By Lauren Cassady, DVM
Your senior dog may not be so frisky anymore, but she still needs a little exercise to keep her joints flexible and muscles toned. Taking her to the park or a dog park will also renew her sense of adventure, and help to sharpen cognitive skills.
However, there are some things to take into account because your dog is older now.
Does she limp, favor one side, have difficulty with steps, breathe hard on inclines, or cough? If you notice anything out of the ordinary, it’s best to get her checked by your vet before doing anything strenuous.
Make sure she’s up to date on her vaccinations, too, because she could pick up an infection more easily.
Elderly dogs are more easily affected by both hot and cold temperatures. In the summer, Walk in the morning or the evening instead of the hot middle of the day. In the winter,
A dog’s paw pads can burn easily on hot pavement, and get injured on gravel. Walk her on natural ground if at all possible, especially avoiding the parking lot blacktop. In the winter, her paws may become too cold.
Bring plenty of water and a collapsible bowl for hydration, plus a bandana or washcloth to help cool her neck and foot pads if she becomes too hot.
Bring a pet stroller if she is a small breed, because she could easily become too tired. Smaller pets do better with a walk-stroll outing.
She may not see as well as she used to, so the fast and unpredictable movements of children could upset her. Ask them to stand at least an arm’s length away from her to say hello.
She may want to play in the dog pen, but consider the exuberance and number of pen-mates before allowing her to play. Watch for signs of her pacing, panting or startling easily. These can indicate anxiety, so she would need to be brought out quickly.
Her hearing is not what it used to be, so if she gets too far away, you’ll have to go to her instead of calling her to come.
Learn the signs to know when your dog is ‘half’ worn out so you can get her back to the car before she is exhausted.
One thing that remains pretty strong is her sense of smell, so give her plenty of time to sniff. Think of it as her way of getting the local news while enjoying the scenery in the meantime.
Perhaps at the end of your walk, you’ll have a treat in your pocket for her. And as all dogs do, she’s going to love the relaxing car ride home.
Thanks to our friends at Heron’s Crossing for this guest post!