Walking Senior Dogs.
Just like us, senior dogs become less active and have much less stamina as they age. This doesn’t mean an elderly dog won’t look forward to their daily walk. However, it may mean a few adjustments might help, in order meet the senior dog’s needs. Read our Holidays4Dogs article to find out more about the best way to exercise the older dog.
Puppies and young dogs are always full of life and energy. Always ready to go on a walk and explore the world at every opportunity; young dogs love long walks in the countryside and playing with their canine pals.
However, the elderly dog may be less enthusiastic to go for long hikes and may start to tire more quickly. Some elderly dogs seem less able to cope with the hustle and bustle of busy places. They may also become less tolerant of rambunctious younger dogs.
This is not to say that older dogs should not have any exercise, because as with ageing people, it is important to keep mobile and supple.
But, rather than long rambles, or energetic games of throwing a ball; the older dog may prefer a gentler and more sedate exercise regime.
Signs of aging in dogs.
As dogs age, there are a number of signs to look out for which may impact on their ability to exercise in the same way they used to.
- Arthritis and joint problems frequently affect the aging dog. (Although younger dogs can suffer too).
- Reduced, or complete loss of sight.
- Complete, or partial, hearing loss.
- Canine dementia. While dementia well-known in people, other animals can suffer too, including dogs. Dogs may become anxious and confused, which can affect their daily activities, including exercise and walks.
If your dog is showing any, or all of these signs it is important that your dog is seen by a vet. If your dog is having mobility issues due to pain, or discomfort, your vet may be able to provide treatment to improve your dog’s quality of life and help him to stay active for longer.
Different types of exercise.
If a dog suffers from mobility issues, arthritis or joint pain, he may not be able to do the same activities he did in his younger days. Choose low-impact activities which will be kinder to his aching joints and muscles. Rather than vigorous games such as ‘chucky-ball’, or running, take your dog on ‘sniff walks’ or, let him go swimming instead.
‘Sniff walks’, or enrichment walks, are just as they sound. This is a more leisurely stroll allowing your dog to stop frequently to use his nose and investigate scents. Rather than direct your dog on a structured walk; let your dog take the lead and allow him to choose the direction and pace.
Swimming, or hydrotherapy is great for elderly dogs, especially for those suffering from arthritis, or other joint problems. However, be aware that not all dogs like swimming and for some breeds, it isn’t suitable exercise at all. Check with your vet before proceeding with water based activities with a senior dog.
Short and sweet.
While younger dogs have more energy to go that extra mile, even they can suffer from the effects of over-exertion. Older dogs are much more susceptible to feeling the effects of high-impact exercise, particularly over longer periods.
It is far better to provide the dog with shorter walks, several times per day, rather than one very long walk. You could also play short games with your dog, which will have the added benefit of keeping your dog’s mind active and engaged too. Perhaps even a stroll to a cafe or pub to watch the world go by.
You can find more ideas on games to play with your dog in another of our Holidays4Dogs articles, focusing on indoor games. These games are ideal for the dog who is getting on in years.
Keep an eye on the weather.
Older dogs are often much more sensitive to the extremes of hot and cold weather. In the depths of winter, especially if it is icy or snowy, the senior dog may well appreciate a coat to keep the chill out. Some breeds, like greyhounds, whippets and toy breeds may require a coat at any age, but older dogs of these breeds will almost certainly benefit from an additional layer in the winter months.
No dog should be walked when summer temperatures reach balmy heights, but old dogs are far more susceptible to heat exhaustion and this can be very dangerous. Always time walks to coincide with the cool of the morning, or evening.
Exercise is still very important for the elderly dog; not just for his physical health, but his mental well-being too. However, it is crucial not to overwhelm, or push a dog, who may be suffering with general old age aches and pains. It is sadly common to see people walking very elderly and infirm dogs, that struggle to keep up.
As older dogs become less active, there is always the danger they may become overweight. Therefore, perhaps speak to your vet about an appropriate new diet, or portion control. Try not to give your elderly dog too many treats or tit-bits. Otherwise, as he may well be inclined to pile the pounds on more quickly.
It takes just a little common-sense and empathy to help ensure the senior dog retains a good quality of life. Balancing a good diet with age-appropriate exercise, is the best way to make sure your dog lives a full and happy life.