Exercise and Older Pets

All of a sudden one day you notice the shining white creeping into your older dog’s muzzle. He steps a little more carefully now but most times seems to be just as energetic. Or your cat does not jump up as readily, but is just as fascinated with the birds outside the window. So what’s the problem? Nothing – yet. If your dog or cat is over the magic year of seven, though, now is the perfect time to get him into a regular program of exercise. Changing the diet over to a Mature formula or Geriatric diet is very important.

Inside your aging pet, metabolism is slowing, organ function (including brain function) is slowing, and the response to disease via the immune system is not what it was when he was a youngster. In addition, senior dogs may need to urinate more frequently and thus need more walks and readily available fresh water.

It is very easy to watch our senior dogs or cats lie around snoozing. They look so content and they have done so much for us. But you would be surprised what good a little exercise will do for your senior – how?  It can improve quality of life and perhaps even slow the progression of aging, including the advancement of dog arthritis.

Exercise stimulates all tissues as it increases blood flow. Tissues become oxygenated and toxins are removed from them more readily. In addition, exercise helps bowel function enormously. This is especially important in older pets. But remember, moderation is the goal, they are getting older and have less stamina than when they were young.

Without adequate use, muscles weaken and atrophy. This becomes a vicious cycle – as exercise decreases, the muscles weaken and the less they can do.

Making sure your senior gets enough exercise may seem like a difficult task, but try one or more of the following tips:

If you choose outside exercise, make sure the weather is suitable for the type of exercise you are doing. Remember that dogs can suffer from heatstroke (and frostbite) and you must especially be careful about older dogs. Bring along small chewy treats to reward good behavior, especially if you’ll be encountering other pets or traffic. A water bottle and small cup helps your pet stay hydrated.

Walking is excellent. Start out with 10-15 min a day and slowly increase to 1-2 hours, three times a week. Spend more interactive playtime with your older pet. More walks, more games of fetch, and more tug-o-war. You will both benefit. Some pets are trained on treadmills. This is another excellent way to exercise your dog when the weather is bad.

The pain of sore joints may be what is keeping your senior from wanting to exercise. If your older pet suffers from dog arthritis or other joint pain, see your veterinarian for advice on pain meds or supplements. Controlling weight is paramount for these pets.

Good nutrition is more important than ever in an aging pet and especially one getting regular exercise. Make sure to provide your senior with a high-quality food. Although aging pets generally have a more difficult time gaining weight, care must be taken not to let him get obese. Ask us about what diet may be the most suitable for your pet.