Tips on exercising your senior dog (Skai's P-mail News)
Time to give Dr. D a little break and get back to p-mail. As you know, once in a while, I sneak up on my dad and send you a little message from behind the scenes. Today, I would like to give you an update on what I have been up to since the metal bird carried me away from Vancouver. It usually flies over the big puddle that you humans call the Peaceful Ocean in Latin Pacific. I have no idea who came up with such a name because when I go for my morning runs at the cow pasture, there is nothing peaceful about that body of water. The waves are the size of several story houses, and I am glad I do not need to swim in them.
Speaking of swimming, I finally convinced my dad that senior dogs, in general, should take it easy with swimming. Most people think that there is no limit to swimming and that it is good for us. But when you think about it a little more, the canines in nature would not spend hours on end swimming.
Yes, we try to rescue whatever you throw in the water, but why are you throwing it right back? Some dogs may be an exception, but most of us get tight in the shoulder and triceps muscle area. What happens, then, is that we scratch to massage the tight area, and most people mistakenly think that we are itchy, which is wrong! The muscles are tight because of too much swimming.
I am not saying here that you should not let your dog swim if he or she loves it, but it should be in moderation. Most dogs would take a grassy meadow over the pool anytime, especially when there are cows in it! However, one Christmas, when Dad was relaxing in the meadow, a bull snuck up from behind to check us out.
Of course, I chased him off!
86 year old marathon runner
The reason I love the meadow is that Dad and I have these morning play sessions. He gets up really early at around 5 a.m. and goes to the gym for an exercise class to get inspired. We are preparing for a senior dog exercise program. Senior? I am just a teenager!
Similar to humans, what keeps dogs strong is good food, essential supplements, and exercise to keep strong. My role model is auntie Betty-Jean McHugh from North Vancouver, who just ran the Honolulu marathon at the age of 86! She is also the holder of five world records! I am 98 in dog years! Isn't it great how similar 86 and 98 is?! Running a marathon is not my plan, but here is what I do and what I suggest you do with your dog.
Skai's exercise routine example - 11 steps
- Don’t wake your dog up until he or she is ready (I hope dad will not delete this one because I love sleeping in!).
- If your pooch is older, make sure that you help him up on the bed or that you have steps beside the bed. Jumping up and down a bed is not ideal for senior dogs.
- Stretch our hind legs in a wheelbarrow style and teach us how to do a down dog! Yes, we invented the pose, and there is no human who can do it as well as we, dogs, do!
- When you get to the park or the meadow, we like to do a little bit of a flexibility exercise. You can drive a treat or a toy in between your knees - I do not know one single dog that would not follow a delicious treat or his favorite toy.
- Jog a little for five to ten minutes, perhaps make us go back and forth to retrieve a toy. It is better to leave it behind and let us “go and get it” as opposed to using a ball chucker. Breaking and jarring are not the best for our joints.
- Play hide and seek for five to ten minutes. Hide the toy or cover your dog’s eyes and throw the ball away to make it harder to find.
- Do two to four sprints. You can either run with your dog or send him or her to a building or a tree to run fast.
- Give your dog a five-minute break.
- Roll a toy or a ball down a ravine, or if your dog does not like to retrieve toys, go up and down the hill three to six times. This exercise is quite hard work, but it's good for us to build up cardio. If you dog has back problems, take it easy and gradually build up the endurance.
- I like to go up a ravine right after this exercise to get the last little burst of energy. Then, we wrap it up with a gentle stroll, followed by a few little trots through the bushes, where the cows created nice little tunnels.
- When I am all done, I do my best not to cross my path with the bull even though he does not care about anything but eating and making calves. ;-)
After we are done with our morning routine, I usually end up being surrounded by people who get off the tour buses. I call it the "paparazzi moment" because people seem to surround me predictably and click away. Most people have no idea that I wear my Doggles to protect my eyes from sun damage. However, the main thing is that dad can explain this, plus I also make them laugh!
If you want to read more about what supplements I get, click here.
© Dr. Peter Dobias, DVM