Just Keep Adventuring: Physical Activity for the Aging Pup

Senior Tripod Dog hiking in a crag on leash with a green bandana that says "Don't be trashy". Text in white over the pictures- "Just Keep Adventuring", "Physical Activity for aging pups"

As we get older and start to slow down a bit, we may be less inclined to get our bodies moving, especially if we weren’t very physically active to begin with. Our joints start to ache, we feel tired, and then we really don’t feel like moving at all, which is exactly what we should be doing to feel better! A similar thing can happen with our favorite furry friends as they transition into their golden years. In order to keep them as active, mobile, and happy as possible, it’s important to break the cycle. And veterinary physical therapy can help.

Over the years, researchers have shown time and time again that regular physical activity in humans can help to prevent the development of chronic diseases and premature death. Whether the activity is recreational or non-recreational, the benefits are the same. Dogs can reap these same benefits, whether they’ve never been given a chance to take regular walks or they’ve been playing rigorous games of fetch for most of their lives.

Smiling senior border collie mix with mouth softly open showing tongue. Words shaped around frame of dog's head- "Adventure has no age limit! It's all about what you make of it"

Oftentimes, when we see an senior member of the family struggling to accomplish a simple task, such as getting up from a chair, we rush to their side to help them to their feet, ensuring they do as little work as possible. Of course, the intention is admirable; you just want to make life as easy as possible for the ones you love. But if you stop for a second to think about the age-old expression, “If you don’t use it, you lose it,” you might just change your approach.

Activity is incredibly important mentally for senior animals as well! To guard against Canine Cognitive Dysfunction and other common conditions, physical and mental activity become more important than ever.

When we see our precious pups slowing down, we may be tempted to react in a similar way in an attempt to make life easier for them. But the result may actually be the opposite. What we will likely end up with is a snowball effect where we help them more and more, so they move less and less. Ultimately, they wind up feeling worse and worse. The best way to stop this vicious cycle from continuing is to intervene with a progressive, tailored exercise program that can get them more on their feet and less on their tail.

Kalina, the border collie mix in the pictures above, is a senior tripod rescue who isn’t ready to slow down mentally, but without rehab, wasn’t able to continue adventuring safely. Now she works hard during the week on her physical rehab exercises at home so she can go longer, be safer, and have more good times on big adventures- like going hiking and maneuvering safely at the crag when she goes with family on rock climbing adventures. With her age and arthritis, now more than ever, it is critical for her to have a therapeutic exercise plan that is getting the most out of her movement for the specific adventure goals she has!

A certified canine rehab therapist is specially trained to evaluate dogs from a mobility perspective and develop an exercise program based on his or her specific needs. Age, overall health, breed, and personality will be taken into account, too, to determine the recommended amount of physical activity. The therapist will even show you how to do the exercises with your dog so that you will feel confident in providing the best care you can for your loved one.

Maintaining a physically active lifestyle is just as important for dogs as it is for humans. It may seem like the adventure days are over, but I promise they are not! The best way to prevent loss of mobility is to stay mobile, but sometimes you and your pup need a helping hand. Check with your primary care or rehab veterinarian/Certified Canine Rehabilitation Therapist (CCRT) if you’re starting to notice changes in your pup’s activity levels. It’s never too early or late to start!

Does your senior dog have arthritis?

That’s actually even more reason to check out what physical rehab therapy can do for your canine companion! Check out this free Senior Dog Arthritis Information Guide: