Walk Your Pet, Even In The Winter!
Did you know that January is National Walk Your Pet Month? Walking your pet (within their limitations) is a great way to help improve their physical fitness (as well as your own)! As our last blog discussed, obesity is a major epidemic in pets in the United States. Walking also provides mental stimulation, socialization opportunities, and can strengthen the bond you share with your pet.
There can be challenges when it comes to walking your senior pet. You may have to start out with short walks (5-10 minutes), but even a brief adventure will be fun for your pet. Make sure you are providing your senior with adequate traction – grass and sand are best. If your pet appears to be falling, rather than trying to assist them by pulling on their leash, try to move your leg next to them to provide a brace.
If walking is too difficult, you can email Dr. Anderson (firstname.lastname@example.org) and request an informative article on some at home physical therapy exercises you can start with to improve your senior pet’s strength and mobility. She can also send you an info sheet on mobility assistance suggestions (for cats and dogs), including special harnesses or toe nail caps. Consulting with a veterinarian to provide adequate pain control can make a huge difference in your pet’s comfort with exercise. You can also consider taking them on wagon or pet stroller walks if necessary, which will still provide them with stimulation and enrichment and improve their quality of life.
Winter also provides certain challenges for walking senior pets. If sidewalks are slick, your pet will have an easier time walking in snow or grass, and traction booties may be helpful. Always wipe their feet off afterwards in case any deicing chemicals were present that might burn your pet’s pads. And remember that pets have better traction with properly trimmed toe nails, and if your pet has long fur between their pads and toes, they may benefit from moderately clipping of excess hair.
Keep in mind that older pets have weaker immune systems, and walking in public areas can increase their exposure to disease transmission. I recommend that all pets be vaccinated based on their veterinarian’s recommendations, including seniors. Keeping your pet on a consistent monthly heartworm preventative that includes intestinal parasite prevention is especially important here in the South, as parasites can be transmitted year-round.
I hope that this blog has provided you with some helpful tips. Your pet will love getting to spend time with you while getting out and exploring! And even if you don't have time to walk your pet yourself, you can check if a dog walking service such as Rover or Wag is available in your area.