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Activities for Your Older Dog

Your dog will undoubtedly slow down some as he gets older, but he still needs reasonable exercise to stay physically, mentally, and emotionally fit. A proper diet combined with exercise appropriate to your dog's general health and condition will help keep him a healthy weight and will tone his muscles. It will help his cardiovascular and digestive systems stay healthy. Exercise will prevent boredom and depression, and help your old friend lead the life of a happy senior citizen.

If your dog hasn't been on a regular exercise program, have him checked out by your vet before beginning one. Then see to it that he gets out and about every day, within proper limits for his health and condition. When he gets caught up in the fun, he may not acknowledge his limitations. It's up to you to monitor his activity and keep him from overdoing it.

Watch for signs of overexertion, especially when the weather is hot or cold. Coughing or shortness of breath during or after exercise can indicate heart problems, so report them to your vet. If your dog has arthritis or other orthopedic problems, talk to your vet about appropriate exercise. Swimming is good for dogs with joint problems, but risky for a dog with heart disease. An older dog can become chilled more easily than he did when younger, too, so he should swim only in reasonably warm water and in fair weather. Walks on leash are less stressful than running and playing, and better for dogs with many medical problems. Two or three short walks a day may be better than one long one.

If your dog is healthy and physically fit, there's no reason he can't remain active. Many older dogs are involved in therapy work, visiting nursing homes, hospitals, and schools. In fact, senior dogs are often more reliable and less rambunctious than their younger counterparts. Older dogs can also participate in obedience or other sports, many of which offer senior or veterans classes or divisions for dogs over seven years old. If your dog doesn't seem to enjoy an activity, or if it's too taxing, don't force him. But if he's having a good time and he's physically capable, there's no reason he shouldn't keep on keepin' on.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Getting and Owning a Dog © 2003 by Sheila Webster Boneham, Ph.D. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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