Tips to Get Out With Your Older Dog
Your pup isn’t a puppy anymore. He’s up for a game of fetch, but he might move a bit slower and tire out sooner. Your job now is to learn how to keep your senior citizen active but respect his aging body.
Keep On Keepin’ On
Unless your dog has an injury, don’t stop the exercise, says Ellen Burbrink, DVM, co-medical director of Crosspointe Animal Hospital in Fairfax Station, VA.
Things like walks and games of fetch help your dog keep his strength and muscle tone. And they keep the extra pounds off, which can keep his joints healthy. The key is to lower the intensity. Throw the ball fewer times, and shorten his walks.
“A 20-minute walk 3 times a day is better than a 40-minute walk twice a day,” Burbrink says. “You’ve got to keep them active. Just don’t push them too hard.”
How Much Is Too Much?
Watch your dog and ask yourself these questions:
- Is he less happy about heading out for a walk?
- Does he get tired on walks sooner than he used to?
- Does he lag behind you on the leash or pant more than usual?
- Is he stiff after exercise?
- Is it hard for him to get up after he’s been lying down?
- Does he refuse to jump into or out of the car?
- Does he limp?
These could also be signs of osteoarthritis. It’s common in older dogs (and their humans). It happens when the tissue that cushions joints wears away and the bones rub together. That makes movement painful, Burbrink says. Your vet can help you find out what’s slowing your pet down.
Check the Weather
How do the seasons affect your aging dog? Does he have a hard time walking in summer due to the heat? Go out in the early morning and the evening.
Does the winter chill make his joints stiff and slow him down? Walk him at the warmest point of the day, and consider using a doggie sweater or jacket, says Jamie Peyton, DVM, of the U.C. Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. If he’s stiff in the morning, but loosens up by afternoon, wait until then to get out for some exercise.