Fall is right around the corner, and for many of us, it’s a favorite time of year to get outside. In South Carolina, fall is arguably the best time of year to go on hikes, as you can enjoy warm, clear days without the misery of summer’s humidity. Your dogs are likely also excited about fall hikes, whether it’s their first time out or they’ve been your hiking buddy for decades. For these older dogs, though, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind when hiking this fall.
Whether you’re heading out on the Mary Black Rail Trail around Spartanburg or heading further afield outside of the Woodruff area, follow these do’s and don’ts to best enjoy your time hiking with older dogs.
Do’s and Don’ts for Hiking with Senior Dogs
- Do let your dog set the pace. Older dogs likely walk slower, stop to rest more, and in general take a slower pace than they did as pups. Don’t try to hurry senior dogs along, but instead follow their cues for how fast they can go, and when they need to take it easy.
- Do take more breaks. Some older dogs may not take a slower pace, but they’ll still need plenty of chances to rest. Even if your dog seems full of energy, work in breaks during the hike. This will help prevent your dog from getting overtired or over-sore before making it all the way back to the car.
- Don’t let dogs overheat. Senior dogs are more at risk for overheating and dehydration. Offer your dog plenty of water several times during the hike (to drink and possibly to play in). Take breaks in the shade, and try to avoid hiking on really hot days.
- Do keep your senior dog on a leash. As dogs age, their hearing and vision become weaker. A dog who may have been a fantastic tracker as a pup may have more trouble finding their way back to you after wandering away. Prevent problems with losing your dogs (or them not hearing your calls to return) by keeping them on a leash.
- Don’t make hikes too long. Your dog’s endurance declines with age. Even if your dog seems to be keeping up with you, he or she may be sore or stiff the next day if you hike too far or for too long. Respect dogs’ limits and keep hikes a little shorter. If you need to accomplish a long hike, give them more time for breaks and rest.
- Do talk to your vet about arthritis treatment and/or prevention. If your dogs seem stiff (during or after a hike) or struggles with keeping up, they may have arthritis. It may be constant, or only flare up after walks and hikes; in either case, you should talk to your vet. Your dog may find relief with a regularly medication or one that you can give after hikes to prevent pain and stiffness. Contact Animal Clinic of Woodruff today to talk to a vet about dog arthritis.
- Don’t just leave senior dogs at home. Dogs of all ages need exercise and stimulation. Just because your dogs are getting older and slower doesn’t mean you should start leaving them at home. Do take your dogs on hikes, just be sure to use the above tips to ensure you and your dogs enjoy the outing. Exception: Do leave dogs at home if you’re taking long, strenuous hikes and can’t make the above accommodations.
If you’d like to discuss your senior dog’s abilities, changes and needs, please call and make an appointment at Animal Clinic of Woodruff today. We’re your partners for every stage of your dog’s health. And we hope you also go enjoy some fantastic South Carolina hiking this fall and throughout the year.