“SPRING TRAINING” TIPS FOR SENIOR DOGS
Many of you wonder how to keep your dog fit and trim as he or she ages. Large breed dogs in particular may develop difficulty with what we call “activities of daily living” such as getting into the car, going up and down stairs, or even just rising from a prone position each morning. Any breed or size of dog may suffer from chronic arthritis which can progress with age and cause your pet to slow down on walks and lose enthusiasm for playing with balls and toys.
Of course, all of us want our pets to have great quality of life and stay active for as long as possible, so how do we achieve this? Walking is great for the cardiovascular system, but just as we humans benefit from strengthening and stretching our muscles and performing exercises aimed at preserving full range of motion in our joints, so can our canine companions. Plus, doing this kind of “cross-training” keeps our dogs engaged and mentally fit as well. And it’s fun!
Watch “Bo” in the videos below perform his “spring training”. Exercises like these help dogs stay strong and balanced on their rear limbs by strengthening abdominal (core), and leg muscles.
SIT TO STAND
There is a lot going on in this exercise! First, by lowering himself slowly to a sit (think “squats” for you or I) and then pushing off with his hind limbs up to a stand, Bo is using his quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteal muscles. Second, he is improving his joint mobility by flexing and extending his hips, knees, and ankles. Finally (again think about what happens with squats) his is working his core muscles.
This exercise not only puts all 4 limbs through full range of motion, but also helps with balance, core and limb strength, and what we call “gait retraining." “Gait” refers to walk or jog or canter (slow run). Retraining can mean, for example, helping a dog move a front or hind limb forward and back normally vs swinging it out to the side. Stepping over the poles also helps dogs with “conscious proprioception”—or knowing where there feet are in space—if their feet touch the poles, the sensation tells their brain to step over properly, helping with neurologic deficiencies if present.
Disc work—the ultimate in core (abdominal muscle) strengthening, this exercise can be adapted to be easy or quite difficult, depending on the dog’s needs. Watch “Bo” progress from needing sling assistance in order to balance on a firm pad and disc to standing on his own on 3 discs at once! Way to go, Bo!
These are just a few examples of how targeted therapeutic exercises can help preserve mobility and increase strength. If you’d like to learn more, call or email Go Dog Go at (425) 892-0476; GoDogRehab@yahoo.com. Let Doc Wendy help your senior dog stay fit in his or her “golden years” with a customized home exercise plan.