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Exercise makes senior dogs happier and healthier

lder dogs sleep a lot. They prefer to just lie around the house. But this is not healthy for your pet. Someday you will notice your senior doggo is losing weight and muscle mass.  

Exercise makes senior dogs happier and healthier

Though you are afraid of injuring your dog, it is important that exercise is included in your senior dog’s daily routine, said Nicole Cosgrove in “11 Tips for Exercising Your Senior Dog—Safe and Effective!” in petkleen.com.

Cosgrove said there are several things a furparent can do to motivate a pet to get him back in shape. Here are her tips for a safe and effective exercise routine for your senior doggo.

1 Check with your veterinarian

Before you start an exercise program, bring your dog to the vet for a check-up. The vet can tell you if it is safe to start an exercise program, and how much exercise your dog can do, specially during the first few days or weeks.   

2 Start slow

Always start slow when exercising an old dog who has started to lose weight and muscle mass. Such a dog can be injured easily and will be discouraged from continuing when it heals. Be patient and let the muscles build back up slowly. “Any activity is better than no activity, and you can increase the duration and difficulty later,” Cosgrove said.

3 Warm-up

Stretching is very important. It is also called a warm-up. “Old dogs need extra time to stretch and get their muscles ready for a long walk or run. Let your dog take a few laps around the yard chasing a ball or a stick before you get started to help get the muscles moving and the blood flowing. A short warm-up will help reduce the risk of injury,” Cosgrove suggested.

4 Keep it low impact

Avoid high-impact exercises like jumping for old dogs as these might cause injury.  “The best low impact exercises you can choose from are walking and swimming. Dog parks are another good choice, and they will provide your dog with the added stimulation of meeting new friends,” Cosgrove said.

5 Proper surface

A dog who has spent a lot of time lying around will likely have tender paws. Because of this, it will be painful for the dog to walk on concrete or pavement, especially in the hot parts of the day. If your dog is struggling to walk, it will be best to move to a grassy or cooler area.  

Exercise makes senior dogs happier and healthier
Diamond, rescued from the pound by Save Animals of Love and Light (Save ALL Inc.) in 2014, is now 15-16 years old. To keep her in shape physically and to stimulate her mind, she is given a car ride and brought to the park to walk and play.
6  Daily walk

A short, daily walk is good for a dog. A short, daily swim is also good. “The walks don’t need to be far. A ten or 15-minute walk will be more than adequate. You can extend it a few minutes every few weeks if you start to see some progress,” Cosgrove said.

7 Watch for pain and discomfort

Be vigilant and always observe your dog for signs of discomfort. “Hot pavement might not be the only reason your dog is complaining, so you will need to keep watch and stop if problems arise. Stopping can help prevent injury from occurring, and it will also help the dog trust that you have its well-being in mind,” Cosgrove said.

8 Be Consistent

Hold your sessions at the same time each day to help your dog get into a routine. “Routines are extremely important, especially if your dog is reluctant to participate. You will need to show that it can be fun so your dog will remember the good time it had at this time yesterday and will want to participate. It’s extremely effective, but missing even a single day, especially at the beginning, can set you back to square one,” Cosgrove said.

9 Don’t Forget Mental Exercise

Not all exercises have to be physical. Your dog also needs mental stimulation. Hide treats around your home to trigger your pet’s hunting instincts. Purchase commercial puzzles with different difficulty ratings. A dog who is mentally stimulated is less likely to get depressed and is more likely to enjoy participating in different games and activities

10 Cool Down

Cooling down is also important for dogs. “This is where you can praise your dog and give it some pets, a massage, and a belly rub. Some treats are probably also in order no matter how your pet did. This cool-down period is what will bring the dog back to the training session tomorrow, so don’t leave it out,” Cosgrove said.

11  Flexible Routine

Be flexible with your old dog though. There may be good and bad days for a senior dog. Please do not push them even if he is making progress and hasn’t had a bad day in a while.  “Make sure your routine is flexible enough that you can have a change of plans at any time,” Cosgrove said.

Many pet owners are afraid to exercise a senior dog but it is important for your dog to live longer and happier.

Exercise makes senior dogs happier and healthier
Silver, an 18-year old Save ALL rescue who was also rescued from pound, loves to walk but the activity is limited to around 10-15 minutes daily. She walks only during   cooler time of the day. A senior dog’s body gets warm easily, thus make sure you have water with you all the time, and walk her only during cool hours of the day.  
“Even mild exercise will make it easier for your dog to get up from a resting position or walk up and downstairs. It will also help your dog regain its appetite, so it can begin to put on weight again. As long as you get your dog checked by a vet before you begin and you start slowly, your dog will begin to regain muscle and have fun in the process. It will also give you some extra time to bond with your pet,” Cosgrove said.  (DC)

Topics: Nicole Cosgrove , dogs , senior dogs , pets , healthy , exercise
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