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How to Keep a Senior Dog Feeling Young

Keep a senior dog young

One of the most rewarding aspects of being a human being is sharing life with a dog. This is my story. This is my truth. This is my life. One of the harshest realities in being a dog parent is watching as your once spry and active dog slows down and isn’t as spunky or active anymore. Age is just a number. None of us want to be judged by numeric digits, and that includes our dogs. Dogs live in the moment and so it is with this mantra that the following time tested, works for me and so try it for you (and your) dog advice is dispensed. A senior dog rocks.

I’ve raised puppies and I’ve said heartbreaking temporary goodbyes to dogs, the latter of which I call temporary for I know we will meet again.

As always, check with your dog’s veterinarian before making any sudden changes to your dog’s diet or activity regimen.

Make In-Home Adjustments

The number of dog parents I encounter who tell me their dog “just has no zip” or  “lost their energy” is a great number. It is amazing what small adjustments to the dog’s housing layout can do for a dog’s spirit and energy level. Case in point:  If you have a dog with back or mobility issues, have a home with hardwood floors, or have a dog who is a bit older and could use some stability due to arthritis, slowing down, joint issues, or any other host of health issues, here are products to make his or her life easier. If you felt tender or achy every time you took a step, you probably would spend most of your time resting, too.

Kim Kiernan, Social Media Manager for Welcome Home Dog Rescue, discovered Dr. Buzby’s ToeGrips at the 2015 BlogPaws Conference and shared her experience with us. The nails are trimmed first while the Toe Grips are placed in a shallow dish of rubbing alcohol. The alcohol allows the rubber pieces to slip easily over each nail. Here’s Poppy using the product:

Dr Buzbys toe grips

Ramps and Assistive Steps

As my previous Cocker Spaniel aged, she could no longer jump up onto the bed. We also didn’t want her jumping off the bed at night. We purchased a ramp for the bed that she could easily maneuver without fear of slipping. Ensure you get the right side, girth, weightbearing, and set it at the right angle so as to avoid injury. Never force a dog to use a ramp. If the dog is not accustomed to it, gradually show him or her how fantastic it is. Praise and patience are key. Never scold a dog for not using it nor force a dog to do so.

Supplements

Yes, yes, and more yes to the right supplements.  If you are reading this article and your dog is young, it’s still a good time to consider supplements. We are spending on nutritional supplements and vitamins for our precious pooches, but what is exactly needed, what’s considered “too much,” and do our dogs really need the extra stuff?

Given at the right time for the right reasons and used with proper care, supplements can really benefit a dog. What supplements do we use?

Extra virgin organic coconut oil: One teaspoon melted on lunch meal daily

Glucosamine chondroitin supplement: For joint support. Dosage varies but we do give the recommended amount daily, sometimes a bit more if any flareup of the surgically repaired knees occurs.

At dinner, we give an omega 3 capsule and a probiotic for good dental health.

When our dog was ill with kennel cough, we helped his immune system recover thanks to a supplement called Immune Strengthener from Only Natural Pet.

I share this information because what works for my dog may be a completely different set of supplements that works for your dog.

CLICK THIS: The Reality of Vitamins and Supplements for Dogs

dog vitamins

Play

This is an integral part of my day, several times a day, every day of the week without falter unless I am ill. I’ve heard pet parents say, “I can’t play with my dog any longer, he has arthritis” or “I want to play with my dog, but he’s old and can’t last long.” My advice? Make do with what you have! Ease a dog into swimming, do slow walks around the neighborhood, join a dog lovers group where fellow seniors can mingle. Whatever the case, growing old is a mindset. Yes, we should always take precautions when a dog is older but never should we simply “give up” or “stop playing.” Modify the methods but keep the dog moving in some way, shape, or do-able form. A bored dog will get used to a boring lifestyle, after all.

Many of the activities I applied to my dog in his postoperative period apply to dogs who are older and perhaps not as active or spry as they once were.

Don’t overdo any sort of interaction session. Keep in mind that a dog with pain can and may snap and/or bite. I know this from first-hand experience. My last Cocker Spaniel injured her knee and en route to the hospital she snapped at a family member out of pain. She was the sweetest dog but pain is pain and dogs will react.

CLICK THIS: How to Entertain a Dog After Surgery (or a Senior Dog)

dog game

Smiling

Say cheese! Your canine’s canines need not lose their sparkle. It only takes a few minutes a few times a week, yet proper canine dental hygiene is pivotal. Many kidney, cardiac and liver diseases are directly related to gum and tooth disease. Be certain to use a pet-friendly toothpaste along with a dog-comfy toothbrush (i.e. toddler-size). Long-term results mean no more doggoned bad breath as well as disease prevention: it’s a win-win.

In all of the years I’ve been a pet parent, my dogs have never needed a professional cleaning. I brush a minimum of once a day and I also get regular dental checks at the veterinarian for Dexter. If your dog is opposed to teeth brushing, read about how to get a dog used to teeth brushing.

CLICK THIS: How to Brush a Dog’s Teeth (if He Hates It)

Hearing

Do you hear what I hear? As with his human counterparts, a dog’s sense of hearing is one that threatens to diminish with aging. Solution? Turn back the hands of time—by using hand signals, that is. Teaching your dog to “come” in association with a hand signal, reinforcing “sit” with a finger point and asking him if he needs to “go potty” with another hand signal will be invaluable should a hearing deficit develop. Hand signals can be taught and reinforced in conjunction with verbal commands while a dog’s hearing is intact and throughout his life.

I did this with my senior Cocker Spaniel, Brandy. Ironically, though her hearing diminished as time marched on, she was at my feet the moment I opened the refrigerator door. It’s amazing how astute a dog’s senses are and which ones take over when another diminishes.

Check That Food

Is your dog refusing kibble? What do his or her teeth look like? I certainly would not want to eat the same food for my entire life, and we know that dogs emote and feel, too. I love home cooking, despite my inadequacies in the kitchen. I do use different dog foods that are easy to make and lend themselves well to ease of preparation.

Diets of adult dogs (over one year of age) should contain anywhere between 10 and 18 percent protein. Animal-based proteins are best for dogs, including chicken, lamb, fish, or beef.

The old adage that senior diets should include a reduced level of protein has proven to be inaccurate. In fact, senior diets should maintain a steady, if not increased, level of protein so dogs can maintain good muscle mass. The extra protein a senior dog’s system does not need will be excreted via urine, burned off in exercise, or stored as fat. Feeding quality protein in canines with kidney issues ensures the dog’s kidneys will not work as hard. Generally, follow the same protein levels as an adult dog.

dog cook

Bedding Position

A dog’s bed, kennel or “comfy spot” should be kept away from any drafty areas. Though dogs have a fur coat, cold can and does affect them. If you feel a draft or cold, then dogs are feeling that same cold air. Keep dog beds off of heating vents but in a spot that keeps them warm and secure.

sleeping_dog

Nix the Chemicals

This is a tip for the ages: No matter how old or young your dog is, pay attention to this one.  I only use on my dog what I would use on myself. It’s the way I live my life and it serves me well. This applies to flea and tick preventative treatment. This is the flea and tick prevention we use on our dog. Does it require more effort on my part? Yes. Do I feel safer that my dog is not being poisoned by toxic chemicals? YES!

Dog Parent Bonus Tip: Breathe in, breathe out, repeat. Canine CPR and first aid classes are available throughout the country, both in person and online. Check with a local chapter of the American Red Cross for more information or do a simple Internet search for canine first aid classes. Knowing what to do if a dog is choking, in shock or is injured can mean the difference between life and death, as precious seconds count. Classes often feature canine replica models to learn CPR and the Heimlich maneuver.

For me, a dog who is treated well and properly cared for can resoundingly live a life where 10 is the new 5. We cannot turn back the hands of time, but we can ensure that our dogs are taken care of 24/7/365.

What are you doing to help keep your dog feeling young no matter what his or her age?

Comments

  1. Robin Rue (@massholemommy) says

    My dog is only 5, so he’s still pretty active and hyper. I love these ways to keep him healthy and active when he’s older.

  2. Valerie says

    I had a ramp for my dog too!
    She didn’t like it at first, but since she had an operation to her ligaments, we had to be very careful!
    She died 2 years ago 🙁
    I love your article!
    Love x

  3. Three Chatty Cats says

    This post is so timely for me to read right now. We have a senior dog that we’re taking to the vet today for excessive urination. These are great tips for our dog at this stage in his life (14 yo). I’ll have to look into those toe grips too.

  4. Gena says

    This is a very informative post and I thank you for all the tips on all aspects of a senior dog life. Thank you I will try many of these.

  5. Lory says

    Our Westie is 10 and is very puppy like other than she recently has the dreaded CCL injury. We’ve built ramps, doing supplements and severely limiting activity. We are giving it another month or so but realize we are most likely looking at surgery. 🙁

  6. Hollie says

    This is a great and informative post. We own two dogs that are both 8 and while they are getting older, they are still active and friendly. Thanks for sharing!

  7. Heather lawrence says

    Great post! I think a lot of people are so focused on puppies that they forget their fur baby is going to grow up! We don’t have a dog but you have give me a lot to think about that’s for sure.

  8. Emma says

    We are currently deluged with one problem after another with my sister Katie. It’s tough dealing with all her issues, but she is so appreciative of all our efforts. Our only advice is with ramps, be careful. Katie often loses her balance and would fall off a ramp, so make sure your dog is up to using one if you have one.

  9. Jessica @YouDidWhatWithYourWiener says

    Great tips. Now that Gretel has IVDD, supplements are more important for us than ever. She also needs a ramp to get on and off the couch. Even though we initially thought about these things for her, our old man Chester benefits. He’s really started to show his age this last year and I know he is more comfortable now.

    I’m also a firm believer in knowing pet first aid no matter how old your dog is. I’ve been certified for almost 10 years. I’m headed to Canada today to take a pet first aid course that is designed for people that hike in the woods like me. I’m super excited.

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