Building Better Dogs and Keeping Them Fit and Strong Through Their Senior Years

Jenn Panko, RVT/CCRP

Evaluating Your Senior Dog Daily and Monthly to Trend Changes in Mobility

Making sure your older dog stays in tip top shape allows them to maximize their mobility and prevent physical injury. Injury or degenerative conditions that affect mobility can be devastating to an owner and impact a dog’s mobility, behaviour, and quality of life.  Traumatic and chronic injury prevention are equally important. Early recognition of degenerative conditions combined with early intervention can slow progression and maximize the mobility and longevity of your pet.

Traumatic or Acute Injuries: Occur suddenly and may improve or increase in severity

Chronic Injury: Can be cumulative with repeated trauma or overuse and can plateau (stabilize) or be progressive

Degenerative Conditions:  Develop over time and are progressive

10-Year- old Gus in the Underwater Treadmill

Ways To Check In With Your Senior Dog Daily:

Hands-on Your Dog:  Feeling your dog’s muscles and joints daily allows you to know what is ‘normal’ for your dog and allows for early recognition of swelling, heat, pain, and changes in musculature including asymmetry. It also allows you to be the first to find abnormal lumps and bumps and is a great way to help your dog become comfortable being handled for veterinary examinations.

Watch Them Walk and Trot:  Watching your dog walk and trot freely allows you to observe gait abnormalities and make changes to reduce activity if needed until your dog can have a mobility examination with their veterinarian.

Transitions:  Lying Down -> Sit -> Stand -> Sit -> Lying Down.  Daily simple core exercises including transitions from lying down to sit to stand and back to sit then lying down allow you to observe your dog for indications of joint health and mobility issues, pain, reduction in strength, and decreased proprioception.  To maintain consistency in your observations, be sure to perform these activities daily on the same safe surface that provides traction for your dog.

Dietary and Water Intake:  Changes in appetite and water intake can be early indicators of disease or pain.  Being aware of food and water intake can be valuable information should your dog become ill or injured.

Urine and Fecal Output and Posture:  Changes in urine and fecal frequency and output can be early indications of disease, infection, or parasites.  From a mobility perspective changes in or weakness in posturing to urinate or defecate can indicate joint health issues, pain, lack of strength, or decreased proprioception.

15-year- old Maggie on the Toto Fit K-9 Kore Disks

Ways To Check In With Your Senior Dog Monthly:

Weigh In and Body Condition Score:  Monthly visits to your veterinarian to weigh in and have a treat are an excellent way to keep track of your senior pet’s weight and develop a positive relationship between your pet and their healthcare team.  Learning to body condition score your dog is a valuable tool.

Measuring Muscle Mass:  Using a soft measuring tape or Guillick II (calibrated measuring tape) you can measure chest musculature, front limb muscle mass, shoulder width, thigh girth, etc and notice losses, gains, and asymmetry.

Core Exercise Video:  Work with a Veterinary Physical Rehabilitation and Fitness Professional to develop a core workout routine for your dog.  Recording this routine monthly and comparing ability, progress, and changes is an excellent way to evaluate your dog and show your veterinarian changes you have observed.  Don’t have access to a Veterinary Physical Rehabilitation and Fitness Professional?  Looking for core exercise recommendations?  Check out the TotoFit BLOG on the topic: Five Basic Exercises Essential to Building Core Strength

Gait Analysis Video:  Recording your dog moving freely at the walk and trot on and off leash (if appropriate) will allow you to compare their gait and note changes and abnormalities and show your veterinarian.

Check Nails:  Nail scuffing and uneven wear can be indicative of mobility issues or degenerative disease.  Monthly nail checks and trims keep your dog moving at its best!

11-Year- old Hunter on the Toto Fit Wobble Board w/agility skin surface

Uh-Oh!  There’s been a change?

If you are documenting your senior dog’s mobility, fitness, pain, body condition and proprioception you are prepared to share your documentation and observations with your veterinarian or veterinary physical rehabilitation and fitness professional who can guide you to formulate the best plan of care, rehabilitation program, or seek the appropriate diagnostics or specialist referral for your dog.  By being an observant owner, you are well on your way to early detection of, early intervention for, and prevention of mobility impacting disease and injury.   

Your partner in pet mobility, rehabilitation, fitness and veterinary rehabilitation education,
Jenn Panko, RVT/CCRP, OCMC, CAPMC paw_18_pad

VetRehabGirl, The SPAW, and TotoFitCanada

Toto Fit is excited to be your partner in managing your dog’s mobility through all stages and ages.

Join us on our FB page Sunday November 13th at 2pm PST and 5pm EST for a Toto Fit Live Session with Jenn Panko where she will be discussing core strengthening and fitness programs for senior dogs to improve their balance, strength and condition, along with tips and tricks to avoid compensatory dysfunction, disuse atrophy, and loss of mobility.

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