How to Keep an Older Dog in Shape

3 min read
Jan 13, 2022

Dogs are our best friends and we want them to feel healthy, but just as humans age, dog become less spry as they get older. By the time most dogs reach middle age, they’ll begin to slow down.

Exercise helps older dogs stay in shape, remain at a healthy weight, maintain muscle tone and avoid joint problems. So how can you keep senior canines in shape without pushing them too far?

Teach an Old Dog New Tricks

Despite the saying, older dogs can absolutely learn new tricks. Even just teaching your dog to roll over can keep them moving and help them build muscle around joints that can become sensitive to dogs as they age.

Tricks have the bonus of keeping your dog mentally sharp and being a great bonding experience for both you!

Go swimming

If your dog enjoys the water, swimming is a great way to help your dog stay active. Swimming will put less pressure on sore joints than waking or running, which becomes especially important as dogs age.

Your local veterinary may even have a therapeutic swimming pool or underwater treadmill.

Keep Moving Throughout the Day

Humans often benefit from small bursts of physical activity each day and the same is true of our four-legged friends. As your dog ages, it can be helpful to go on walks more frequently in short bursts. Focus on making these walks more leisurely and allow them to make pitstops for exploring and sniffing.

Don’t be afraid to keep your dog moving at home too. Try small tasks like having your pet sit and some throughout the day. This is particularly helpful as moving from sitting to standing can become difficult for dogs as they age.

Consider Joint Supplements

Joint supplements may help your dog feel capable of moving more freely as they age. You may be uncertain what supplements are best for your dog, but below is a brief rundown of some of the most common supplements:

  • Glucosamine hydrochloride – This is an amino sugar that is a building block for cartilage growth. Glucosamine is cheap and readily available and is safe for dogs with diabetes as well.
  • Chondroitin sulfate – Chondroitin sulfate works by inhibiting cartilage-destroying enzymes. However, given the fact it’s more difficult to source and extract, chondroitin is more expensive than glucosamine.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids – A popular supplement for humans and dogs alike, omega-3s support heart health, joint health, improve kidney function and aid the immune system. One of the best ways to give your dog omega-3s is from wild-caught cold-water fish.
  • MSM/DMSO – Although MSM and DMSO are popular supplements, there has yet to be published research on the efficacy of these supplements for joint health.

Keep your Dog at a Healthy Weight

One of the biggest ways to help your dog feel better when they get older is to focus on keeping them at a healthy weight. Consistent exercise will assist in keeping the pounds off your pooch, but a healthy diet is also essential. For your senior dog’s diet, look for foods higher in protein, lower in fat and lower in calories. As dog’s can become more sensitive as they age, you may also need to find food that are easily digestible and designed for food sensitivities.

Always Consult your Vet First

Regardless of whether you’re starting a new exercise regime, changing your dog’s diet or adding in some supplements, it’s important to consult your vet first regarding your dog’s health. Your vet will be essential to helping you plan an exercise strategy for your dog by checking their weight and range of motion.

Aging is a natural part of your dog’s life, but it doesn’t have to mean your adventures together need to slow down. By consistent exercise and care, your four-legged friend can stay in shape and enjoy a lot more range of motion than less active dogs. Remember that more than anything you should keep bringing the joy to your dog’s and enjoy their unconditional affection and devotion they have for us.

Remember that dog insurance is a great make to make sure you can care for your dog, especially in his older years. 

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances. 

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.