We all love our pets dearly. So, as they age we want to do all we can to keep them healthy and fit. Pets tend to slow down with age just as people do. Let’s talk about ways to help them stay in shape and keep that pep in their step as long as possible.
An Active Dog is a Happy Dog
Exercise is proven to decrease stress, increase endorphins and prolong life span. Joints in motion stay in motion. Keeping a senior pet active requires regular effort to support their health and well-being. Start with a trip to your Veterinarian to confirm your pet is healthy for exercise and a discussion about diet.
Talk to a Professional
These days there are senior pet diets which can make a world of difference when it comes to nutritional requirements and joint support that older pets need. Once your pet has been cleared for exercise, it’s not a bad idea to consult with your local Rehabilitation professional and design a specific exercise plan based on your pet’s stamina and needs. But let’s get you started with a few simple exercise ideas most senior pets can do to keep them fit.
At Home Exercises
Foundation exercises for senior pets are those that work on maintaining back and joint flexibility, hind end strength and muscular and cardiovascular endurance
This is an active stretching exercise which works on back flexibility and shifts weight between limbs for light strengthening and balance.
Offer a doggie biscuit or treat to your pet. Encourage them to slowly follow the biscuit pointing their nose towards one shoulder and then the other. Complete 2-5 slow repetitions going slowly from left to right. Once or twice daily is recommended depending on your pet’s flexibility and activity level. Make sure to go slow and stop if pet resists or seems uncomfortable. You can always try again and maybe use better biscuits!
Sit to Stands:
This is an easy way to use the “sit” command and turn it into a hind end strengthening exercise.
Start with having your pup sit squarely in a correct position. Stand beside or behind their hind end. Have them stand up slowly, only pushing up with their hind legs. You may need to place a hand underneath their belly to encourage this. They shouldn’t take a step forward with their front legs, only push up directly in place with their hind legs. Complete 5 repetitions once to twice daily depending on the fitness level of your pet. Make sure to reward with treats for hard work!
Terrific for bonding with your pet and helping soothe any sore muscles.
Gently massage your pet using light pressure starting at the toes and working your way up the leg. There are great videos out there talking about different techniques you can try with your pet.
Keep Senior Dogs Active with Daily Walks
It’s important to remember that taking regular walks are good for your pet. You want to focus on shorter more frequent walks to help your pet enjoy the walk and not be exhausted for the rest of the day. Slowly add a few minutes to your walk time each week to help your pet build muscle and cardiovascular endurance. The rule of thumb is they should be walking just as well on the way back home as they were when you first started the walk. If your pet is struggling to walk home and seems tired, shorten the next walk and see if they respond better.
Keeping a senior pet active takes consistency. It’s a whole new way to bond with your pet and spend time. Make sure to reward with praise and treats when teaching a new exercise or walking just a little further. I know encouragement when working out certainly helps us all!
Renee Mills, VT, CCRP
Renee Mills is a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner and Veterinary product specialist.