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You guys might remember that Simon is my first senior dog. We've finally gotten into a more regular exercise routine now that he's recovered from the heartworm treatment. I'm having a hard time figuring out how much is too much in terms of exercise. Simon is a very, very eager to please dog, so I know he'll keep going because he wants to please me. We've been taking walks that are around 2 miles. He seems to do okay, though he does start tiring towards the end. He doesn't lag behind, and most of the time when we get home he tries to get Shanoa to play chase. He does have some occasional weakness in his left hind leg, but it doesn't seem to act up at that distance. Tonight we sort of accidentally went 2 1/2 miles, and I was worried that it was too far, though he seemed fine. I want to keep him healthy and exercising, but I don't want him to do too much, if that makes sense.

I'm sure I'm being too paranoid about this, but I would love to hear what you all do for your seniors.
 

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If he's not starting to fall behind or get gimpy or it's hard to get up afterwards, don't worry too much. :)

Do you have him on any glucosamine/MSM/chondroitin? Probably not a bad idea to get it going now if you're noticing anything going on in a leg.
 

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I wouldn't really regard 8 yrs as senior - even though officially it is. Cato kept his strength thru his 12th year - it wasn't until he was about 13 that he got sick with cancer that he lost his ability to do vigorous exercise running up and down the hills in the forest with the "kids".

More than anything, he is probably just needing to build up muscle. I always treat my seniors the same as the others. If you let them lay around they just get fat. I would just treat your senior like any other dog that is out of shape and keep working up to your goals. Just consider him a young dog that needs exercise. 8 is not old.

I had a 7-8 yr old here for 2 days a couple of months back - was planning to keep him. He started off at close to 100lb and we estimated he should have weighed 85lb of lean muscle and bone. The breeder took off 5lb in about a week - just by letting him around with the younger dogs. I took off a couple of pound in those 2 days and he started to show a tuckup - I have the photos to prove it. They bounce back so very quickly. They will let you know when they are too tired. No kid gloves, just treat the seniors like the inner dogs that are still buried inside and they will respond so quickly it will shock you. Don't overdo it like any dog you are trying to condition, do it at a reasonable pace. Even with me - I stopped running 2 years ago but a friend at work wanted to learn how to run, so I started her off with a 1 mile run - no sweat literally. She was exhausted but I was fine - we are building up from there (but she has lack of rib flexibility so she needs to learn how to move her ribs to breathe better).

Thanks for taking on a mature dog - I don't like to think of them as seniors, just past the wild puppy phase. :) Just pay attention to that leg or anything else and treat it like you would your younger dogs.
 

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Although it would be difficult (and expensive) to do in the fall/winter, I highly recommend water therapies for older dogs. Especially if you're noticing any kind of limping/lameness, this will be particularly helpful.
You can take him for a normal swim in any pool, or rent time at a facility that has underwater treadmills. The water helps take a lot of the weight off the joints, making it easier for the dogs too keep moving, but the physical action helps to keep muscles and joints limber, as well as helps promote cardiovascular health.

The suggestion to walk him more frequently for shorter durations, is also a fantastic idea.

Do keep in mind that any muscle that gets used, will also need to be relaxed. Spend some quality time with your old man, massaging and stretching him out. Unless he has any particular issues, the massage should not be anything complicated or deep - a simple firm rub in small circular motions will do just fine.

Older dogs will also typically have decreased circulation. After the massage, in a sweeping motion with a very light touch, "flush" the fluids towards the heart.
For example, "sweep" the leg from the tips of the toes up to the shoulder or pelvis; and from the tip of the nose, across the face, then down the neck.

Try stretching each leg forward, backward, and across the body firmly for 30 seconds at a time, making sure to release very slowly in order to avoid a reflexive pull back and tensing the muscles again. Try this with the legs folded, as well as straight.
With your dog in a standing position, have him follow a treat with his head. Bring it down to the floor, then between his front legs and back towards his hind legs. If he keeps turning around before getting a good stretch, start closer, and let him gnaw on the treat for a few seconds. You may also want to enlist the help of a friend in holding his back end still as he only moves his head and neck.
In a similar fashion, you can have him bend side to side by holding the treat near his face, then bringing it around slowly towards his hip. I do this one by sitting on the very end of a chair, and holding the dog's hips between my knees, as I guide the head down the length of the body.

Just keep him moving. :)
If he's still instigating play sessions with the other pup, then you're doing a great job.
 

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If he's not starting to fall behind or get gimpy or it's hard to get up afterwards, don't worry too much. :)

Do you have him on any glucosamine/MSM/chondroitin? Probably not a bad idea to get it going now if you're noticing anything going on in a leg.
He is on Dasuquin with MSM and that seems to be helping for him. I think I've been more of a worrier than I normally would be because he had heartworm when he came to me. His xrays showed some lung damage and his heart was slightly enlarged. His lungs on the xray looked like asthmatic lungs (at least that's how my vet described it to me). So I know there's been at least some damage from heartworm.

The leg issue is a bit troubling. The vet is thinking he likely had an ACL tear that wasn't treated. Very, very rarely his leg will give out for a step and he'll stumble, but then it's back to normal movement. That same leg will tremble after long walks or heavy exertion (like chasing Shanoa around). But there doesn't seem to be any lameness afterward and it doesn't seem painful.

I definitely don't want to baby him and I think exercise and activity is super important. I'm not sure what kind of hydrotherapy is available around here but I can check into it. I want to keep him healthy and active.

I guess I'm mostly looking for reassurance that I'm not pushing him way too much. I was feeling like the longer walks were good for him, building up muscle and endurance. He is not very muscular at all. He was fat when he came into rescue and I doubt he had regular exercise. Then with two months of crate rest for heartworm...

Thanks everyone. I'm learning a ton about caring for seniors. Viv, it's nice to hear that you don't think he's too old yet! I'm hoping he sticks around for a long, long time.
 

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Ginger will be 14 in a couple of days. I have been lucky to live with several very senior dogs. If they start to tire or drag back legs or feet (in Gingers case) then cut down on how far the walk is. We do not walk with Gin on the street anymore but she goes to the park and plays fetch at least 4 times a week. I find seniors know how far they can go and if your boy is playful after the walk then you are doing just fine. I also don't see 8 as senior so relax, enjoy and let him lead the way. You have a good dog sense, trust it. ;)
 

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I'm 'horribly paranoid by nature" and a "stress nut." My Vizsla is only 8 but at 7 I started really keeping a close eye on her. The one thing I make sure to do with her and try with the others is core work. Lots of short core work sessions during the week with or without my ball. I also let her run at her pace, etc. I have seen some slight changes in agility. She NEVER knocked bars before. she will occasionally knock one now. She HATES how I used to do rear crosses and would refuse until I changed my method. I think I was late giving her info and it was harder for her to do at the last minute (or maybe she's just tired of me being late :) ) I do a lot of body massage, t-touch on her also.

I also am paranoid about lumps and while I massage I check for lumps a few times a month. I've lost a dog to cancer and Mast cell runs in my breed so I'm even more paranoid IF that's possible :)
 

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Adara, do you have any online resources for core work?
 
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As I was preparing for Tippy to become a senior at 9yrs. Didnt realize it was 8. I asked my vet and trainer about her exercise schedule. They said if you treat her old she will become old. She will let you know when she has had enough. Which triggered a memory from a few yrs ago when I had gone to my sisters in TN. Hubby had the terriers and decided to walk them. Well, his walking is quite far. Tippy decided at one point she had, had enough. She layed down and refused to get up. He had to pack her the rest of the way home. I decide if I am taking her by where we are going, how hot it is & about how long I suspect we will be gone.
 

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Viv, it's nice to hear that you don't think he's too old yet! I'm hoping he sticks around for a long, long time.
I started Cato in agility in 2005 when he was 7. That was when I started training him. Then I started running in trials about 18 mths later when he was almost 9 - he jumped 24". We didn't do a lot of trials because he was too social and wanted to spend time with the ring crew and the photographer and the judge, so I just took him to fun matches so he could have fun - we earned about 8 titles in all.

But agility can be quite hard on a dog that is not well built and I found that Enid's hips are continually going "out" these days, so I have retired her from trialling; but not from fun - she is only 7 after all. She is still very active and running in the forest and leading the way for the kids to follow. Her version of zoomies (luckily) is outside and included full circuits of the backyard including vertical wall climbs.

This photo was taken end of May or early June (since Jill is in the photo) and Cato passed on June 23rd. So he was looking quite happy until the end and staying active. 13 1/2

 

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Adara, do you have any online resources for core work?
I do the Get on the Ball DVD and I will find my notes from my agility instructor and pm them to you. It might take me a few days to find it. I KNOW it's saved...somewhere :)
 

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Yeah, it's obvious when they are getting tired, but it's harder when you haven't lived with them for a larger piece of their life so you don't have a good idea what normal is. Frankie started to slow down with arthritis (she had both CCLs repaired at age 6 and 7), and it was hard for me to deal with. I remember coming home after a 5-mile hike with her at age 10, telling P very sadly that she couldn't go on any hikes at 5 miles or longer any more. It was very evident - she would stop and lay down, and be lagging behind me - out of sight behind me. Still saddens me to think about it now, however she still LOVED being out in the woods! So I kept taking her out, just for shorter trips, or we'd take longer breaks.

I found that as far as balancing out a younger and older dog, the off leash stuff was great. That way the younger dog can romp around like a fool, and the older dog can still go at your pace. :) Or we'd walk to a park, then fetch with Silas, and just do laps with Frankie. Balancing out an older and younger dog can be tricky. Another thing I'd do was do a shorter loop in the neighborhood, then drop her off and continue further with Si.

All that being said because I don't think Simon is anywhere near that stuff yet. :) I'd just watch for any of that leg quivering or for him to really be lagging behind - like at the end of the leash. I think that you can build up your walks to much more than 2 miles as long as you watch him and work him up in a gradual way - he sounds like he's doing great and only going to get better, which will help him and his joints in the long run. I know he's dog aggressive, so off leash is harder for you, but that spot in the woods with the long lines would be a great place to build up his endurance. Oftentimes the younger dog can get the older dog to perk up and be more active, in a good way. I'm betting that he never got this much exercise before and he's actually feeling GREAT - hence the playing when he gets home. That's a very young dog thing to do. ;)
 

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Thanks for the reassurance and advice, everyone. It is much appreciated.

I think I've been a little too worried and probably taking it a little too easy on him. Tonight we walked 3.7 miles on a nice, wooded trail. When we got home, he decided it was ON with Shanoa, and they raced around the yard like maniacs. He keeps up with her pretty well, and she is super fast. He was also jumping around. I had to call them both in.

So I guess I think he's probably in better shape than I feared and I just need to not worry so much!
 
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