Monday, October 19, 2009

"Couch potato or Physically Fit Senior?" Canine Elder Care: Exercise

Your elderly dog may seem perfectly content lounging around and dozing on the couch all day, and you are probably tempted to let him do so – after all, his stiff legs and achy joints make movement difficult. However, aging dogs can greatly benefit from regular exercise. Just tone it down a bit.

If you once enjoyed spending time with your furry friend outside, like going for walks or jogs, you still can, and should, keep participating in outdoor activities. Depending on your dog’s abilities, you can go for a short walk around the block. While on a walk, let him look and sniff around. The stimulation is wonderful for keeping the mind active and healthy, and can keep him from getting depressed. Playing fetch is another activity that you can still do with your dog – only play for less time than you would with a younger dog, and don’t throw the ball too far. Most dogs will do anything to please their guardians, even overdoing it to keep up with what they think you expect of them. [More info]

For dogs with osteoarthritis, daily moderate exercise can even help delay the continued degeneration of joints. Warm-water swimming is an excellent activity for older dogs with arthritis because it allows them to get a workout that encourages full range of motion of the limbs while being gentle on the joints. Simply being in a warm-water swim spa will create a therapeutic experience for your dog – just think of how a warm bath or hot tub relaxes and soothes your sore muscles.

Making sure your dog moves a little everyday will help prevent atrophy by keeping the muscles toned. Also, as your dog’s metabolism and activity levels decrease, you may notice some extra weight creeping around his abdomen. Regular exercise will help him maintain a healthy weight, which will be great if he has arthritis. The less the burden on the joints, the better!

Check back in the next few weeks for more interesting ideas for keeping your senior dog in less pain, while also being active, sharp-minded and happy.
Long-time dog lover Britany Lueras has a degree in journalism from San Francisco State University and contributes her writing talents to The Rex Center.

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