Aging Pets Need to Move, Too

My DogThere isn’t much harder than watching a loved one get older and slow down with age.

While we all know cognitively that we are going to outlive our pets, it doesn’t make it any easier to watch them grow older and be able to do less and less. The picture above is my 13-year-old English Setter. She is my girl, my princess.

She is curled up on the couch next to me now as I type this, and sleeps a lot more now that she used to. But, she is still an active dog, still loves throwing and barking at bones, stalking squirrels, and going for walks.

The anti-aging process for pets is the same as it is for people. Movement.

Just like “move it or lose it” applies to people, it applies to our pets as well.

So, my girl doesn’t get any slack. I still take her on walks as often as possible, make her climb stairs, and make her jump in to bed by herself.

The Bed

I’m not mean about it making her do it herself – on the rare occasion that she can’t make the leap in to bed, I’ll come over and give her a boost. She lets me know if she needs help. But, I make her try first. She requires a bit more of a running start than she used to, but she can make it.

The Stairs

I have steep, and by steep, I mean STEEP stairs going down to my basement and family room area. She has learned that she needs to go slower than she used to.

More recently, she has started falling up the stairs, and I quickly realized her back hips aren’t functioning as well as they used to. I put my Z-Health/movement coach hat, and asked myself, “if she was a person, what would I do?”  Well, to improve movement in an area, you can rub the area to bring awareness to it and wake it up. I figured the principles were the same, so decided to give it a try.

So, our new routine for her climbing up the stairs, if she has been napping prior to that, is that she walks over to me, I rub her rear hips for a minute or two, and then send her on up. To keep her moving slowly enough, I talk to her in a calm, soothing voice and I stay right behind her so she feels safe.

Now that we’ve started our new routine, she has yet to fall up the stairs.


We have a 2-mile loop that we take in our neighborhood. When I first moved here 5 years ago, it was 30-40 minute walk for her to get the most out of it. It was her version of interval training — trot along quickly in areas, but then also stop for every kitty.  Today it took us closer to an hour to make that same route. Slower, yes, but she is still making it happen.

On a weekend when I have hours to spare, we’ll still even get in 4-5 mile walks. That literally takes hours, but for as long as I can, I don’t want her body to stop thinking it can do it.

The Net

Her senior pet exams come back virtually perfect – exam after exam. Her last exam they told me that her bloodwork is that of a 7 or 8-year-old dog. For a girl almost twice that age, I was thrilled!

Winter is now upon is in Seattle, and neither of us loves the cold and wet, but every chance we get, we’ll be out there after her Fountain of Youth.


  1. Mike Korner says

    Squirrels rule, dogs drool!
    But that doesn’t keep dogs from trying. There’s a lesson for us in their persistence.

    Good article Jen. I wonder what our pets say about us as we get older :)

    • says

      Fortunately for the squirrels, her stalking skills rarely extend past the back porch anymore. It’s still pretty awesome to see her go in to pointer mode, tho.

  2. says

    Dogs drool because they are watching the squirrels! :-D

    Awesome post! It’s true that keep yourself and your animals moving is a great way to keep old age from coming in any sooner than it has to.

    My housie kept her cat alive as long as she did through major health challenges in part because she is a Feldenkrais practitioner and knows very well about keeping movement for keeping health.

    Good Fortune to you & your sweet girl! :>

    • says

      Thanks, Birdy! Movement really is the most natural thing in the world, yet people give up on it for themselves (and their pets) far too easily, IMHO. My princess has been with me for a long time (11 years) and she deserves a pretty amazing quality of life. I believe keeping her active is by far the best way to make that happen.


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