Though you may have obtained your dog according to your lifestyle, even a high-energy dog will slow down in her later years. So what is the best approach to her exercise plan?
We have so much praise for swimming because this is particularly beneficial for all dogs due to its great cardio and low impact action. It is low stress on joints and weakening muscles or tendons and is sometimes one of the last types of exercise an aged dog can participate in. Hydrotherapy is fabulous for the same reasons and you can even have a consultant design a program for you.
We strongly recommend dogs wear a canine PFD for swimming.
Your dog may not be able or even willing to do burst of ‘hard dash’ for a ball fetch but walking on leash will still help keep her supple. Some canine personalities may have such strong fetch drive that they’ll go for a thrown object regardless of what’s happening with their body and then pull up sore afterwards.
Keep the whole family (and visitors) informed about what is suitable for your dog. And remember that like humans, some dogs are not as visibly old as their age so always take into consideration the years they’ve clocked up. If your dog is tired there’s no need to drag her from pillar to post. Tone down the intensity of fetch or tug games. Keep an eye out for obstacles such as stairs and her environment according to her ailing senses such as eyesight. Her bed may need to be a little softer and she may need a seniors diet. Exercise can be divided with breaks to allow recovery and keeping walks relatively the same distances (include the breaks) will help maintain muscle and heart health without alarming the joints.
Older dogs (just like us) are not able to regulate their body temperatures as well as when they were young so we must pay attention to summertime temperatures. As will all dogs, avoid exercise in the hottest part of the day. In the colder months take extra time to dry them off when wet, and consider if they need a jacket layer.
Towards the twilight time you might even take her food to her, especially if she’s very arthritic. Getting up and down again can become a chore so water bowls needs to be close by. If she’s happy to relax, it can still be done both indoors and out. Have a comfy bed outside too so she can still enjoy some fresh air and scents in the air as she watches you in the garden. She might be up for some sniff time but not too keen on a bouncy game with a pup. Consider a ramp for easier access to the house if necessary.
Keep an eye on the changes you witness and speak to your vet. A symptom may be illness and not just be ‘old age’. Prevention is the best key to sustaining your dog’s energy and abilities into her senior years. This involves sufficient and appropriate exercise in the dog’s younger years partnered with a healthy diet and adequate veterinary care.
Leah & Angela OMeara
Hound Dog Day Care (Specialists in Dog Minding & Dog Boarding, Pet Sitting Brisbane & Doggy Day Care Brisbane)