Some tips and tricks for walking aging and compromised pets.
Walking is beneficial for any age dog, even as our dogs get older. Walking is a low-impact exercise that helps promote overall health while maintaining their range of motion and strength. Regardless of age, dogs need regular exercise and should be walked daily.
While that is important, as your dog ages you will have to adapt their walk a bit to accommodate their needs. Moderate the speed of your walk and avoid too fast of a pace that may exhaust an older pet. Your dog’s walk should be short (around 20 minutes) and difficult routes that include steep hills or rugged terrain should be avoided.
Knowing When to Walk Your Pet
Temperature and climate impact a senior dog much more than adult dogs. Many dogs experience wear and tear on their joints as they age and are frequently diagnosed with arthritis. Aching joints become more painful in bad weather. Cold winter air and damp air can stiffen a dog’s arthritic joints, making it even harder for them to walk. Occasionally, if a pet's arthritis prevents them from daily activities, veterinarians will recommend a compression brace to alleviate discomfort.
Just like senior humans, even a healthy senior pet can struggle with regulating their body temperature. If it’s cold outside, older pets will feel the cold much more than they did when they were younger. Accessories such as pet boots and coats can help protect your pet against inclement weather, but on days with less than desirable weather, you may need to switch to indoor exercise.
Consider Switching Up Your Routine
If possible, changing up what time you take your walk can help your senior dog. Mid-day is usually the warmest part of the day, and depending on your dog’s health, it may be the best time to walk them. Older dogs who experience cognitive changes, like dementia may be more alert earlier on in the day, making an evening walk more stressful for them.
Avoid Rough Terrain On Walks
Choose the path of your daily walk carefully. For dogs dealing with mobility issues or joint pain, they can struggle to maintain their footing. Many senior dogs with neurological complications suffer from ‘foot drop’ and can find additional support in a special brace to lift their paw. Avoid rocky landscapes and hilly routes that may be difficult for them to maintain footing. An ideal walk for a senior dog should be on flat, level ground and not overly strenuous; like a sidewalk. For many dogs experiencing loss of sight or hearing, a familiar route that they’ve walked before can help to make them more comfortable and feel safer.
How to Help a Senior Dog Who Tires Easily
Along with a slew of age-related medical conditions that impact a senior pet’s mobility, they tend to “slow down” as they get older. Whether this is due to arthritis, increased weakness, ot loss of strength, it can make taking a walk challenging. Walks become shorter and slower-paced as dogs age. Sometimes dogs are unable to walk unassisted and need help to keep moving.
Harnesses for Support
Struggling to stand up is often the first sign of mobility loss and a problem that most senior dogs face. A simple rear harness support can slip over their legs when lying down so you can give them a little boost to help them get up off the ground, walk up the stair, and jump onto furniture. If they’re unsteady on their feet, a full body alternative can be worn outside to help support them and help them maintain their balance while they walk.
Dogs with diagnoses like hip dysplasia or hip arthritis may benefit from a brace with compression to alleviate pain throughout their walks. The Balto Life – Hip Dysplasia Brace is a more structured lifting harness that creates more of a saddle underneath their hind end.