With old age comes a mobility challenge. Your pooch is no longer the jumpy and energetic puppy it once was. When your Lab hits the 7-year mark, it starts being tagged onto the senior’s club. This is because, normally, the lifespan of Labrador retrievers is up to 12 years. If you want your senior Lab to live longer, exercise is important for their overall wellbeing. The only change in exercise is how it is done to accommodate the old soul. Here are the tips for exercising a lab in their sunset years.
Come up with a plan
An exercise routine is essential for your older Lab. You need to adjust it from the one of an adult lab. As an adult, a 45-minute walk is enough exercise. With a senior, you have to break the exercise into smaller and manageable pieces. Involve a short run, gentle walk, and another form of exercise. You can break it into 15 minutes, rest, and another set. This is helpful since old Labradors face mobility challenges from joint problems.
Pay attention to the temperature outside
Be sure to check on the temperature before you consider taking your older Lab outside. Older labs have a difficult time getting warm during cool seasons. It is advisable to put your Lab on a warm doggy jacket as you go for the walks. If your exercise of choice involves water, dry your dog completely after your session. You will have helped your pooch to regain warmth through their short coat.
During the hot season, ensure you check out your dog’s cues for overheating. You may notice your dog panting excessively, which should be your trail to wrap up. If your Lab is getting too thirsty or tired, consider shortening the exercise.
Ensure you walk on a smooth surface
Old dogs are sensitive in their paws and leg pad area. Often times, they get injured without you knowing. You can change this by being keen enough during grooming sessions. Even so, ensure you do not expose your old dog on rough terrains. Mountain climbing should be something of the past with the old age. Remember, your dog’s back legs could be beginning to give out, which requires extra terrain care.
Avoid slick floors like the ones in stores and malls, which can be slippery. You can predispose your pooch to break a bone or tearing a tendon. Aim to exercise your dog in level grass, concrete, or asphalt. Invest in a harness, which will aid you, balance the grip on the old dog as you move around.
Consider adding ramps
When you notice your senior Lab straining to jump up and down, or climb up the car, get ramps. Putting ramps in your home or car avoids straining the dog when jumping. It will offer a smooth transition to climb up the high spots that your canine wants to reach.
Follow the Lab’s signals
Nothing beats following your Lab’s instincts. Funny as it may sound; your dog has their own gut feeling too. If you see your dog stopping for a rest, pause and rest. Sometimes your pooch could be having some aches in the joints. If you see your dog wincing in pain, stop immediately. When your dog wants water, be sure to quench its thirst. Remember, old labs are very sensitive; you need to read all its signals.
Use familiar routes
It is not uncommon to find a senior lab that has Old dog syndrome. This makes the dog start losing some of its senses and get confused from time to time. In the same way, you are supposed to keep your house unchanged, use familiar routes. If you do the contrary, your dog can get disoriented during your gentle walks and freeze. Old labs will tend to be more comfortable with routes they are familiar with so, stick to the same lane.
Labrador retrievers love water. Whether as puppies or older ones, a swim will be accepted any day. The beauty of swimming is that, unlike walks and runs, it is less straining. It also supports the dog’s weight well by giving buoyancy and perfect relaxation. Since labs have a waterproof coat and swimming feet, swimming gets to be enjoyable. It offers less pressure to the joints and makes the Lab feel more flexible.
Ensure that it is warm outside when you take your oldie for a swim. If you have a pool in the compound, put a ramp in place to aid your dog get in and out of the pool. Make the swimming sessions short so that the dog does not get tired and strained. Remember to dry your dog’s coat thoroughly when you get out of the pool.
Play indoor games
Is anyone interested in playing for tug of war? This game choice is sure to exercise your senior’s neck and shoulders for some minutes. Unlike fetch, which requires the dog to jump with a lot of strain, this is manageable. You can play with your dog or get a neighbor’s dog and encourage the duo play. Older dogs will enjoy this game with less aggression than younger ones. So, pair your doggy with another oldie as well. You can go through our list of indoor games here and choose the best one for your Lab.
Therapy for seniors
If you notice your dog does not like slow runs, gentle walks or swimming, therapy is a choice. You can opt to offer massage, stretching, and muscle-strengthening exercises to your Lab. Hydrotherapy is also a go-to form of therapy to stretch and strengthen your dog’s ligaments. If unskilled in offering therapy to your old Lab, check out any pet physiotherapy places.
Consult your vet
The older a dog gets, the friendlier you should be to your vet. Old dogs need constant professional care. You cannot wake up one day and decide to start your dog on a new exercise routine. Working in close consultation with your vet will give you more peace of mind. Your vet is able to advise based on the medical history of your dog, their weight, and their diet. Carry your doggy journal with you to the vet’s place, so that it can be used as a record.
How to know your Lab has had enough exercise
You are to be extra careful with your old lad as any wrong move can cause serious trouble. You will know your canine has had enough exercise by observing the following;
This or refusing to continue with the form of exercise is a pause sign. If you see this, start wrapping up as your dog could be getting tired. Check your dog for any injuries and proceed home.
Excessive panting and drooling
If you notice your pooch is panting more than usual and has red gums, stop the session. Your dog could be showing signs of stress. Remember, excessive panting can be a precursor to a heart stroke. Also, be cautious about the change of weather. The excessive panting could be from the excess heat outside, making your dog overheat. Move to a shaded area when you notice sudden heat increase outside. Pat your dog with some cool water to relieve the overheating. You can also offer it some cool water to drink.
If your dog starts coughing, it could have started straining. Worse still, your Lab could be having a lung collapse. Stop your exercise immediately. If you notice your dog continuing to cough after the exercise, ring your vet for consultation.
Any show of pain is your red flag indicator to stop. Your pooch could have got hurt on the way and is trying to communicate that they should stop.
If you see any limp of your dog weak or your dog moving indifferently, consider going home. An injury or muscle stiffening is the most common reason for this. If your dog already has hip dysplasia, exercise very gently since to avoid limping.
Products to use
Dog wheelchairs and strollers
Walkin’ wheels dog wheelchair is a lifesaver for many dogs with paralyzed hind legs. It will make the short walk a breeze and ensure your senior Lab has ample exercise.
Dog harness and slings
A dog harness and sling will ensure the perfect balance for your dog during walks. There are many orthopedic ones on sale for your choosing. They give extra support for your pooch, especially if the back legs have begun giving out.
Dog socks and boots
For seniors, the risk of damaging joints and ligaments in a fall or from over-stretching is increased. It is essential to help your dog maintain the perfect balance. These items will help your dog maneuver a variety of terrain. Some top picks are Woodrow Wear Power Paws Advanced, Traction Socks for Dogs, and Pawks non-slip dog socks. For the boots, choose from Healers urban walkers or Canine footwear suspenders Snuggy.
Senior dogs need exercise to thrive. Regardless of the form of exercise you will choose for your pooch, ensure its moderate. You want to keep your pooch alive and kicking for as long as possible. So, get up and start some workout.