Exercise is a vital element of looking after an older dog

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Exercising an older dog is a vital element of their routine. However, knowing how much exercise they need can be difficult to judge. The benefits of exercise are many and varied:

  • Maintains muscle and ligament strength and flexibility
  • Ensures joint mobility
  • Improves blood circulation
  • Reduces pain and inflammation
  • Boosts your dog’s mood
  • Improves quality of life

Whilst the benefits are numerous, it is important to remember that too much exercise can do more harm than good. Consequently, doing too little exercise has a number of risks including arthritis, obesity or heart problems.

When you are planning your dog’s exercise routine, what should you consider?

Before you embark on a new exercise regime, you must check with your vet. He or she will confirm that what are considering is within your dog’s capabilities and that there are no underlying health issues you need to consider.

The daily constitutional

I hope that you and your dog already take daily walks. Walks are an easy option that your dog will enjoy. In addition, it is also very easy to adjust your route to ensure that your dog is not overdoing it. Consider the following:

Weather conditions

Older dogs find it more difficult to regulate their body temperature. On hot sunny days, it is probably better to avoid midday walks. During the colder months, your dog may be more comfortable wearing a sweater or jacket. You should also consider boots to protect delicate paws during wet or snowy conditions.

Ground conditions

Dogs that have any joint or muscle pain will find it easier to walk on level ground with good traction. It is best to avoid parks with hills, ditches or uneven ground; it is not worth the risk of broken bones or damaged tendons.

Your dog’s senses

Just like you or me, a dog’s senses will deteriorate with age. It is common for a dog to have reduced eyesight, hearing or smell. Unfamiliar places or situations can cause your dog to become anxious or confused. By sticking to a familiar routine, you can help your dog relax whilst remaining active.

Does your dog like swimming?

Swimming can be an excellent exercise for your dog. Because the water supports Rover, his old joints do not need to support his weight. Whilst at the same swimming will increase blood flow, strengthen muscles and improve his mobility and overall fitness.

As with any exercise routine, you need to consider how to make the activity as safe as possible. It is important to judge the best time for a swim – you should only allow your dog to go swimming during warm weather.

Location and access is also important. Ideally you should have access to a lake with a gentle slopping beach; if you are using a pool, consider installing a dog ramp to allow easy entry and exit of the water.

Do not let your dog over exert him or herself. You need to dry your dog once he or she has finished swimming. Finally, never leave your dog alone whilst they are swimming – it just is not worth the risk. Drowning is a silent killer.

How much exercise is too much for an older dog?

There is no set limit; but you should look out for these signs and stop exercising.

  • Your dog starts to pant or drool excessively and may have bright a bright red tongue or gums.
  • Any sign that your dog is favouring one leg or is limping
  • He/she becomes reluctant to continue walking or playing.
  • Continuous coughing – this can be a sign of an underlying heart or lung condition. If your dog coughs each exercise time you should see your veterinary.

You should also be aware that your dog would try to keep up with you regardless of the cost. He or she will push way beyond their comfort level to please you. In fact, there are many older dogs that are waiting for a new home in shelters up and down the UK. Many dogs have simply been unlucky to find themselves homeless – read my blog on why you should adopt an older dog.

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