Should My Older Dog Still Run with Me?Image credit: @iStock.com/dolgachov
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When you decided to add a dog to your family, was their ability to accompany you on your daily walk or jog important?
As the years have passed, your runs – or walks – have gotten more challenging for your pet, even if they are 100% willing to go with you every day. They love to be with you, and the exercise is fun too — but the intensity of that exercise may need to change, for their best health.
It probably goes without saying, but it must be said anyway: get the all-clear for exercise from your vet. If you see a vet regularly with your dog, they will be a great source of advice on how to modify or moderate exercise as your dog ages. There may be treatments for common medical conditions that can give your dog more mobility and energy. With treatment, you can manage their activity level and they can continue to enjoy going with you to run or walk.
Ready to head out? First – check the weather. An older dog is much more affected by changes in weather than when they were younger. Is it too cold or too hot or too humid? Consider changing the time of day for your exercise, to take advantage of the most comfortable temperature for you both.
Start out slowly. Give your dog a chance to get warmed up and limber, before you pick up your pace. Choose easier routes for them and vary the intensity of your exercise, whether that’s speed or distance. If reducing the intensity of the run doesn’t work for your own fitness goals, then work on establishing a new routine with your pet. They could join you for a portion of your run, or you could create a separate activity especially for your dog.
Pay attention to your dog’s body language. If you notice that your usually excited pet is suddenly hesitant to run or engage in exercise, it’s time to pay attention. If after a day or two of rest, they are still hesitant about exercise, then it’s time to check in with the vet.
Bring water for your dog, no matter the length of the route. Water breaks will help your older dog stay hydrated and provide a brief respite from the activity, giving them time to recharge.
And speaking of breaks, if your dog slows down dramatically or stops walking all together, they are giving you a clear signal that you’re going too far or moving too fast. Consider what adjustments you’ll need to make before your next outing.
Dogs come in all shapes and sizes and some still love lots of exercise as they age. Others may start to slow down. Support your older dog in the best and healthiest way possible.
– Dr. Lauren Cassady is a veterinarian whose practice is limited to end-of-life care for pets. Heron’s Crossing has phone hours seven days a week and offers in-home appointments Monday through Saturday. Some evening appointments are available. Learn more https://www.heronscrossing.vet/