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Keeping A Senior Dog Fit

May 16, 2023

Is your canine companion starting to slow down a bit? Is Fido perhaps going grey around the muzzle? Your pet will somehow manage to get even cuter as he grows older. However, his needs will change a bit. One area where you’ll need to make some changes is in your pup’s exercise regimen. You’ll read some great tips on keeping an older dog in shape in this article from a veterinarian in Wickenburg, AZ, and the surrounding communities. 


Generally, walks are going to be the status quo here as far as doggy workouts go. How far and how fast you go should depend on your pet’s age, health, and stamina. You don’t want to overdo it, especially in hot weather. Let Fido set the pace and head back in when he starts to look tired. In summer, you’ll need to take care to keep him off hot surfaces, so he doesn’t burn his paws. 


Swimming can be a great way to beat that summer heat. It’s also a great exercise for an aging pooch. The water will support Fido’s weight, taking the stress off of his bones and joints. That said, not all of our canine friends are well-suited for the water. Golden Retrievers tend to be natural swimmers, but pugs can get into serious trouble even in shallow water. Ask your vet for advice.


Playing is just as fun and beneficial for senior dogs as it is for puppies. There are some things to keep in mind with seniors, though. Don’t encourage Fido to jump or stand too much, as that can be hard on his hips. You’ll also want to watch for signs of fatigue. As soon as your furry friend looks like he is running out of steam, end the play session and give him some water. 


Fido may still enjoy exploring some of the beautiful trails and parks we have in this area. The main thing is not to push him too hard. Always bring plenty of water along for your four-legged friend, and give him frequent rest breaks. Don’t wait until your canine buddy is really tired to turn back, either: head for home as soon as he starts slowing down.

Our Advice on Keeping A Senior Dog Fit in 2024

How do a senior dog’s exercise needs change?

A senior dog’s exercise needs to change primarily in intensity and type to accommodate their aging bodies. Lower stamina and potential health issues, like arthritis, necessitate gentler, less strenuous activities. Walking remains a staple, but the pace and distance should align with the dog’s comfort level, avoiding overexertion, especially in heat. Swimming offers low-impact exercise, supports weight, and relieves joint stress. Play sessions should avoid activities that strain joints, and hikes should be moderate, with plenty of rest and hydration. Listening to your dog and observing signs of fatigue are key to adapting exercise routines for their senior years.

Can senior dogs still enjoy playing?

Yes, senior dogs can still thoroughly enjoy playing. It’s an important part of keeping them mentally and physically active. However, the nature of play should be adjusted to suit their age and health. Activities that are too rigorous or require jumping and standing for extended periods should be avoided to prevent strain on their joints. Instead, gentle play that encourages movement without overexertion is ideal. Monitoring for signs of fatigue is crucial, ensuring play remains a positive, enjoyable experience for your aging canine companion.

How can you tell if your dog is in pain during exercise?

Recognizing pain in your dog during exercise involves observing changes in behavior and physical signs. Your dog may limp, lag behind, or show reluctance to continue the activity. Vocalizations such as whining or growling when moving or being touched can indicate discomfort. A change in posture, such as hunching or reluctance to use a limb, also suggests pain. Additionally, an increase in panting, restlessness, or a decrease in enthusiasm for activities they once enjoyed are key indicators. If you notice these signs, it’s crucial to reduce the exercise intensity and consult a veterinarian.

What are some good low-impact alternatives to walks or hikes for dogs with joint problems?

For dogs with joint problems, swimming is an excellent low-impact exercise that alleviates stress on the joints while providing a good workout. Hydrotherapy, which involves controlled swimming under the guidance of a professional, can also be beneficial. Gentle play that encourages movement without jumping or sharp turns can help keep them active. Puzzle toys stimulate mental activity with minimal physical strain. Short, leisurely walks on flat, soft surfaces can maintain mobility without overburdening their joints. Always consult with a veterinarian to tailor activities to your dog’s specific health needs.

What extra precautions should you take when exercising your senior dog in hot or cold weather?

In hot weather, exercise your senior dog during cooler parts of the day, such as early morning or late evening, to avoid heat exhaustion. Always have water available to prevent dehydration and avoid hot surfaces that could burn their paws. In cold weather, protect them with a warm coat if needed, especially for dogs with thin fur. Keep walks shorter to prevent discomfort from the cold. Regardless of the weather, always watch for signs of distress and adjust activities to ensure your dog’s comfort and safety.

Do you have questions about caring for a senior dog? Please feel free to contact us, your veterinarian in Wickenburg, AZ, and the surrounding communities, anytime!

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