Hiking with a Senior Dog: Extra Precautions To Take

Posted by Gail Michel on

I am happy to announce we have a guest blogger, Dr. Monica Tarantino.  Dr. Tarantino is a veterinarian and devout advocate for senior dog health and happiness.  She practices in the Charlotte, NC Area. She wrote the below guide on how to continue to safely hike with a senior dog.

I was really excited when Gail from Classic Pooch asked me to write a blog for her audience! Here are a few tips I’d like to share when hiking with your senior canines.

Encouraging our senior dog’s to experience new adventures outdoors on hikes and trails can be a lot of fun!  But we also need to be mindful of some of the ailments that may hinder their experience on the trail!  We can do that by looking at the 3 key signs I discuss below in addition to paying attention to the pace, weather and the longevity of our outdoor activities.  

Remember, our senior dogs are already prone to joint and heart and lung disease as they age. So extra vigilance and rest is needed during outdoor activities with them!

 Here are 3 Signs to Stop your Hike with your Senior Dog

  1. Unsteady or Choppy gait: if you’ve heard my podcast, Senior Dog Revolution, then you’ve heard me talk about my older lab mix named Becca.  Becca has some serious hip issues  and lower back pain and so if you watch her back end closely, her ‘walk’ is a little choppy and every now and then takes on the gait of a drunken pirate.  Usually this is towards the end of our walks.  I know when this is happening her back and hips are under strain and it’s time to cut this walk short! 
  1. Walking Slow: Most of our friendly friends live in an exuberant state of joy and walks excite them. Even the geriatrics!  When they have a slow pace on their walk, this can be one of the first clues that something is bothering them.  Remember, dogs can’t talk and so you have to be vigilant and pay attention to a subtle sign like this.   
  1. Excessive Panting: all dogs pant, but sometimes it gets to the point where it’s a bit severe and they can’t seem to calm down. This can be a sign of heat exhaustion but cardiorespiratory disease (something our older dogs are prone too) and so we want to pay attention to the times of the day and if their pant is a ‘normal’ or looks more like respiratory distress.

 So what are some good practices for hikes with senior dogs? 

  1. Consider your dog’s overall health and vet recommended exercise regime. If your pet hasn’t exercised in awhile, be sure to start small!
  2. Go at THEIR pace
  3. Plan for a shorter hike not to far from the car
  4. Plan for plenty of stops to re-hydrate
  5. Only go early in the morning or late in the evening
  6. Use a cart, stroller or carrying pouch for the geriatrics that can not go very far
  7. Bring ample water and a drinking bowl for your dog

Hope these tips help you and your oldest canine companion!  

You can learn more about what she does for senior dogs on her website www.seniordogrevolution.com


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