November is National Senior Pet Month. To honor our beloved senior canines, we take a look at ways to care for your senior dog and help them ease into their later years with grace.
Just like humans, dogs are living longer. And with age, come physical changes that need our attention and proactive care to help them deal with arthritis, loss of sight or hearing and decrease in energy. Caring for a senior dog is well worth the effort. Here are a few tips for caring for your senior pooch:
- Don’t change your floor plan. If your dog has decreased vision, a new arrangement of your furniture can be terrifying. Keeping a predictable floor plan will decrease any anxiety they will have when moving around and keep them safe. Make sure you declutter pathways by picking up shoes or anything else they can trip on.
- Prevent slips and falls. Older dogs have less traction on their paw pads, making it easy for them to slip on hardwood floors. Putting down throw rugs and pathway runners with non-slip rubber pads underneath will help prevent injuries from unnecessary falls. Also, clip any overgrowth of hair between paw pads which can also lead to a fall.
- Get a bed with more padding. As they age and develop arthritis or decreased muscle mass, a bed with more padding will make them more comfortable. Look for a bed with memory foam and a removable cover that can be washed.
- Install mechanisms for easy climbing. If your dog is having some trouble getting up the front stairs or getting off the bed, install something to help them. For stairs, a ramp with some non-slip rubber padding stapled to the surface can help ease the pain from climbing. To help with getting up or down from furniture, create a platform system so they can make the transition gradually.
- Put up a fence. If your dog has loss of hearing or vision, they may become disoriented when in your yard. While they knew your yard’s boundaries when they were young, an older dog can get confused and wander off, putting them in danger. Put up a fence to help keep them safe.
Arrange for regular vet visits. Catching any physical issues early will make it easier, and probably more successful, to treat. Senior dogs should have a complete physical exam twice each year with lab work. Veterinarians recommend:
- a blood test to check for anemia, infection or cancer
- a chemical screen to check for kidney function, blood sugar and other key levels
- a urine screening to check for infection, stones, kidney function or diabetes
- a thyroid test to check for overactive or underactive functioning
- a fecal screening to check for parasites and blood or mucous in their stool, and
- a heartworm test
- Continue to exercise. Keep your senior dog active with low-impact activity such as walking or swimming. It’s important to keep their muscles and joints strong to stay as healthy as possible. Physical therapy is also a good option for senior dogs having issues with mobility.
- Keep their weight in check. With less activity, it’s easy for your dog to put on additional pounds. An overweight dog will have even more issues with getting around or putting more stress on their joints. Talk to your vet about a healthy senior diet, and give them the exercise to help burn the calories. Add some canned pumpkin (without pie spicing) to add the fiber they need for regular bowel movements.
- Ease the pain. Some dogs show subtle signs they are in pain, such as moaning when they get up, loss of appetite or restlessness. Talk to your vet about ways to keep the pain to a minimum. They might suggest a supplement to help reduce inflammation and protect joint cartilage, or a prescription pain medication. No dog should suffer with chronic pain.
- Massage your dog. Rubbing your dog’s muscles can help ease the soreness as well as stimulate healthy tissue circulation. Physical contact is more important than ever as they age, and your dog will love the attention and bonding experience. Several videos are available on YouTube to demonstrate effective massage techniques.
- Practice good dental habits. Good dental hygiene can help prevent tooth decay which will make eating painful for senior dogs. Either brush their teeth regularly, or introduce dental chews or toys to do the job.
- Monitor brain function. Some senior dogs will show signs of failing cognitive function, such as confusion or personality changes. Keeping your dog’s brain engaged may help prevent brain decline – try using puzzles, search games or new tricks to keep your dog’s brain active. New supplements rich in DHA, omega 3 fatty acid, anti-oxidants and vitamins have also been shown to be effective.
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Under the Weather is also an avid supporter of finding homes for shelter dogs. We finance the Ruffy Rescue Transport Fund to cover the transport cost of bringing dogs from overpopulated kill shelters to Vermont for adoption. A portion of every dollar in sales is channeled to supporting this cause as well as financing the spaying and neutering fees of shelter animals. Get to know more about Ruffy.
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