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Low Impact Activities for our Golden Oldies...

Low Impact Activities for our Golden Oldies...
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As our pets grow older exercising can become increasingly difficult. They are more reluctant to go outdoors, play and can develop conditions such as osteoarthritis which can make it challenging. It is still, however, important to encourage the right kinds of exercise to help sustain a healthy weight and to maintain mobility.


During the winter months, they can become far too comfortable in bed in front of the fire. There are plenty of options for our senior pets for indoor play times, and even some more novel activities such as fitness hydrotherapy. Here are just a couple of ideas to help get them moving;


Indoor Play:

  • Fetch – We can bring this game indoors and have a game on the carpet or rug. It isn’t meant to be overly challenging but helps to get them up and moving around, also turning back and forth can be a good way to get their joints mobile and keep them supple. The ideal is on a rug or carpet to reduce the chance of them slipping or overextending which can cause injury.


  • Puzzle Feeders – Most dogs love food, and at meal times we can encourage them to be active and play. This will not only get them moving, flexing and extending their joints, but will also stimulate their minds. There are a lot of options available, but the main point is that we do not want one which is too difficult as they will give up and must have the positive reward at the end to encourage them to keep wanting to play with it over and over again.


  • Hide and Seek – Now this can either be finding you or a favourite toy/treat. The idea is to provide an activity which is both mentally and physically stimulating. Make sure you hide the ‘treat’ close to the ground, and not in a place where it is impossible to find.


  • Refreshing training/tricks – The old adage of ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ is rubbish. They may take a little longer to master the trick, and will require a little more patience, but as with humans learning is always beneficial as you get into the latter years of life. Tricks shouldn’t be too difficult or require the flexibility of a gymnast to perform. Maybe it is time they learnt to roll over, ‘high five’, balance a treat on their nose, or even learn how to sit and stay properly. Positive reinforcement and rewards are again required. Keep lessons short to avoid exhaustion, and them losing interest.


Other Activities:


  • Fitness Hydrotherapy – We think of hydrotherapy as a way of rehabilitating animals after surgery but it is also an exceptional low impact exercise, helping to maintain an older dog’s fitness. Hydrotherapy has many benefits, for our more elderly pets, it allows resisted free movement of all the joints, without the impact on the joints. It can be used for maintaining our pet’s flexibility, helping with weight loss, to maintain muscle mass and is enjoyable. The water is heated to a very pleasant temperature, and the treadmill can be controlled as to how quickly they have to move. We at Pennard Vets are very pleased to have hydrotherapy available and has really positive results.


  • Swimming – As the weather improves and the temperature increases swimming is a great way of maintaining older animal’s fitness. The resistance of the water means they have to apply some effort, but without impact on their joints. Just make sure that they are not in flowing or deep water, as if they struggle they should be able to just walk out without distress.


  • Scent Work – This involves hiding a known treat/toy and allowing them to use their amazing sense of smell to guide them to it. This can be indoors (hind and seek), in your garden or the local park. Start easy and increase in difficulty. This taps into your dog’s prime instinct of hunting with scent, with a positive reward at the end.


Although we want to support mental and physical activity in our older pets we must be mindful not push them past their comfort zone. Encouragement is often needed but we must remember they are older and will require frequent rest. If they refuse, sometimes it is best just to try another day. 


If you would like to find out more about Hydrotherapy, contact our Sevenoaks practice, where Hannah and Charlie; our lovely hydrotherapists would be more than happy to chat through the benefits, and give you a guided tour.




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