Things People Don’t Know About Canine Fitness Part 3

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Today is the third part of a five-part series on things people don’t know about canine fitness.  You can read the first two installments here: part 1 and here: part 2.

 

Things People Don’t Know About Canine Fitness Part 3
 

Senior dogs need exercise

Just because a dog reaches their senior years, doesn’t mean that they should stop exercising.  Much like with humans, older dogs can still benefit, if not thrive, with regular exercise.  In fact, I would argue that as dogs (and humans) age past their prime adult years, exercise is even more important than when they are younger.

 

As a dog reaches their senior years, their body’s ability to maintain muscle mass will diminish. As a result, a senior dog that gets little exercise will experience a noticeable change in their body condition and a marked reduction in strength.  Regular, strenuous exercise is the only way to slow down this process.  Although there is no way to completely forestall the process, regular exercise can markedly slow the process thereby allowing senior dogs to maintain an active and high quality life, well into their geriatric years.

 

Of course, an older dog will not be able to physically do all of the things that they did when they were younger and a senior exercise program should reflect this fact.  For starters, seniors will need more recovery time then in their early years. One way to accomplish this is to alternate low intensity days (e.g. leisurely walks) with more intense (e.g. runs or hikes) days.  Second, a senior dog will most likely not be able to handle long duration exercise sessions.  Reducing the total exercise time is a simple way to keep an older dog fit and injury free.  When it comes to higher intensity exercises, like running or agility, I suggest cutting back versus cutting entirely.   Maybe your older dog can’t run 5 miles anymore like they used to.  But that doesn’t mean that a short ¼ mile run or walk/run intervals are necessarily off limits.  Pay attention to your dog’s signals (their demeanor and overall behavior) for signs that you are pushing them too hard.  For senior dogs with specific injuries or medical conditions, ask your vet about safe exercise alternatives that the dog can perform.

 

Dogs use fat as their first source of energy

If you are a runner and are getting ready to run a marathon or a half-marathon, one of the things you are supposed to do is carb load before the race.  This strategy is meant to infuse the body with the fuel it will need to tackle these long distance races and prevent the dreaded ‘bonk’.   For humans, carbs are the first source of fuel that the body will tap into when it needs energy.

 

Dogs are different.  Their bodies will tap into fat as their first source of energy when their bodies are under stress from physical activity.  For this reason, canine athletes require ample amounts of fat to prevent them from ‘bonking’ during an activity or event.  Protein and fat should make up a majority of a dog’s diet anyway.  For the canine athlete who engages in longer duration activities, higher amounts of fat can keep them well fueled and able to sustain a high level of performance throughout.
 

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17 Comments

  1. Interesting. I didn’t know that about fat.

    I’ve always wondered if I should adjust the ratio of Scout’s diet, because he’s so active. I thought he needed more protein. But I’ll stick with what we’re doing because he’s getting a good amount of fat too.

    Sydney lost another pound.
    Kimberly Gauthier recently posted…5 Reasons Our Dogs Have Never Had FleasMy Profile

  2. That’s interesting about burning the fat first. We know first hand, keeping your dog as active as possible as long as possible really does have a positive effect on their overall health. If they have been active all their life, they will want to remain as active as possible even in their late senior years.
    Emma recently posted…Katie Has a Mitral Valve Tumor – A Tumor In Her HeartMy Profile

  3. Jack looks ready to sweep the Senior Olympics.

  4. As Sam has aged, we continue to ‘motor’ on albeit a tiny bit slower than before. It probably is why his muscle tone is nearly as firm as a dog half his age and people are always surprised when told he’s over 10. Happy workouts this weekend! 😉

  5. I think we had Kobi being more active during his senior years than we did his middle years! I became more aware of how much he needed it when he was older, though I did also wish I’d been more aware and consistent during the middle years.
    The girls enjoy being active so much it makes it easy to keep them that way, I have to be more aware of not letting them overdo it since they both have arthritis. But we’ve found a good balance for them that is working well now!
    Jan K recently posted…FitDog Friday – Almost Ready to Move OnMy Profile

  6. Great information! I had no idea about the fat–Barley will be very happy that I learned that 😉 Barley only has a year until she’s considered a senior, so we’ll be having to think carefully about our goals and exercise plan soon, too. Thanks for sharing!
    Beth recently posted…Changes for BarleyMy Profile

  7. Good information. One thing we have found with our older dogs is that running them on hard frozen ground is much harder than when they were younger. They will occasionally come up with a limp even after they have warmed up. I think it is because even though they are seniors they still run hard.
    2 Brown Dawgs recently posted…Last Snow?My Profile

  8. Pawsome post SlimDog! My furbro MickeyMoo (passed away 1 1/2 yrs ago) was one of the oldest dogs my huMom ever lived with. He looked like a white shepherd but was a mix of shepherd & husky. My huMom took him from 3-5 year life on a chain eating nothing but the occasional roadkill his human threw at him & the rest of the pack. At any rate Mickey Moo live with her for over 14 years. He went on a 6KM hike/run everyday with my huMom. In his last year he started to slow down & we had to go for several shorter hikes or walks depending on what Mickey level of strength that day. He never stopped wanting to go. Even during his last month he wanted to go; we didn’t go very far at all but it made him happy which made us happy. Remembering my dear old furiend Mickey Moo.
    CEO Olivia
    CEO Olivia recently posted…Epi-Warrior BaxterMy Profile

  9. Missy & Buzz are still young at 4.5 years of age, but our daily exercise program will last for a lifetime 😉 Several of my clients’ dogs are in the 6-10 year age box and incredibly stiff because they don’t get regular exercise and also not the right kind of nutrition. Makes me so sad.
    Barbara Rivers recently posted…Busted Mini-Series: Raw Food Myths |Part 5| “Your Dog Is Going To Die”My Profile

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