Healthspan March 02, 2018

Generic exercise advice is all very well for cats and dogs in their middle years, but for young and senior pets, you need to be careful to aid rather than hinder their joint health.   

Kittens

Kittens first start to ‘play’ from 4 weeks old, wrestling with other kittens. Soon after this, you can start to play with your kitten too – aim for 20 minutes a day to provide physical and mental stimulation; the best time is early morning or evening. Their toys don’t have to be expensive – feathers, ribbons and crumpled paper or ping-pong balls are always big hits.

Puppies

Before the age of six months, puppies should be left to develop at their own speed. After the six month mark, they can spend a maximum of 30 minutes walking on the lead, split between the morning and afternoon to start off with. Between 7 and ten months, continue to avoid high impact activities (which includes jumping and climbing the stairs) but you can engage them in longer walks.

Senior cats

Senior cats often suffer from arthritis, so they might lose their enthusiasm for vigorous play, but the good news is that they’ll probably still be able to entice them into old games, just in a gentler form. Try rotating their toys (a toy not seen in a few weeks is often as good as new one) or incorporate exercise into their daily routine by hiding their food in different places around the house.

Senior dogs

Declining energy levels will require you to gently encourage your pooch to exercise, but never force or over-exert them. For their walks, opt for shorter, more regular outings and stick to firm, level ground which has plenty of grip, although a little bit of hill walking can be a useful way of engaging their hind legs, which often weaken with age. Swimming is also a great option for older dogs as it’s such low impact on the joints.

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