Exercise isn’t just important for high-energy puppies or working dogs. Your older pup may be content to spend their golden years relaxing on the couch or cozy in bed but they still need to move their bodies every day.
With concerns like joint pain , arthritis, weight gain and other medical conditions potentially limiting your older dog’s ability to run, jump or play we rounded up some great tips to keep your older pup moving pain-free. We still need to add the disclaimer to chat with your vet before beginning a new exercise routine with your older dog. Feel free to bring this article to your vet visit to begin that conversation!
Five tips to keep your senior dog more physically and mentally active
1. Break up exercise throughout the day
Instead of one long walk consider a few shorter walks (or exercise sessions) for your older pup. Depending on your dog’s age and physical fitness you might only want to walk for 5-10 minutes at a time. Allow your pup to get lots of rest between walks and ensure they have access to cool, fresh water at all times.
2. Consider mental exercise
For dogs with mobility issues (or those who are recovering from illness, injury, or surgery) try to find ways to keep your pup mentally stimulated. Puzzle toys, nose or scent work, and things like chewing or digging in a snuffle mat can keep your pup’s brain busy while they rest and heal.
3. Watch where you walk
If you have an older pup with limited mobility, try to walk on flat, well-paved, or soft grassy surfaces. Avoid steep hills, uneven terrain, ice, or very hot pavement. Ask your vet about protective booties if you think they will help your pet’s mobility.
4. Swim if your pup tolerates it
If you have a pool (or access to one) consider letting your pup swim. Just like for humans swimming is a low-impact workout. Another way to help your pup work out safely is with an underwater treadmill. Since it can be cost-prohibitive to set one of these up in your home try to find a rehab center or vet’s office that offers this service. As a bonus, hydrotherapy sessions might even be covered by your pup’s health insurance.
5. Try doggie yoga (no, seriously)
If you learned during the COVID-19 closures that your yoga mat is a dog magnet, consider letting your pup join you for a stretch session. Doggie yoga is gaining in popularity - and for good reason. Suzi Teitelman, a Jacksonville yoga teacher has started a practice called Doga and she teaches others how to lead humans and their pups through it. You can follow along with videos on her website - but clear it with your pup’s vet (and your doctor) first!
How much exercise is too much for a senior dog?
The answer to this will vary from dog to dog so watch your dog carefully. If they are showing signs of pain or stiffness, aren’t excited about exercise they previously enjoyed, or are hesitant to join you for exercise, it’s time to re-evaluate your routine.
For dogs over 7 years old, the AVMA recommends that owners take their pups to the vet twice a year. In addition to monitoring your pup’s overall health, this is a great opportunity to discuss your pup’s physical fitness needs. Write notes throughout the months so you can remember any changes you want to discuss with your vet.
How to exercise an older dog with arthritis
According to CARE, “Historically it was thought that dogs with arthritis should limit their activity, and “exercise restriction” was prescribed. It turns out this recommendation is incorrect and if strictly followed, would contribute to your dog gaining weight, having stiff joints, losing muscle, and experiencing a decline in their functional abilities.”
We now know that most dogs with arthritis do best with 30-60 minutes of exercise every day. This exercise should be low impact workouts, avoiding running, jumping and extreme sports like flyball.
For pups with arthritis who are particularly social a walk to a store or dog-friendly coffee shop or the local park to relax under a tree can be the ideal form of exercise.
Exercise, rest, and good nutrition will help your pup live a long and happy life - well into their golden years. At puppy-proofed Ollie, we can help with the nutrition piece. Our four delicious Recipes are approved for all life stages - which includes our beloved senors!
The Ollie blog is devoted to helping pet parents lead healthier lives with their pups. If you want to learn more about our fresh, human-grade food, check out MyOllie.com.