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6 Simple Tips for Exercising Your Senior Dog

Reviewed by Bill Saxon DVM, DACVIM, DACVECC on Friday, August 14, 2015
Posted August 18, 2015 in Dog Checkups & Preventive Care

Once upon a time, you probably had a puppy that was as self-motivated as any human three year old— happily running in circles for no particular reason at all. And maybe at some point, as your dog aged, you were secretly (or maybe not so secretly) happy to see a bit of a decrease in his energy level. But now he’s an older dog, and you realize that he has really slowed down. To a point, that is perfectly natural.

Just like us, as our dogs enter into their senior years, they become more sedentary. Maybe they hear less and see less and just aren’t as stimulated to get up and move anymore. And maybe you think, “Well, my dog seems perfectly happy to just lie around and sleep. Why should I force him to exercise?”

The answer, of course, is that it is good for him. Just like it is good for you. Inactivity makes dogs more prone to obesity which puts them at increased risk of other serious, medical conditions such as:

Unfortunately, your dog lives in the moment – that one where he is content to snooze in the sun. He’s not capable of seeing the bigger picture, but you are. That means it is your responsibility to get him up and moving.

I am not going to tell you what to do with your dog for exercise. I trust that you already know that dogs like to walk and to run and to play games like fetch and tug-of-war. And if you’ve known your dog since he was a puppy, you already know where his personal interests lie. Instead, I will give you tips about how to exercise your senior dog.

1. Get the green light
First, see your veterinarian. Your senior dog needs a complete physical examination in order to make sure that he is healthy enough for increased activity. Serious metabolic disorders like heart disease, diabetes and common aging problems like osteoarthritis need to be ruled out or addressed as possible reasons for your dog’s inactivity before a change of lifestyle occurs.

You may also need to change your dog’s diet to accommodate increased caloric requirements or special medical needs.

And, there is a very real possibility that your dog may experience some aches and/or pains associated with his new routine. Since most human pain medications are NOT appropriate for dogs, you will want to talk with your veterinarian about what you can safely administer to your dog if he needs pain management.

Related symptoms: 

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Mike has more than 35 years of experience in companion animal veterinary practice and is a valued member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team since 2013.