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Pet Health

Small Steps To Prolonging Mobility In Aging Pets

Slowing down is inevitable with aging, but that doesn’t mean we can't help pets maintain active and mobile lifestyles as long as possible. Read on for 9 practical strategies for maintaining mobility.

Dr. Gary Hsia

August 08, 2023

If we are lucky enough to have pets that live on into “retirement age” they will likely struggle to some extent with mobility. Loss of flexibility, decreased range of motion, and muscle weakness are all common with aging pets. However, there are simple steps we pet parents can take to help bolster their mobility and ensure they continue to lead active lives. Here we will look at nine practical strategies that can make a significant difference in maintaining the mobility of our beloved senior pets.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

One of the most impactful ways to support your aging pet’s mobility is by ensuring they maintain a healthy weight. Extra weight means extra burden on joints, tendons, and ligaments. Overweight pets are at greater risk for osteoarthritis, ligament rupture, as well as several other diseases not relating to mobility. The good news is, we can help them manage their weight by feeding an appropriate amount of a well balanced diet.

Your pet's nutrition needs will likely change as they age. Consult your trusted family veterinarian to learn more about the ideal weight for your pet as well as recommendations on what and how much to feed to achieve or maintain a healthy weight.

Regular Low-Impact Exercise

As our pet’s age they are prone to muscle loss and decreased flexibility. Maintaining a routine that allows for regular low-impact exercise helps to slow this progression. Such activities as leisurely walks, slow games of chase the laser pointer, or gentle swimming sessions, for those who enjoy the water, are great ways to help our pets stay active in their golden years.

Joint Support

A main source of mobility problems in elderly pets is poor joint health and glucosamine and chondroitin are the most well known joint supplements. Healthy joints constantly build up cartilage to replace what is being broken down. One goal of joint supplementation is to promote cartilage growth by providing necessary building blocks for cartilage such as glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate. There are several formulations of glucosamine and chondroitin available, consult your veterinarian to see which are safe for your pet and what other joint supplements they recommend.

Integrated Therapy

Physical therapy, acupuncture, massage therapy, chiropractic care, and laser therapy are just a few examples of additional modalities that can benefit your pet’s mobility. Using integrated treatments can help decrease inflammation, increase range of motion, build strength, and release tension. Consult your veterinarian to learn more about what modalities are available for your pet.

Environmental Support

Home is usually where we feel most comfortable, we take time to make the space look and feel how we want it. But our pet’s may face challenges we don’t even realize. Take some time to look at the environment from your pet’s perspective, observe them as they move through the home and assess what challenges they face regularly. Consider providing ramps or steps to help pets access elevated surfaces.

Slippery surfaces may be a challenge, but better traction can be gained using tools like slip-resistant mats or grips the pet can wear applied to their toes or as socks. Pay particular attention to the accessibility of food dishes, water bowls, and appropriate places for potty breaks. Removing obstacles in your pet’s environment can make a large impact on their ability to navigate daily life.

Supportive Bedding

Pets spend a lot of time snoozing in their favorite places. Be sure to provide bedding that is easily accessible, comfortable, and supportive. Orthopedic bedding provides added support while reducing pressure on pain points which means your pet may also enjoy more restful sleep.

Pain Management

Pain can put a damper on anyone’s mobility. Pet’s who experience pain may limit their movements to protect against discomfort which can lead to further loss of mobility. This may be a subtle occurrence and easily go unnoticed. Watch for small changes in your pet’s routine or behavior. Your veterinarian can help in identifying pain points in your pet by feeling for areas the pet is guarding or resisting movement.

There are several veterinary approved medications to ease your pet’s pain with a newly released, promising drug to combat osteoarthritis in cats. It’s important to note that pet’s should never be given human medications unless explicitly directed by a veterinarian, many common household pain meds are toxic to our pets.

Regular Vet Visits

Frequent veterinary visits are important to identifying health concerns early. Most veterinarians recommend biannual visits for pets in their golden years. Early detection, adjustments of current treatments, establishing a baseline of what is normal for your particular pet, and positive, low-stress, visits to the clinic that help your pet build rapport with the vet, are all excellent reasons to maintain a regular routine of wellness checks.

Patience and Support

In this fast paced life, it’s easy to get frustrated when something doesn’t happen as quickly as we would like. Try your best to extend grace to your aging friend with a little patience and understanding. Your pet may need a little extra time to move around, but your encouragement can go a long way in helping them stay motivated and active.

Slowing down is an inevitable part of aging, but that doesn’t mean we can’t support our pets and help them maintain active and mobile lifestyles as long as possible. In addition to physical health, making sure your pet has enough mental stimulation is an important part of overall senior care. Our aging dogs and cats can benefit from interactive play and puzzle toys designed to keep an active and engaged mind. These small but significant steps can help our beloved pets make great strides toward maintaining mobility and quality of life well into their senior years.

Dr. Gary Hsia

Fresno, CA

About

Dr. Gary graduated from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine in 2010. After graduation, he moved west. Dr. Gary spent a year at a mixed animal practice in Oregon before moving to Fresno where he worked at All Creatures Veterinary Clinic from 2011-2021. Dr. Gary grew up constantly learning and finding ways to help others. He loved everything animal related, whether it was watching wildlife or visiting pet stores. His parents allowed him to have a variety of pets growing up from hamsters, fish, and parakeets to iguanas... as long as they did not need live food. Dr. Gary believes precious memories with your pet should never be overshadowed by a stressful goodbye. He has firsthand experience with the stress of saying goodbye to his first dog Willy at the clinic, and since then being able to say goodbye to two other dogs at home. This is why a peaceful passing at home is so important to him. In his free time, Dr. Gary enjoys family time working around his small hobby farm, watching sports, and hiking around the Sierras. Read More