Hiking with Senior Dogs

Nicole Bode, CVT
Veterinary Information Specialist
Pet Poison Helpline

Those of us that enjoy hiking and taking in nature with our dogs are all too familiar with the challenges that can come with hiking with an older dog. We all know that those outdoor activities are not quite the same without them, so here are a few things to help maintain balance between our beloved outdoor activities and our beloved pets.

Arthritis is the most common culprit for slow down of your older dog and probably the biggest reason people leave pets behind. Mobility is very important for any daily activity, but definitely in hiking since many miles can be covered in a single trip. Luckily, there are many options available to make sure your dog is comfortable if they do suffer from arthritis. There are medications, food and joint supplements, along with non-surgical treatments that can relieve some of the pain associated with arthritis. These can all be discussed with your veterinarian.

While pain management is important and necessary if your hiking partner suffers from arthritis, it’s also important to consider a variety of other things when planning your outing. Choosing shorter hikes with less elevation change and fewer obstacles your dog will have to climb over is important, as are planning hikes during cooler weather, usually in the morning or the evening. Plan to adjust your pace to meet your older dog’s needs, too. They’ll likely need some rest time or a slower pace than what they used to, so pay attention to them and let them set the pace. Allowing more time in between hikes is necessary as well since it will take longer for them to recover between outings.

Be prepared to assist your dog off of the trail if they cannot continue on their own. There are many emergency dog carrying harnesses that are available, these are really a must for anybody that hikes with their dog in case of injury, but even more important for anybody with an older companion. If you used to place a pack on your dog to help carry supplies you should take it off to lessen weight and stress on their joints.

Hiking with your older dog is absolutely something that can be done; it just requires a bit more preparation on your end. We know continued mobility is important as dogs age and with a few easy adjustments you can continue to explore the world with your trusty hiking companion.