I recently sent out an email to all of you – my dog loving friends asking “What information you would like to know more about regarding older dogs?”
Steve responded with an excellent question regarding his dog Wally’s activity level.
Hi Janie – Great topic!
I was just thinking about it too. My 7 1/2 year old Wally is a 54 lb Chow/Pit Bull/Aus Cattledog mix and is very active.
4 mi walks a couple of times per week and a 2-3 hr trip to the dog beach (running about 90% of the time) depicts our typical week. Wally is a very fast runner – he’s had many comments to that affect.
While I have noticed some slowdown in Wally with exercise as he gets older (he used to run for 3-4 hours continuously when at the beach); he still really seems to enjoy his athletic life style.
What type of balance should we strive for among his athletic endeavors, slower paced activities, and rest?
Also, I’ve managed his food intake so he appears to be fit and trim but his intake has not changed over the past few years.
We want to maintain a healthy and enjoyable lifestyle but I don’t want to push him to any potentially harmful levels.
Thanks for the great feedback and excellent question.
First, I have to tell you what an awesome job you are doing with Wally in every aspect of his care including a healthy weight. Your response put a huge smile on my face when I read how active you keep Wally.
Not only is this good for his physical well being, but it will also contribute to a youthful frame of mind as Wally ages even more.
Routine exercise is vital to all dogs, but becomes even more critical after a certain age. A lack of exercise after the age of 8 is believed to contribute to the deterioration of organ function.
By providing this vigorous exercise program for Wally, you are also promoting muscle strength and conditioning while keeping his joints flexible. Exercise is great for preventing arthritis.
What Activity Level Should Steve Aim For?
Although dogs live to please their masters, another great thing is that they are very good communicators. As far as the beach goes; I would allow him to enjoy himself at his own pace.
Dogs will keep retrieving their ball no matter how tired they are at the beach, so don’t exhaust him and make sure he has lots of fresh water while there.
It’s often harder for the dog owner to actually watch the dog slow down than it is for the dog. I know, I’ve been there many times over the years.
Wally will actually let you know when the four mile walks become to much. Watch for signals such as lagging behind or showing a lack of interest in going any further.
If this does happen while you are on a walk, stop and rest Wally for awhile.
Your goal should be to monitor his comfort zone from this point forward to see how far he can comfortably go without showing any distress at all.
If he can walk for 4 miles, a couple times a week without showing any distress or discomfort, then I would continue with it.
Keep an eye on him after your 4 mile walk particularly the next day to see if he appears to be in any pain due to stiffness. If he does, it might be a good idea to start introducing a pain relief product such as Cosequin DS or the human version Cosamin DS and reduce the length of the walk.
Also, if you’re not already including fatty acids such as fish oil in Wally’s diet, I highly recommend that you start sooner than later.
I don’t really think you have much to worry about for quite awhile Steve. My old girl “Lulu” who passed away in 2010 at the ripe old age of 16 walked 1.5 to 2 miles daily up until 6 months before she finally passed.
It could be many years yet before he starts to give you signals that his current exercise routine is too much.
Over the years veterinarians have always commented on how healthy my dogs were, and I attribute their good health to routine exercise and a healthy diet, both of which you are doing for Wally as well. Plus, all of my own dogs have been large breeds that lived to be 14-17 years old.
I hope this helped Steve.