Just like aging humans, mobility is a large component in your pets quality of life. In the ten years since I graduated veterinary school I have been told hundreds of times by clients that “she is slowing down because she is old.” Age is not an illness, aging is a process. We all know when we pick up the perfect puppy that one day she will grow old, we cannot stop that. We can however have a positive effect on HOW your pet ages. Nutrition, mental stimulation, and movement can make all the difference in your dog.
It is important to remember that dogs enjoy walks different than people. Dogs want to smell every piece of grass because it is activating parts of their brain that are not stimulated when they are in the house all day. They can tell every dog who has been to that spot, they can tell if other animals have come by, they literally enjoy stopping and smelling the roses. As human, we want our walks to count as exercise, we try to encourage our dogs to walk faster, stop smelling every blade of grass, and keep up with us. Since a walk should be enjoyable for you as well as your dog I recommend letting your dog enjoy the walk away from your house, smell, look around, do their business, then on the way back home see if you can increase the pace of the walk. I will frequently walk my dog on the side walk, grass, zig zag as I go across drive ways and vary my pace to keep my dog interested in the walking part of the walk.
Even a 1 minute leashed out door excursion can do miracles for senior, senile, and mobility challenged dogs. I frequently prescribe out door time to my paralyzed and mobility challenged dogs purely for the mental stimulation.
We want to always listen to our dog, if they seem painful, weak, tired and cannot walk or keep up with you listen to them and contact your veterinarian. Also, remember dogs can over heat during certain parts of the year, if it is hot out, shorter frequent walks may be a better option.
Amber Callaway Lewis DVM, CCRT
Treasure Coast Animal Rehab