and-bump check when you groom your dog. The incidence of growths increases as your dog ages.
6. Muscle therapy
Dogs thrive when they are touched!
Touch is applied in a therapeutic way such as massage or muscle therapy, it can help senior dogs enormously. Muscle therapy or massage can deepen the bond between pets and people. As a bonus it will also:
- Improve circulation
- Reduce muscle stiffness and joint discomfort
- Stimulate weak muscles
- Stimulate the immune system
- Promote physical and mental relaxation
- Increase flexibility and range of motion
- Reduce pain for ageing joints
- Help to detect medical issues such as swelling, tender areas, lumps, skin conditions
There are some simple and effective massage techniques that you can use on your senior dog at home. Ask your canine muscle therapist to show you how to massage your dog.
7. Start exercising your dog gradually
Don’t be a weekend warrior. If your dog has been a couch potato, start with short, low-impact walks on flat non-slip surfaces.
Like humans who start a new exercise program, soreness the next day indicates means you have pushed your dog too far. Keep walks and games short. Stop as soon as you notice your dog’s energy levels flagging, he slows down or is panting heavily.
8. Stick to familiar routes
Age is often associated with deterioration of senses such as sight and hearing. This may make senior dogs anxious or confused in new surroundings. Seniors generally feel more relaxed and happy on routes that are familiar to them.
When in a different environment such as a new park, stay close to him. Your presence is a calm reassurance.
9. Listen to your dog
When exercising older dogs always use common sense. Follow his lead.
Watch him closely for signs of pain, distress, overheating or chill. If in doubt, err on the side of caution. Get your golden oldie back home for a drink and a nap. If he walks comfortably for half a block and then starts to lag, turn around and head home. If he seems happier to walk in the morning rather than the evening, walk in the morning.
REMEMBER: to your senior dog you are his whole life and he will try as hard as he can to be with you, to keep up with you! So walk at his pace. Don’t keep exercising past the point where his body is tired.
Swimming is a great exercise for senior dogs. But ONLY if your dog is a good swimmer.
More damage can be done when dogs are flailing around trying to stay afloat. Never force a dog to get into the water if he doesn’t want to. Supervise him closely in case he tires and needs help to get out.
Swimming helps arthritic dogs exercise without stressing their joints. Allow swimming outdoors if the weather is warm. Dry him off so he doesn’t get chilled.
If you have access to an indoor heated pool it can be a year-round activity. Again, make sure you dry him off quickly after a swim.
For some older dogs, routine forms of exercise such as walking, playing or swimming may be too much for their bodies to cope. This is where physical therapy can help. Visit a muscle therapist. They will design an exercise program for your dog to help improve his strength, balance and range of motion safely.
11. Don’t be a weekend warrior
Be consistent with your dog’s exercise. Dogs exercising occasionally are more likely to injure themselves than those who do a small amount every day. Short daily exercises produce greater benefits than long sessions once or twice a week.
So how Much Exercise is Too Much?
Signs that your older dog has had enough activity/exercise include:
- Excessive panting or drooling. These are signs your dog’s body is under stress.
- Slowing down, lying down or reluctance to continue to walk or play.
- Limping or weakness in any limb.
12. Products & Accessories That Can Help
Your older dog may need a little extra help or support during his daily exercise, negotiating stairs and entering/exiting the car.
There are many products for almost every dog – boots, strollers, slings, harnesses and wheelchairs. You will need to experiment to see which ones fit your purpose, budget and dog’s body shape best.
Choose a premium diet for senior dogs and ask your vet for a good all-around booster supplement.
Protect their joints from wear and tear, aches and pains and arthritis with Sashas Blend – the best you can do to keep those joints comfy!
For those who have loved a senior dog x
~ excerpts from Jackie Crawford of Canine Muscle Works, Australia