Dogs are a lifetime commitment—one that we’re more than happy to make. For many of us—if we’re lucky—part of that lifetime commitment will be helping our best friend navigate their twilight years. Aging is a part of life, and it’s our responsibility to help our dogs age well.
Senior dogs (usually defined as dogs age 7 and older) can develop a variety of health concerns: mobility problems, stiff joints, digestive problems, a weakened immune system, and irregular sleep patterns. All this, combined with changes to their brain health, and you’ve got a recipe for a lower quality of life—unless you make the effort to help them stay active, vibrant, and vital.
When my beloved Blaze started to slow down, I knew it was time to research how I could help him maintain his passion for life (and hikes!). Here’s what I discovered.
Tips For Caring For Your Senior Dog
#1 Outfit Your Home For Your Senior Dog
It’s fairly common knowledge that steps and ramps can help your senior dog navigate their home better. But there’s many more ways to help your senior dog get around or get comfortable, especially if they are having joint issues.
Carpet and gripped floors can make walking easier and prevent slips, as can making sure their nails are always trimmed. You can also use gates to keep them away from long flights of stairs or other areas of the house that are a concern.
Now might also be the time to invest in a good, supportive bed (or two, or three), and make sure they’re either on the floor or otherwise easily accessible. And yes, there is such a thing as heated dog beds!
You can also elevate their dog bowls to help avoid neck pain, and put a few strategic nightlights around the house, since older dogs may have vision issues.
#2: Supplements and Nutrition
If you’re in my age bracket or older, then I bet you pay close attention to your diet and take some recommended supplements. When Blaze started slowing down, I started looking for supplements for him. I was dismayed to find out that while supplements and Omega 3s are incredibly important for older dogs, it’s incredibly difficult to find high quality supplements for dogs.
Ultimately, older dogs can struggle to digest their food, making it harder for them to absorb the nutrients they need. Moreover, dog food alone doesn’t always have fatty acids, antioxidants, amino acids and probiotics they need, especially as they get older.
That’s why it’s critical to speak to your vet about their diet, and also about supplementing with formulas designed to support healthy joints and boost mobility. You may also want to consider dog supplements for immune and digestive health.
#3: Staying Active
Your older dog may not enjoy the same things she used to, but that doesn’t mean she can’t stay active. Try to find low-impact exercises for senior dogs that she enjoys (hint: swimming is always great). You may also need to go on shorter walks or less demanding hikes (idea: remove the pack).
Many older dogs seem to benefit from more frequent, but still regular, movement breaks throughout the day, as opposed to longer forms of exercise. Always listen to your dog, and always make sure you give him a lot of recovery time. But generally, the more active he is, the happier and healthier he’ll be.
#4: Vet Visits
Of course, it’s always important to have your dog see the vet regularly, but it’s critical you do so once they become older. Specifically, senior dogs should see their vet at least once a year (or more, if your vet recommends it). An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and seeing your vet regularly is the best way to catch things early.
Ultimately, caring for your senior dog just takes a little extra thought and planning. Thankfully, they’re worth it!