Here are five ways to improve your senior pet’s health-and maybe even his life expectancy-by helping him get back to the things he used to do.
Take your pet to the veterinarian for for a physical exam.
Find out if he has any medical conditions that might affect a workout routine, such as arthritis, a heart condition or respiratory issues.
If your pet is overweight, work with your veterinarian to form a diet plan that is palatable, keeps your pet satiated and still allows for occasional treats. Weight loss reduces excess strain on joints and weakens muscles, which may reduce pain.
Slow and steady wins this race.
Start your senior pet with five minutes of walking, adding an additional five minutes each day for five days until a daily 30 minute walk is manageable and routine.
If your pet is limping, lagging, panting excessively or refuses to continue, stop the activity and check with your veterinarian. Some pets may require pain medication to get moving or to complete an exercise.
Once you and your pet have achieved a daily exercise routine, you can step it up.
Increase duration, speed, even incorporate hills or different surfaces like sand to add more challenge. Walks will become easier as your pet becomes stronger.
If your pet can’t jump onto the couch or climb the stairs well these days, it’s likely because, like many older dogs, he has lost strength in his hind legs. Focus on building back those muscles with exercises recommended by your veterinarian.
Senior pets need to exercise their minds as well as their bodies.
Obstacles courses can be a fun way to stimulate your pet’s mind and improve neurological and muscle control.
If you use simple household objects, you can stimulate your pet’s mind with physical games. For example, coax your pet to step over a garden hose fashioned in a serpent pattern in the backyard-broom handles or pool noodles also work well. For pets already at a food fitness level, try rally events, agility classes, tracking or field events.
Discomfort and a lack of strength and flexibility may make achieving mobility seem like an insurmountable task.
But don’t give up! Exercise can be tailored to fit the needs of any pet and will not only improve your pet’s health but strengthen the bond you share with your pet as well.
If physical injuries prevent your pet from exercising, ask your veterinarian about rehabilitation. Rehab specialist can use methods such as joint mobilization, massage, stretching, laser therapy and acupuncture to help get your pet up and moving again.
Source: Dr. Kara Amstutz