It can be sad for both dog and owner when walks are no longer possible. Without that daily bonding experience, some owners may worry that the end is fast approaching. Although the physical aspect of walking may not be possible, your dog can still gain a lot from just being outside with their owner, and a simple way to do this is using a children’s wagon.
Lady is a 12 year old German Shepard mix who has been suffering with increasing hind end weakness for several years after being hit by a car as a puppy. When her trembling hind legs began to give out, her owners set her up with a mobility device that gave her confidence and helped her go for longer walks with her owners. However when her front legs also started experiencing weakness, the mobility device was no longer an option. She’s always loved going for walks with the other family dog and her owners didn’t want to leave her behind, so they bought a little red wagon and after outfitting it with multiple comfy blankets, Lady now goes on their daily walks.
Keeping Lady Healthy and Engaged
When they reach an area where they’re confident she can walk around for a bit, they lift her out of the wagon she can have a bathroom break and do lots of sniffing and even enjoy the occasional roll on the ground. If she looks a little extra wobbly, her owners will use a towel to support her hind end as an improvised sling until it’s time to get back in the wagon.
She loves to take in the sights while she’s in the wagon and it’s made a huge improvement in her temperament. She receives lots of pats and hellos from neighbours and other dogs visit to sniff her. She’s perked up and is happy she hasn’t been left out of the “pack” activities. A wagon in the winter time can also make things easier taking out a dog that’s unsteady on his feet. You can roll to the park and allow your dog to do some supervised playing in the snow, without worrying about the ice and snow wiping him out on the walk home.
Keeping your Pet Active and Healthy Inside in Winter
Creating an Indoor Exercise Plan for Your Pet
Physical and cognitive decline are not just limited to humans. As they age, pets can experience much of the same mental and physical slow down as we do. And just like us, it’s important to try and keep them learning to help stay sharp. Before starting your pet on any exercise plan, it’s a good idea to have a full physical exam to address any existing medical issues. Pets can be very good at hiding pain, so your dog may require some assistance without you even knowing. Underlying problems such as arthritis, limping or stiffness can be helped with the appropriate anti-inflammatory, pain medication or supplement before you begin, and Caledon Vaughan Veterinary House Call Services can assist with this. Once your pet has had a physical exam, we can specifically tailor a plan for your senior pet that meets both its physical and mental stimulation needs.
Proper Safety Preparation for Indoor Exercise
Having non-slip surfaces inside your house for your dog to walk on will help limit the chances of your dog slipping and having his feet slide out from under him. Yoga mats are a great resource for this problem, especially in areas of the house where he may not be able to get a good floor grip anymore. They’re also easily cleaned in the washing machine. Carpet and mats throughout the house are also flooring options that allow dogs to get the grip they need when getting up and down. Other non-slip options are toe grips and rubber booties which are comfortable and can help with floor traction. The same rubber booties can be used when taking your dog outside in the winter to protect their feet from ice and salt.
Tips for Indoor Engagement of your Dog
It’s important that whatever you do for your pet, that you’re not causing any pain. Your dog may still love playing fetch, but retrieving may no longer be an option and is potentially dangerous. Instead of throwing the ball, try having your dog sit or lay down on the floor and you roll the ball to him. He may need to move a bit to grab the ball as it’s moving, but it won’t be as intense as having to run for it.
What may seem like a small amount of physical exercise for your dog can actually be a lot for a senior, so you don’t necessarily need to go for long walks. Try creating an indoor scavenger hunt. Having your dog walk around the house, searching for treats being left under blankets and towels and hidden in boxes can get those joints moving, but also stimulate that sniffing reflex. They can be as active as they want but can also take breaks in comfort. It doesn’t have to be complicated to encourage your dog’s curiosity but it will keep him entertained and moving.
Fun Toys and Games for Your Pets
Puzzle toys can be purchased at your local pet supply store and will keep your dog entertained learning how to open the different boxes and find the delicious treat hidden inside. Other options you can purchase from the store include slow feeders and treat dispenser toys that can be used with kibble instead of treats. They encourage your dog to eat but also motivate their senses. For some more tips to create your own games at home you can also check out our YouTube channel.
Remember that whatever plan you make, don’t forget that sometimes the simplest thing can mean so much to your pet. What dog doesn’t enjoy getting attention? Encourage your senior dog to spend time downtime with you at home. While you watch TV and he gets belly rubs, your pet will feel included and an important part of the family. Spend time grooming your dog with a soft brush. Your dog doesn’t have to go for a hike to be happy. Just being included in your downtime can be just as rewarding.
Author: Meaghan Michaud, RVT
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