Dogs need physical exercise and mental stimulation to remain
healthy, this is true at all ages and across all breeds. Dogs who have limited
mobility, be that due to congenital differences, physical injury, or age and
disease, need and enjoy exercise and stimulation as much as their more
able-bodied counterparts. While long jogs and unassisted games of fetch may not
be in the cards for most of these dogs, their days of learning and exploring do
not need to be over. While it is important for you to check with your
veterinarian before adding any exercise to your mobility impaired dog’s
routine, these activities should be both safe and fun for most canines and their
Canines with limited mobility rarely have limited interest in food and this interest can be used to keep your dog occupied and mentally active. Although there are many commercially available toys and puzzles designed for dogs, you can also entertain your pooch with do-it-yourself puzzle toys made out of everyday objects. Some puzzle toys are appropriate for play involving you and your dog, while others are better suited to solo playtime. Many of the interactive food puzzles for dogs also include an element of chewing, an activity that satisfies a natural instinct in dogs and helps to keep their teeth clean and healthy.
Many canines who do not have the ability to walk or run on land are able to actively continue swimming due to the way that the water cradles and supports their body as they exercise. In some cases, getting your older or infirm dog into a swimming pool or other safe body of water not only is a blast during playtime but may help to improve overall mobility both in and out of the water. While this is a particularly helpful activity for dogs with hip dysplasia and lower body paralysis, with just a little assistance it can also be beneficial for dogs with very little mobility at all.
Targeted training exercises can help your dog to build up their muscles in ways that can improve their circulation as well as help to strengthen muscles and stabilize the dog’s core. This can significantly improve the quality of life for a dog with limited mobility and in some cases, may even lengthen it by improving their heart health. That is a big benefit for your best buddy! While these activities were designed to improve the physical health of your canine companion, they can also have the added benefit of being a fun and relaxing activity that can help deepen your bond with your pet. You may apply any or all of the following steps, depending on your comfort level and the comfort level of your pet.
Cavaletti exercises were originally developed for training horses and involve stepping over several horizontal poles that are placed in close succession. This exercise is most effective for those whose mobility is just mildly limited and it may help to forestall further degeneration.
Dogs that have physical limits imposed upon their mobility do not see themselves as disabled and given the proper support your dog can rise above the limits posed by their mobility and continue to live an active and interesting life. So get your dog, get your gear, and get moving!