Exercising An Older Dog – The Problems and Benefits
As dogs older they're just not physically able to do the things they once did. As well as experiencing physical limitations they may have a decreased tolerance to heat and cold. This doesn't mean that they won't try and do all the things they used to do. Dogs can't tell us that they are experiencing pain or discomfort, so it is up to us, as owners, to keep an eye out for symptoms. Older dogs can experience heart Issues and problems with joints and bones. Even things like failing eyesight and anxiety can make them enjoy their outside experience less.
Of course, lack of exercise can lead to weight gain which may make some of these problems worse. On the other hand, dogs love a regular routine and enjoy spending time with their owners. The secret is to devise a daily exercise program which is gentle enough to keep your dog in good health but not do any harm.
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN EXERCISING AN
You should check with your veterinarian before starting any new exercise regime.
Walking is considered to be one of the best forms of exercise for humans and dogs. So, a regular daily walk will be good for you both. Older dogs will still enjoy this daily exercise, but you may need to go at a slower pace, more in line with his capabilities. It's not just the exercise that will benefit your dog - he will also enjoy the mental stimulation.
The weather will also be a factor in what you can do with your dog. Icy cold sidewalks, which were once no problem for him, could now cause difficulty. If your dog will wear boots this will provide him with some protection. It is a good idea to get him used to wearing the boots before you take him outside. The same boots will also provide protection for him on very hot days. Nevertheless, you should still pay close attention to the areas where you plan to take him.
On cold days a dog jumper or jacket will help keep him warm. You can now get summer jackets which, when filled with water, will help keep him cool. As your dog gets older he may start to show signs of wanting to go back inside on cold days. He may just need to go outside for the potty but not want to do much more. This can be disappointing. Often the main reason owners first get a dog is to be their exercise companion. However, after being together on many adventures, it is now time to repay our companion with a little understanding.
Older dogs can become anxious when taken to unfamiliar places. It is best to stick to a regular route which your dog knows well. Naturally, your dog will want to keep up with you. Watch out for signs that he may be doing too much and be prepared to modify your route to match his capabilities. If you use common sense and err on the side of caution you should have no problems.
OTHER FORMS OF EXERCISE
You might want to consider other forms of exercise. Swimming is great for dogs and doesn't put as much stress on the joint. If you have a pool or there is a lake nearby, and the weather is suitable, then swimming would be a good choice. Before starting. just check that your dog can get out of the water easily. In the case of a pool this could involve building a ramp. Don't force your dog into the water if he doesn't want to go. You may want to get changed and jumping into the water with him.
Your dog will want to please you and may force himself beyond his capabilities to do so. If you have any doubts about your dog’s exercise potential,consult a Veterinarian.
Look out for any signs that your dog has had enough. These include:
Wanting to return home or showing any other signs of reluctance to exercise.
Excessive panting or drooling. Dogs naturally pant in hot weather as part of their cooling mechanism, so sometimes it can be difficult to work out what is natural panting and what is excessive panting. You should watch out for bright red tongue or gums. In hot weather it is better to restrict exercise to the cooler parts of the day.
Limping or favouring one leg. If your dog starts to limp or show other signs of discomfort and this doesn't resolve itself within a day you should take him to the vet to be checked for permanent damage or inflammation.
Constant coughing or hacking can be an indication of heart or lung problems. Once again, if this persists, you should take your dog for a medical check-up.
Dogs that are fit tend to live longer and be healthier than dogs that are not. You should continue to exercise your older dog, and with some sensible precautions he should enjoy an active life for a long time.