We can’t avoid our dog’s progression in age, but we can ease the transition from fit adult to senior. As dogs grow older, they typically develop some degree of arthritis, and may even had hip dysplasia or other ailments that affect their joints and movement. It’s a natural part of aging, and the body’s way of telling your pup to slow down and stop to smell some roses—but we can help them along with this phase of their lives and make life a whole lot easier with just a few simple steps.
How can you help your senior dog deal with his arthritis? Some things you may already be doing (it’s just good common sense!) and some you may not have considered. If you’re worried that your dog’s mobility has really begun to suffer, you may need to consult your veterinarian for a more focused approach on one treatment—but there are still some simple steps you can take at home and in your daily routine to help your old “pup” out!
A lot of our steps will have a lot to do (either directly or indirectly) with proper weight control. Just like us, when your dog’s body is carrying more weight than it needs to, it’s adding that stress right to its joints. Proper weight control through nutrition and physical fitness will really help ease the stress your dog’s aging bones and joints feel day to day.
Change in Diet
As your dog gets older and becomes a little less active, it may be time to talk to your vet about a change in diet. Less physical activity means they don’t need all those extra calories found in a regular, healthy adult dog’s food. You may also need to start tapering back their portion size to avoid over-eating and weight gain.
Adding a few “extras” to their meals may greatly improve their overall health and quality of life. Things like fish oils, chicken powder, coconut oils, turmeric, dog food protein, and Glucosamine and Chondroitin Sulfate supplements are worth looking into and talking to your vet about to see which is best for your dog. Should you be doing all these supplements at once? Er, no. But your vet will help steer you in the right direction. Some vets prefer fish oils over coconut oil, and vice versa. It’s about finding what’s right for your dog.
When your dog begins to show signs of aging, it may be time to taper back their usual fitness routine and incorporate more low-impact activities. It’s not about just exercising, but getting that daily exercise in a smart way. Perhaps those games of fetch suddenly become games of catch (less running). In the warmer months, some routine trips to the beach for a swim would be ideal and less stressful on their joints. Be prepared to walk a little slower on your walks, and adjust your route to accommodate how far your dog can go before he gets too tired.
Keeping your dog fit into his later years in important, but it’s more important to be smart about how they enjoy their exercise.
Have hardwood floors? Tile? Laminate? Any smooth surface may start posing a challenge to your senior dog—especially when it comes to stairs. A few strategically placed carpets on landings and in rooms their frequent will go a long way. If your dog must frequently go up and down stairs in your home, consider getting the carpet attachment for them to help prevent slipping or an elevated lip on edge of the step.
If you’re adding a carpet to a high-traffic area, consider adding a skid-resistant liner beneath the carpet to avoid that slide when your dog goes through with some momentum!
Our dog’s bodies—just like ours—use sleep as a time to allow the body to heal itself. Encourage this restful slumber by providing your dog with an appropriate dog bed that’s well-cushioned and placed in rooms your dog frequents (living room, a bedroom, etc.) and encourage them to use it rather than hopping up on the bed or couch. There’s less impact on their bones and joints when walking onto a plush dog bed rather than hopping up and down onto a couch or (human) bed.
More Visits with Your Veterinarian
An older dog should see their veterinarian more frequently than they did in their youth. It’s important to keep on top of their health and the changes their body is going through. Things like water therapy or acupuncture aren’t just for us—dogs can benefit from them as well! Talk to your vet about the options available in your community. Your vet will help guide you through each step, and advise the next move to ensure your dog enjoys their golden years.