I’ve had animals my whole life. I’ve been an animal bodyworker for many years and have seen numerous things. One unavoidable fact is that walking is by far the best exercise your animal can have regardless of species. We’ll start with the dogs and make sure to read part two, if you are a horse person.
Movement is Life
Movement is life. Time and again I’ll see senior pets that, when they begin to lose muscle or mobility, age quickly. Biomechanically speaking, the dog loses mobility and muscle through the hindquarters first as they age.
Ways to Retain Mobility
As our animals get older they inevitably get stiffer with arthritis and other things that can prevent fluid movement. Here are some things you can do to keep your pet active and slow degeneration of the muscle.
- Walk your pet 2-3 times a day for up to 20 minutes. Shorter, more frequent walks allow your pet to get up and relieve stiffness, increase joint fluid, and prevent muscle fatigue from one long walk that can create soreness and let them sleep the rest of the day away.
- Walk on uneven ground, over varied terrains. Sidewalks are good but allowing your pet to walk over grass, roots, and even gravel can stimulate the ligaments and tendons, strengthening them and building long-term health. More, different muscles are used and activated on uneven ground.
- Prevent jumping, both on, but especially OFF objects like couches, beds, or stairs. When landing this can create compression in the spinal discs and often leads to herniations over time. When a herniation occurs and is left unsolved it often leads to significant muscle atrophy and eventually hind-end paralysis.
- Avoid using a brace or cart, which will impair proper movement and prevent use of the muscles further, significantly accelerating the weakness.
- Find an aqua treadmill or use a private pool (with a swimming vest) to have some fun and use the muscles in a low impact manner.
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. When it comes to the muscle there is no better option that water. Add water to pet food, or inquire with your vet about electrolytes if needed to maintain muscle health and prevent spasms, herniations, and pulls.
- Get bodywork done! Many of my clients come to me because they are looking to undo hind end weakness and increase mobility. However, it is a lot harder to UNDO things than to prevent them from happening in the first place or slow the progression. Don’t wait until your animal has a mobility issue. Bodywork is best used when it is preventative. It can help remove interference in balance, increase range of motion, realign tendons, check for nerve involvement and so much more.
Quality of movement is important but MOVEMENT itself is the best thing for your dog. Keep them active at their level of comfort and stop before they are fatigued. Think about a walk as something fun you can do together, sniff the ground, and enjoy your quality time. Because the longer you have an active pet, the longer you have them in your life.