When you decided to add a dog to your family, was their ability to accompany you on your daily walk or jog important?
Over the years, your runs – or walks – have become increasingly difficult for your pet, even if they are 100% ready to walk with you every day. They love being with you and the exercise is fun too – but the intensity of that exercise may need to change to improve their health.
It probably goes without saying, but it still needs to be said: let your vet give you the all-clear. If you regularly see a veterinarian with your dog, they will be a good source of advice on how to change or moderate exercise as your dog ages. There may be treatments for common conditions that can give your dog more mobility and energy. Treatment allows you to manage their level of activity and they are still happy to run or walk with you.
Are you ready to leave? Check the weather first. An older dog is much more affected by weather changes than it is when it is younger. Is it too cold or too hot or too humid? Change the time of day to exercise to get the temperature that is most comfortable for both of you.
Start slowly. Allow your dog to warm up and relax before increasing your pace. Choose easier routes for them and vary the intensity of your workout, whether it’s speed or distance. If decreasing the intensity of the run doesn’t work for your own fitness goals, work on establishing a new routine with your pet. They can join you for part of your run, or you can create a separate activity specifically for your dog.
Pay attention to your dog’s body language. If you find that your normally excited pet is suddenly reluctant to run or exercise, it is time to pay attention. If after a day or two of rest you are still hesitant to exercise, it is time to see the vet.
Bring water for your dog no matter how long the trail is. Water breaks will help your older dog stay hydrated and give them a short break from activity so they have time to recharge.
Speaking of breaks, if your dog slows down dramatically or is no longer walking together, it is giving you a clear signal that you are going too far or moving too fast. Think about the adjustments you need to make before your next outing.
Dogs come in all shapes and sizes, and some still love to move around as they get older. Others can slow down. Give your older dog the best possible and healthy support.
– Dr. Lauren Cassady is a veterinarian whose practice is limited to end-of-life pet care. Heron’s Crossing has telephone hours seven days a week and offers appointments at home Monday through Saturday. Some evening appointments are available. Learn more https://www.heronscrossing.vet/