Tips For Helping Your Senior Pet Stay Active

Step-ups. Encourage your pet to put both front feet up on one step. Doing so will shift his weight to the hind legs. Hold this position for up to 60 seconds. As your pet becomes stronger and more comfortable with this exercise—and if his size allows it—see if he can reach the next step up to increase the level of difficulty.

Cats can be a little more difficult to exercise because we can’t always just take them for a walk. We have to be creative and sometimes trick them into exercise. Of course, many cats are playful, so be sure to have feathers on a stick or laser pointers for them to chase. A great way to help your cat burn extra calories is to take his daily food portion and divide it into several bowls placed around the house. Your cat will have to go from room to room to search out his food, and if he is healthy enough, consider placing food dishes on elevated platforms that will require mental and physical challenge. Start this process by adding just one extra bowl so your cat gets used to the idea of “hunting” for his food. Alternatively, you can toss each kibble across the floor to encourage your pet to get up and walk for his meal.

Increase the Challenge

Senior pets need to exercise their minds as well as their bodies. Making obstacle courses with simple household objects can be a fun way to stimulate your pet cognitively and improve neurologic and muscle control. You can coax him to step over a garden hose fashioned in a serpent pattern in the backyard. Broom handles or pool noodles also work well.

If your pet is already at a good fitness level, add some new activities into your routine. If your veterinarian says it’s okay, consider rally events, agility classes, tracking, or field events.

Finally, if physical injuries are preventing your pet from getting the exercise he needs, ask your vet about rehabilitation services. Veterinarians who specialize in rehabilitation may be able to help your pet by reducing discomfort and boosting strength and flexibility. These doctors can use a wide variety of methods — including joint mobilization, massage, stretching, laser therapy, and acupuncture — to help get your golden guy up and moving again. Find a veterinarian who is certified in canine rehabilitation at the American Association of Rehabilitation Veterinarians website.

Enjoy Bonding Together

Having a good exercise routine for your pet can be rewarding for you too. It will help strengthen the bond you share with your pet, and let’s face it, most of us could benefit from a little more daily exercise in our own routine.It’s a win-win!

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2015 issue of HealthyPet magazine.

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