Best Exercises for Older Dogs: Keeping Fido in Shape

While pounding the pavement for hours chasing balls or romping in the dog park might have been your puppy’s cup of tea, as your dog has gotten older, they have likely changed their exercise habits. As a fur parent, it’s important to adjust your routine to guarantee that your fur baby stays happy and healthy.

Here we will go through our top three favorite exercises for older dogs and why they are a safe bet. Then, we will dive into some tips to remember when exercising with your senior dog.

Best Exercises for Your Senior Dog


Swimming is a great exercise for older dogs because it will still get their cardiovascular system going without as much pressure on their joints and hips. As good as running is for your fur child, as they get older you need to be more cautious of high-impact exercises. A quick swim can do wonders for your doggie and is a fun way to get them moving.

Shorter Walks

Studies still show that walking is a wonderful form of exercise for both humans and dogs and senior dogs are no exception. Rather than focusing on long, strenuous walks like you might have done when your fur baby was younger, spend time doing more frequent, slower, shorter walks.

The important part of exercise for older dogs is increasing mobility and overall health, and walking is a great way to do this. While you may have opted for walks that would tucker your puppy out, focus on strong, consistent movement for your older dog.

Fetch (With a Few Changes!)

There is no game more classic than fetch and even older dogs still love the chase. But you have to remember your senior dog still has a few limitations with this classic game.

When playing fetch with a senior dog, instead of trying to throw the ball as far as you can, throw it shorter distances that are easier for your dog to manage. Also take into consideration the surface they are running on. Undoubtedly, grass or soft dirt is going to be better for your dog’s hips and joints than hard pavement.

Lastly, make sure to not throw the ball or Frisbee too high to get your dog to jump. While some dogs may have loved this in their prime, the force of jumping up and landing hard is too much for most older dogs. Plus, this jumping movement puts your pup at increased risk of injury.

These are just a few of exercises that are appropriate for your senior dog. Some other favorites can be adapted to fit your dog’s wants and needs. Now, let’s look at some things to keep in mind when exercising with your senior dog.

Exercise Tips for Senior Dogs

When exercising your fur baby, make sure to take into account your dog’s comfort and safety. Here are a few helpful tips for exercising your senior dog:

  • Monitor your dog’s energy levels as they play. If you see your fur baby acting especially sluggish, or they show signs that they don’t want to exercise any more, stop the activity and make sure they are okay. This will assure that you aren’t pushing your pooch too far.
  • Think about your dog’s joints and muscles. Like mentioned in the previous exercises, you must consider the impact your exercises have on your dog’s joints. Avoid any hard jumping, running, or other exercises that may damage your puppy’s hips and knees.
  • Think of your dog’s surroundings as you play. This includes not going outside when it is too hot or too cold, not playing on hills or other rough surfaces for too long, and other environmental considerations. The last thing you want is for your senior dog to get too dehydrated, hot, or uncomfortable while trying to get a little exercise in.
  • Monitor your dog’s breath. While some panting is natural, if your dog is starting to cough, hack, or is experiencing another abnormal breathing behavior, stop the exercise immediately. This breathing can be a sign of another internal issue such as heart issues, lung problems, or even tracheal collapse.

Exercise is crucial to keep your senior dog healthy, but it’s also important to know what activities suit your dog’s needs. These exercises will get your senior dog moving but are adapted for their change in physical activity.

How to Care For Your Senior Dog

If your once boisterous pup is now a little sluggish or your ball-crazy retriever can’t fetch for quite as long, chances are your dog is entering his senior years. Senior dogs require a different level of care than younger dogs and pet parents should be aware of the changes happening in their pooch. Along with recognizing these changes, fur parents should also be aware of some tips that will help make life easier for both dog and owner.

Let’s first define what is considered “senior” in dog years and then look at some tips to help take care of your senior dog.

Is My Dog a “Senior”?

Whether or not your fur kid is considered a “senior” will depend on his breed, age, health issues, and more. Generally, extra large breeds like Great Danes mature faster than toy breeds. An average Great Dane will reach his senior years at about six years old. Comparatively, a Chihuahua may not hit her senior years until 10 or 11. In the middle, mid-sized breeds like Golden Retrievers and Labradors are considered seniors around 8 or 9 years old.

In addition to breed, lifestyle plays a big role in how your fur baby ages. Keeping your dog at a healthy weight with a balanced diet and regular exercise will lead to a longer, healthier life.

How to Care for a Senior Dog

Just like caring for our aging family members, aging dogs require a higher level of attention and care than their younger counterparts. If you have a senior dog at home, remember to take them to the vet regularly, adjust his diet, take care of his dental hygiene, and exercise him appropriately.

Schedule Regular Vet Visits

One of the most important things to do for a senior dog is to get on a regular vet schedule to ensure that all health problems are addressed proactively. For younger dogs, most vets recommend scheduling annual appointments, but for older dogs the appointments should be at least semi-annually. These appointments are especially important if your dog has a chronic health issue.

In addition to scheduling more frequent vet appointments, you should know how to ask the right questions to get answers that will benefit you and your furry friend. Ask for a complete body exam, which will put your mind at ease and guarantee that you are taking the best care of your aging dog.

Change Your Dog’s Diet

Your vet will likely recommend a change in diet for your senior dog. Most pet food companies make a variety of foods that fulfill different needs, including puppy, adult, and senior food. These formulas are designed to provide your pooch with the optimal nutrition they need at their life stage.

In addition, make sure that you continue to provide your senior dog with the highest quality food that you can. Dogs are mostly carnivores. Therefore, food that has any sort of grain as their primary ingredient will be harder for your dog to digest. A high protein diet is ideal for aging dogs. Your senior dog might also eat less than he did when he was younger because his metabolism is slowing down and he is likely less active.

Take Care of Your Dog’s Teeth

Dental issues can arise at any time during your dog’s life, but are especially common as he gets older. Dental diseases can cause unnecessary problems for your dog and can have worsening effects on the heart, liver, and kidneys. To prevent this, make sure to have your vet clean your dog’s teeth at your semi-annual checkups. You can also brush your pup’s teeth at home using specially-made toothbrushes and toothpaste (some even taste like bacon!).

Your dog’s dental health is an indicator of internal and external health and taking care of them is one more step towards keeping your senior dog healthy.

Gentle Exercise

Some senior dog owners think that they don’t need exercise because they aren’t as agile, but this isn’t the case. In fact, regular exercise will help your senior dog stay flexible and improve his heart health. But make sure not to push your senior dog too hard when it comes to exercise. Some senior dogs can play at the park for hours, while for some a walk around the block is all the exercise they need.

These are just a few ways you can take care of your senior dog and provide him with the highest level of care. With proactive diligence and an understanding owner, a senior dog will enjoy health and happiness during his golden years.

Signs of Dog Aging Every Fur Parent Should Know

As much as we don’t want to think about it, our furry friends age just like we do, and with getting older comes the need for special care and attention. Dogs age at different rates, but often show similar signs of aging. Let’s first look at what age your dog is considered a “senior,” then look at some common signs of aging every fur parent should know. Lastly, we will go over some tips on how to care for your senior dog.

At What Age Is Your Dog Considered “Senior”?

All dogs age differently and the age that your dog is considered a “senior” depends on their breed, lifestyle, diet, and more. Oftentimes, people want to think of their pet in human years because it makes it easier to relate to their aging process. Here are some common age equivalents according to various vets:

● When a small to medium-sized dog is seven years old, it is equivalent to about 44-47 years old in human years.
● When a large to extra large dog is seven, they are about 55 years old in human years.
● When a small or medium-sized dog is 10, they are about 60 human years.
● When a large dog is 10, they are about 66-78 years old in human equivalent.
● When a small or medium sized dog is 15 years old, that translates to being 76-83 in human years.
● When a larger dog is 15, they are about 93-115 years old in human years.

As you can see with these comparisons, larger dogs age faster than younger dogs and reach geriatric ages at around 7 years old (fun fact: the oldest recorded age of a dog is 29 years old!). In these comparisons, small to medium sized dogs are 0-50 pounds, while large and extra large dogs are 51 to over 90 pounds.

Now that we have an outline for what is considered senior age in different dog breeds, let’s look at some common signs of dog aging to look out for.

Signs of Dog Aging

It may be hard to watch your dog get older, but it is important to recognize signs of aging and know what to do when you see them. Let’s look at some of the most common signs of dog aging, including vision changes, bathroom habits, physical behavior, weight monitoring, and mental changes.

Vision Changes

Just like humans, as dogs get older, they often lose part or all of their eyesight. The most common cause for loss of eyesight is cataracts.

Cataracts are a type of clouding on the lens of your dog’s eye. Cataracts can form for a number of reasons, although most are genetic. Diabetes is also a common cause of cataracts, so if you notice your dog’s eyesight getting cloudy, take them to the vet immediately. Nuclear sclerosis is another common vision condition found in older dogs that can be mistaken for cataracts.

On your regular vet visits, make sure they are checking your dog’s eyes for any signs of these generative conditions.


Incontinence is the inability to control bowel movements or urine and often affects older dogs. There are many causes for incontinence, including changes in their hormones, a weak bladder sphincter, UTI, and other general degeneration.

While incontinence may be a nuisance, you shouldn’t punish your dog for their accidents. Unlike when they were a puppy and being housebroken, senior dogs have no control over when they have an accident. Instead of punishment, make your dog feel more comfortable by providing them with clean bedding and putting waterproof pads where they often have accidents. It may help to also increase the amount of exercise and walks taken so your senior dog doesn’t have to hold their urine for as long.

Changes in Physical Activity

If your pup used to be able to play fetch all day but would now rather lounge on the couch, it may be because of his age. Most senior dogs will experience a change in physical activity and will tire quicker than they used to.

It’s important to identify this change because as a pet parent, you will have to adapt your exercise routine to fit your aging dog’s lifestyle. Some dog owners may think that when their dog gets older, they don’t have to take them on walks or exercise them anymore, but this is definitely not the case.

In fact, exercise is more important than ever for senior dogs because it helps keeps their heart healthy, immune system stronger, and will increase their mobility and flexibility. They key is adapting your exercise to your dog’s needs and to not push them past their comfort level. And if exercise isn’t enough and you think your dog may be suffering from hip or joint pain, consider the addition of glucosamine hip and joint supplements to help support mobility and flexibility.

Weight Changes

As dogs get older, they often have weight changes that may be the result of a slower metabolism, a decreased appetite, or less strenuous exercise. While some weight fluctuations can be expected for dogs of any age, it’s important to really understand why your senior dog’s weight might be increasing or decreasing as these changes could be a sign of other internal issues.

For example, many vets identify a decreased appetite, and resulting weight loss, as one symptom of underlying kidney disease. While undoubtedly this isn’t the case for every senior dog that loses or gains weight, weight changes are definitely something to look into further.

When visiting your vet, suggest that they do a comprehensive exam, including comparing the weight of your dog from previous visits. Most vets will have these documented statistics available already, but it’s important to monitor your dog’s health as they age and note any significant changes.

Memory Problems

As your dog’s brain ages, you might notice changes in their ability to remember and recall things like they used to. While not exactly the same, canine cognitive dysfunction is a lot like doggy Alzheimer’s and it presents itself in similar ways. For example, your dog may seem to forget the regular route on walks, forget where the food and water is kept, or doesn’t show the same enthusiasm about things he used to care about in the past.

Most aging dogs experience some sort of memory problems as they get older. In fact, in a study conducted by the Behavior Clinic at the University of California at Davis, researchers found that 28% of dogs aged 11 to 12 years and 68% of dogs 15 to 16 years old showed one or more signs of canine cognitive dysfunction.

If your dog seems to be experiencing canine cognitive dysfunction or other mental changes, take them to the vet immediately. Any brain changes must be examined by a professional to rule out any larger issues.

How to Help Your Senior Dog Age Gracefully

After discovering some common symptoms of aging in dogs, let’s look at some tips and lifestyle changes you can implement today to make sure your dog ages gracefully.

Schedule Vet Visits More Often

One of the best ways to make sure all of your dog’s health concerns are being addressed proactively is by scheduling more frequent vet appointments. When your dog was younger, you might have taken her to the vet once a year. But as dogs get older, they require more vet visits and each visit is likely more comprehensive and detailed. Most professionals recommend taking your dog to the vet twice a year after they are seven years old.

As you schedule more frequent vet appointments, you should also know the right questions to ask to get answers that will benefit you and your furry friend. Below are some questions we suggest asking your vet about your senior dog:

● “How is my dog’s weight?” – This is a really important question because a healthy weight translates into other aspects of your dog’s life. For example, obese dogs are more prone to heart and kidney issues, while underweight dogs will face other problems.
● “How’s my dog’s diet?” – In addition to the previous question, asking about your dog’s diet will assure that you are feeding your dog the correct type and amount of food.
● “How are my dog’s teeth and nails?” – As we will talk about later in this article, your dog’s dental hygiene can be a telling sign of other health issues. Much like a human’s hair and nails, dog’s teeth and nails show a lot of what is going on internally.
● “Does my dog need supplements?” – Some vets recommend senior dogs incorporate additional supplements into their diet to make up for aging and lack of nutrients. This is a great question for your vet.

All of these questions lead to great discussions on your dog’s overall health.

Diet and Nutrition Changes

Diet and nutrition needs are very important to examine at any dog age, but they are especially important as your dog gets older. Senior dogs have unique nutrition needs that are much different than younger dogs as older dogs tend to have a slower metabolism, are likely getting less exercise, and may be facing other health issues that are impacted by their diet.

Because of all these factors, you will want to really look into what you’re feeding your pup and whether or not this diet aligns with their needs. Most pet food brands feature different life stages of food, so look for the senior one for your older pooch. Always talk to your vet before implementing any diet changes to get a routine that is right for your dog’s situation and health needs.

Weight Control

Along with diet, it’s important to monitor your dog’s health and keep them at a healthy weight. As we mentioned earlier, an older dog’s weight might fluctuate because of lifestyle changes, diet changes, and more. While weight loss or gain can be indicative of a larger issue, it is beneficial to monitor your dog’s weight and make changes to their diet if necessary.

If your senior dog is tipping the scales, it can cause a host of other problems like liver issues, kidney issues, heart problems, and more. Just like humans, maintaining a healthy weight is key for a healthy life!

Maintaining Mobility

We mentioned the importance of exercising your senior dog, and this really comes into play when we are discussing a senior dog’s mobility. You may have noticed that it takes your dog longer to get up from sleeping or they may not leap into the car or run up the stairs like they used to. This is because as dogs age, they lose a lot of their flexibility and become less mobile.

And some breeds, like Labrador Retrievers and German Shepherds are prone to hip problems, so it’s even more important for owners of these breeds to exercise them properly and have their hips continually monitored. Frequent walks will help keep your senior dog up and moving.

Vaccinations and Supplements

Vaccinations and supplements are going to be different for each dog, but adding these to your pup’s diet may be worth talking to your vet about. Some common vaccines for senior dogs include the core vaccines, such as parvovirus, distemper, and rabies, and other non-core vaccines, such as bordetella and leptospirosis. As your dog ages, their immune system will get weaker and any exposure to diseases becomes heightened. Again, always consult with your vet before deciding on which vaccines are right for your dog and their health.

Three of the most commonly recommended supplements for senior dogs include essential fatty acids, glucosamine with chondroitin sulfates, and probiotics.

These are just a few of the ways you can take care of your older dog and help make sure their life is healthy and comfortable. With a little work and understanding, your dog can live up his senior years in peace.