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Senior dogs and exercise

Exercise is good for dogs and especially for older dogs. Walking and playing with your dog keeps it in good shape and ensures its muscles and joints remain as flexible as possible. This article is about senior dogs and exercise.

When is a dog a senior?

On average, 7- or 8-year-old dogs are considered seniors. But when exactly a dog reaches its senior years depends on the breed and size of the dog. Large breeds have a shorter lifespan than small breeds, so they are considered senior at a younger age. Whether or not a dog is considered senior will also depend on the individual dog. Every dog is unique! It is best to keep an eye on your dog’s health and activity.

Infirmities

As dogs age, they may suffer from infirmities such as stiff muscles and joints. This will cause your dog to move less smoothly. Some afflictions are more difficult to recognise than others. Common infirmities among dogs are:

• Trouble standing up
• Less enthusiastic for walks
• Difficult, stiff or disabled walking
• Getting out of breath (gasping) sooner
• Reduced appetite
• Increased drinking and urinating
• Unpleasant oral odour
• Weight gain or loss

Exercise

When your senior dog starts experiencing reduced mobility, it is tempting to spare your dog by walking it less often. However, modified exercise is very healthy for a senior dog. Exercise keeps the muscles flexible, strong and it stimulates the production of joint fluids which prevent wear and arthrosis.

Tips for activities with older dogs

Ageing will affect your dog. It is important to adapt its exercise accordingly. It may not be able to do the same things it did when it was a pup or young dog. A programme of varied activities will keep your dog young (at heart). Some exercise tips:

• Take several walks a day for shorter distances.
• Limit jumping and brief, rapid movements that take a toll on muscles and joints.
• Swimming is perfect for older dogs. It doesn’t stress the muscles and joints as much as walking does.
• Keep your dog young at heart by challenging its mind. You could hide its food or favourite toy and have the dog find it.

Read more about safe play with dogs.

When should I start feeding my dog senior dog food?

It is important to consider your dog’s diet in addition to changing how it exercises. Special dog food for senior dogs is available. Senior food often contains less energy as well as supplements suitable for older dogs. Yarrah’s organic Senior dog food contains less energy and makes for a perfect match with a less active, older dog. The food contains organic devil’s claw, horsetail and rosehips. These ingredients help keep the joints and muscles of older dogs flexible. Yarrah recommends starting with Senior kibble at age 7, but of course this depends on your individual dog. If your 7-year-old dog is still running around and is as active as a young dog, then feel free to postpone the switch to senior dog food. Make the switch to senior dog food once you notice that your dog is becoming less active, less inclined to exercise and therefore needs less energy. Tip: Older dogs’ sense of smell can deteriorate, which may cause them to eat less. Wet food has a stronger scent than kibble. Mixing wet food and kibble can help stimulate your older dog’s appetite.

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