- Rehabilitation Center
- About Us
- Contact Us
- Online Store
As our pets approach their senior years, things begin to change for them. Their vision and hearing can become impaired, weight can become an issue (too heavy or too thin), and their activity levels seem to slow down (often times due to arthritis or degenerative processes). From a rehab therapist’s perspective, it is very important to not let these changes negatively impact a pet’s mobility and independence if we can help it. Keeping our senior dogs on their feet and moving is one of the most important things an owner can do for the aging pet. Once an older dog (especially a larger one) goes down and decides that they do not want to get back up, it can a difficult situation for everyone. So how do we avoid this problem? Keep them healthy and moving!
Keep Them Moving!
Exercising a senior dog does not have to be complicated. If we keep in mind some basic goals and expectations, then we can turn a daily routine into an enjoyable home rehab therapy session. What should our goals be? To keep the geriatric pet up and moving at a level that is comfortable for them. Combining activities that challenge body awareness (Where are my feet?) and support strengthening are an ideal senior exercise plan. To put it in simple terms: older pets need to find a low intensity activity that engages their mind, gets them walking with changes in direction (circles and turns are important), and has them stepping over stuff.
Things to Consider for Your Pet’s Senior Exercise Program
Keep time of active exercise so that you have an idea of the minimum amount of true activity that your pet is getting. Letting a pet out in the yard for 1 hour does not equal an hour of exercise. Dogs have a tendency to have a short burst of energy or play time and then spend the rest of the time sniffing, scratching, marking, and doing all of the other non-exercise dog stuff that dogs do.
Single Leg Lifts- Start with the dog in a comfortable standing position with all four feet evenly spaced apart. Lift one leg at a time and hold for up to 10 seconds so that the pet is balancing on the remaining three legs. Work your way around the body if able and repeat 3-5 times for each leg.
Leaning Forward While Standing- Begin with the pet standing with feet evenly spaced. Using a treat or toy, encourage the dog to lean or stretch forward ( their head should be neutral and not too low or arched high) while keeping their hind feet firmly placed. Hold this position for 10 seconds and repeat 3-5 times. In some pets you will get a better stretch if you place your hands in front of the hind legs to hold them in place while encouraging a farther reach forward. To add a challenge and engage the core even more, have the dog complete this exercise while standing on an air mattress or wobble board.
XPaws UP- How “up” the front (or hind) feet go will depend on the condition and size of the pet. Start by having the pet place their front feet on a stair tread or step and hold this position for 10 -15 seconds (if able). Remember to keep the head neutral and not too low or arched back looking for the treat or reward. To increase the challenge, use a chair or stair step that is further up. For the smaller dog, be creative and look for things in the house that may comfortably elevate the front feet to shift the weight to the hind end (a book or box?)
These are just some starting exercises, a place to begin with your geriatric exercise journey. There are many ways to customize your program to better fit a senior pet’s life-stage and ability. Need a hand developing your program? Ask your local veterinarian or rehab professional for some input. The point to all of this is to just keep your older fur babies happy, healthy, and moving.