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Exercise considerations for senior dogs

January 30, 2012

It’s a sad day when you realize your best friend is no longer as young as he used to be. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, dogs are considered senior when they reach 6-7 years old. Technically, this makes all three of my dogs seniors. Despite their age, all three of them act quite young and are in excellent health. I think this is largely due to eating a quality diet and receiving plenty of regular exercise throughout their lifetime. However, it’s time to face the facts… they are starting to slow down.

Crenshaw enjoys a peaceful afternoon in the yard

Crenshaw is the oldest and will be 12 this June. Despite some slight arthritis and difficulty getting up from a lying position, he’s quite mobile once he’s up. Watching him play with Zola, the guide dog puppy, you’d swear he was a young dog.

Crenshaw acting like a puppy, playing with Zola

Just a year ago he was running 4-5 miles on trails with me and the other dogs. Now, he’s lucky if he can keep up for a mile and a half. Not only is this a painful reminder that we only have a few precious years left together, but it means I have to exercise him separately from the others, which can be difficult with an increasingly busy schedule. But I do it because I love him, and exercise is just as important for senior and geriatric dogs as it is for young dogs.

While young dogs might need an abundance of exercise to burn off energy in addition to the health benefits they receive, senior dogs need moderate amounts of energy to maintain a healthy weight and keep their heart and muscles strong. This is especially important if your dogs suffers from arthritis. Dogs that are overweight experience more stress on their painful joints, making them reluctant to move. Without regular exercise, a dog’s muscles will slowly atrophy, making it more difficult for him to get around, beginning a vicious downward spiral.

The key to exercising your senior dog is knowing his limits, and not pushing him beyond them. Swimming and walks around your neighborhood are not only great options to help keep your older dog active, but it’s a great way to spend quality time together. And at this stage of their life, isn’t that really what it’s all about?

During a 5 mile hike in September, we stopped several times so Crenshaw could rest.

For more information about The Jogging Dog, please visit my website.

  1. I loved your post. Very informative and quite personal, making your tips very relevant and useful. Crenshaw is a stunning boy… I especially enjoyed the picture of him playing with Lola.

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