July 18, 2019 5 min read

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You might be looking at your senior dog lying on the floor at your feet, your beloved friend. In his puppy days, he used to jump up onto the couch with you, and tug at his leash when you took him on walks - sometimes he was so energetic, he kind of took you on a walk! But now as you look at him lying there; he has not had much exercise lately. You love him and want him to spend his golden years still with you – but you might have been wondering how much exercise an old dog like him should get. You might already be aware that he no longer runs or jumps as high anymore. This is when it is important for owners of senior dogs to understand a dog’s senior years and their limits – it is an ideal time to create an exercise routine that he will love and not leave him exhausted and injured as a result of his efforts.

What limits senior dogs, though, when it comes to exercise?

Old dog on a grassy hill during a sunset
  • Osteoarthritis limits their exercise and mobility levels.
  • Congenital issues such as hip dysplasia, (more predisposed in the German Shepherd) as well as elbow dysplasia (which Labrador Retrievers are more predisposed to).
  • Rheumatoid arthritis can limit mobility.
  • Lyme disease can also limit mobility if insufficient care and early diagnosis have not been given.
  • Sometimes the anterior or posterior cruciate tears – this can occur when a dog twists and turns when playing – often occurring when a dog’s weight is higher than his ideal body weight.
  • Decreased heart function – maybe you have noticed your dog gets more winded from exertion and doesn’t walk as strongly as he used to.

Get vet approval before making changes

You need a vet’s opinion when your dog’s age, his exercise requirements, and tolerances change. If you adopt an old pet, you might not even know his complete health history and what type of exercise history he had. You need to always consult your vet and get his approval before changing any existing program or start a new one for your senior dog. Your vet will need to do a complete physical examination of your pet and discuss appropriate exercises. Some type of exercises won’t be suitable for a senior dog, especially if physical limitations are present.

How to get your dog back into the routine of exercising?

Sleeping old dog outside on dirt
  • Get him a special toy every now and then
  • Encourage him to swim a bit when you do
  • Try and teach him a new trick like walking up a couple of stairs or over a ramp
  • Visit a park for dogs

Go slow and be cautious with the weather too, when exercising your dog

That means not letting your senior pet exercise for long periods of time outside in hot or humid weather or climates. Don’t force him if he seems reluctant or tired. Go slow, because a lot of elderly dogs try to keep up with their owners when they are out running or walking. They don’t know they need to rest when they’ve reached their limit.

Indoor exercise for senior dogs

Graying dog looking worried into the camera

Provide an environment for your dog to get mental and physical stimulation. One vet recommends that your dog moving around the home, helping him to go up and down a few stairs to keep his muscles and joints loose. If climbing stairs it out the question, you could invest in some ramps to help him as he moves around the home.

Outdoor exercise for senior dogs

A senior dog should get regular walks throughout the week. You need to keep them short though. It is recommended you talk to your vet to see what a comfortable distance is for him to walk each day.Swimming is also good because it won’t hurt his joints. For any dogs with injuries, swimming is an excellent therapy. Dogs that have physical limitations might still want to run and jump up at Frisbees for instance, like they used to, but they are not likely to have the stamina. Limit the non-stop games, whatever they are, because they can be very fatiguing after extended periods of time. Remember to be sensitive to the temperatures of hot and cold too, keeping your dog hydrated and in the shade on hot days, particularly if he is overweight. 

What about doggy yoga and Pilates?

old black dog laying in a grass field after a short exercise

Some people like the idea of doing Pilates or DOGA with their senior pet, but you need to check this with your vet! A vet will advise whether these exercises can improve your pet’s health, contributing to longevity and increasing immunity against infectious diseases as some people believe – some say it helps to improve the bond between dog and owner.

Dogs certainly love to stretch – it’s a great tool to help maintain mobility for your dog as he ages. These motion exercises like stretching can help your senior dog to preserve function and also decrease pain. Here are5 types of stretches you can work with your dog to do.

How much exercise should a senior dog get?

Daily exercise is vital for dogs, particularly those with arthritis because it keeps their joints moving. A casual 30-minute walk might be too painful for a senior dog that is why it is important to talk to your vet. Even dogs that use specially equipped carts or wheelchairs can still enjoy a walk through the neighborhood and continues to take part in water activities.

How do I help with an older dog’s health?

Old spaniel on a walk through a park on a sunny day
  • Make sure you schedule regular visits with your veterinarian.
  • Ask your vet for a dog body condition evaluation during a visit so check out weight, etc.
  • Feed your older dog high-quality food.
  • Feed the right foods to keep him at his ideal body weight.
  • Consider fortifying his diet with fatty acids like EPA and DHA.
  • If he has heart or kidney disease, consider a special diet for him.
  • Take care of his mouth and teeth.
  • Don’t forget to exercise.
  • Keep him occupied with plenty of toys and food puzzles, etc.

Provide your older dog with special accommodations too

Make accommodations for an older dog with special things he might benefit from in his older years if he has not already got these:

  • An orthopedic dog bed which is wonderful for his arthritis and generally better health. They provide orthopedic support and help senior dogs to feel snuggled up and comfortable in their old age. They are made from memory foam; highly recommended for older dogs.
  • And did you know that CBD oil has crossed over into the world of pets as well? Why? It’s fantastic for inflammation, reduces anxiety, suppresses nausea, and fights cancer.



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Your dog might be grey in hair, but remember to look after his golden heart through his golden years – A high five to that!

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