Keeping your dog fit and active into their golden years can help limit some of the problems associated with aging.  However, for most older dogs it can be difficult for them to move around as they used to when they were younger. The good news is that there are a few simple things you can do to help your dog retain their mobility as they get older.   

Exercise - Keep Them Active

One of the most important things you can do to keep an older dog healthy is to make sure they are still getting enough exercise.  While it might be tempting to let your dog rest as they start to age, it is still very important to keep them active on a daily basis.

Not only can regular exercise limit muscle loss (sarcopenia) associated with aging, it can also help keep their joints flexible and healthy. In most cases, even just a little light exercise can stimulate a dogs muscles enough to stave off atrophy.  Additionally, getting a dog to move around each day can help keep their joints from becoming stiff and swollen.

If your dog is having a hard time walking, you might want to reduce the distance you walk each day.  This will make their daily walk easier on them both physically and mentally. They also won't be as sore and tired after the walk, which will help keep any joint pain at bay.  You can also use a FitBark activity tracker to adjust the distance you walk based on how active they are on any given day.

Simply playing with your dog is another good way to keep them moving if you can't take them for a walk every day.  Most older dogs will still enjoy playing a game of fetch or chasing after a ball when you kick it. While they might not jump and run after the ball as they used to in their heyday, they will still benefit from the exercise, and they will get some enjoyment out of playing the game.  

Diet – Proper Nutrition  

Nutrition plays a vital role in maintaining a senior dogs overall health and vigor.  If an older dog isn't getting the right nutrients in their diet it can hasten the natural aging process.  In most cases, people think they can keep feeding their dog the same food when they get older, but in reality, their nutritional requirements start to change as they age.

Most dogs will start having a harder time digesting food as they get older, and this can lead to a certain degree of nutrient malabsorption.  Protein and fat can be especially hard to digest, and they can also be missing out on some vitamins and minerals. This can lead to muscle loss, and it can make them tired and less active as well.  

That's why it's a good idea to switch your dog over to a senior dog food, or a dog food that is specifically made for dogs with sensitive stomachs.  These foods will be easier to digest, which should help your dog absorb all the nutrients they need to keep their muscles and joints healthy.

You can also give your dog nutritional supplements to help deal with some of the ailments associated with aging.  Supplements like Glucosamine and Chondroitin can help with joint pain and arthritis.  In some cases, these nutrients can help strengthen the cartilage in their joints, and they can also help reduce inflammation.  Glucosamine and Chondroitin are also not commonly found in most dog foods, so the only way your dog can get them is through supplementation.   

Essential fatty acids can also help protect a dog's joints from the ravages of aging.  These fats can act as antioxidants, and they can also help prevent inflammation. You can find these fats in fish oil supplements, or you can find some dog foods that have been fortified with Omega 3 & 6 fatty acids.          

You also want to make sure your dog isn't overweight since those extra pounds can amplify any joint discomfort.  If your dog is overweight then you should reduce the number of calories they are consuming. Just be patient though since older dogs can have a slightly slower metabolism, which can make it harder for them to burn the excess weight off.  Once they get back to a healthy weight, you should start to see some improvements in their mobility, and they will also have a little more energy.

Massage – Ease Discomfort

If your dog is having a hard time with stiff joints and soreness, you might want to try giving them a massage.  A nice gentle massage around their joints and along their spine will help ease some of the pain that's bothering them.  In addition, physical contact will help reassure them, and it can help them feel less stressed and anxious.

Massage can also release endorphins that can act as natural pain relievers.  The surge of endorphins can last for minutes or even hours after the massage has ended.  A deep massage will also increase blood flow, and it can even help reduce inflammation.

When you massage an older dog just make sure you take it slow and easy.  Their joints will be tender, and their bones might be protruding from their skin more than usual.  Just start with some light pressure, and then see how they react to make sure they are comfortable.  Once they get used to it you can apply more pressure around the areas that are bothering them.

Some dogs will love the extra attention and enjoy every minute of it.  On the other hand, some dogs might be in a little too much pain to enjoy it.  It's definitely worth it if you can provide your dog with a little comfort. If works they might even have an easier time getting around, and if they don't like it at least you tried it.