Dogs suffer from stiff joints, soreness, and general bodily pain alongside the best of us. Unlike the human members of the family, however, their struggle usually goes unnoticed. The good news is, there’s an easy way you can help your senior dog ward off pain and feel younger and healthier. Stretching is great for both people and pets. People often underestimate the benefits, but making a daily effort to gently extend and exercise your dog’s muscles will do them a lot of good.
Stretching Benefits for Senior Dogs
A regular stretching regimen can have particularly positive results for senior dogs. Dr. Karen Becker wrote in Animal Wellness,
“Dogs who are getting up in years are prone to joint problems, muscle loss, decreased flexibility, and the aches and pains of an aging body. Stretching can help alleviate these issues.”
While time may be working against your dog, stretching effectively maintains muscle tone. The simple act of stretching a limb burns calories, and that can also help them keep an appropriate body weight. When walking, standing up, and other basic movements are inhibited by stiff joints, stretching can help improve range of motion. If it’s done regularly, it can even stop stiffness from becoming a problem in the first place.
Stretches to Try With Your Senior Dog
The key to making stretches a positive part of your dog’s routine is to do it on a regular basis. Use gentle movements, and never force your dog to cooperate. Stretching sessions should only take place in safe settings when the dog is completely relaxed and comfortable. If you notice your dog showing signs of pain or discomfort, gently release him. If you’re not comfortable stretching your dog yourself, a veterinarian is an excellent resource to have.
Hip and Shoulder Flexor Stretch
Your dog’s hip flexors are responsible for the range of motion that makes walking and running possible. To accomplish this stretch, have your dog stand in front of you. Gently take hold of their back leg slightly above the knee. Slowly extend the leg straight back until you reach a point of resistance. Hold the position for up to 30 seconds and gently release. Dr. Becker recommends repeating this stretch two to three times a day for each leg.
The stretch can also be modified to address the shoulder flexors. Do the same thing with the front legs, but extend the leg forward as if the dog is pointing at something.
For this stretch, you can have the dog standing or laying on their back depending on their comfort level. The goal is to stretch the muscles in the chest gently away from the dog’s center. Grasp the lower portion of their front leg and gently pull outward. If they’re standing, they may adjust the rest of their body for balance. Hold them there for several seconds, and then release and repeat.
Back stretches can be especially important and satisfying for senior dogs. One way you can do it is by having the dog stand in front of you and bending their body into a “c” shape. Position yourself behind their tail and guide their head with a tasty treat. Slowly move the treat in a curved motion starting at the nose and heading toward their tail. This should encourage them to move their head and neck to follow the treat while keeping their back legs in place. Do this a few times in both directions.
Another way to stretch a dog’s back is through a gesture they probably do with no prompting. It’s called the “play bow” or the “greeting pose.” Dogs do it as a way to say “hello” to the people they like, and it also makes for a good stretch. It hits muscles in the back and groin.
Make it Count
Regular stretching can have a hand in staving off age-related joint issues, and the best method to protect your pet is through a full-on effort of healthy living. Supplements are a positive way to improve a dog’s health. Natural compounds like Glucosamine and MSM have been studied for their effects on reducing inflammation in joints and replenishing cartilage.
Project Paws® Advanced Hip & Joint Soft Chews is a supplement dogs love and dog lovers trust. The formula includes powerful active ingredients that bring about noticeable improvements in a dog’s mobility and flexibility. When combined with a daily stretching session, they can keep your dog limber and ready to take on the world.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified healthcare professional.