It happens gradually—one day your dog is literally jumping for joy when you get home from work, then he’s super excited to see you but makes a few less leaps into the air. Then he keeps all four paws on the floor when he greets you, then he slowly saunters toward the opening door. One day, he might not even hear you come home, but he’s as excited as ever once he sees that you’re home.
Our aging pets don’t care that they’re a little slower, and maybe a little more hard of hearing. They just want to be with us.
How can we make that easier for our aging pups?
- Visit your vet. Your vet will be able to let you know how your best friend is doing. Does he need supplements for wearing joints? Pain medication for arthritis? Your vet will also be able to recommend any senior diagnostics tests, such as blood work, your pet may need, as well as any diet changes that might be needed to relieve extra weights on aging joints.
- Break up the exercise. While your dog may still love long walks every night, an hour at a time may be too much for him. Breaking up his exercise into more frequent, less intense chunks can help achy, aging joints.
- Help out. Mobility aids, such as slings to go around the waist, can help you help your dog up and to get around. You can buy one, or use something like a towel. The sling can also help out on stairs or getting into or out of the car.
- Don’t take the stairs. If your dog has to go up and down multiple stairs to get to his bed or outside, consider rearranging if he’s having difficulty with them. Move his favorite bed to the main floor of the house so he doesn’t need to struggle to get to naptime. If one exit of your house has fewer steps to get outside, start using that route instead. If your pet is having a lot of difficulty getting up or down any stairs, consider adding a ramp. Dog ramps can also be used to help your dog get onto couches or beds.
- More rugs. Slippery floors like hardwood or linoleum may make getting traction in the house difficult for aging hips. Some extra, non-slippery, rugs can make a world of difference for a dog having difficulty getting around inside.
- Bring the food (and water) to them. Big dogs especially may have trouble reaching down to eat and drink. Put his dishes in a raised stand to make mealtimes easier. In a multilevel home, make water easily available on every floor.
- Upgrade his furniture. If your pet is used to sleeping with you and can no longer get on the bed, or his old bed is getting flat and worn out, consider upgrading him to an orthopedic pet bed. Some extra warmth can also help a dog get a better night’s sleep—you can add a warmed water bottle or bag of rice to their bed to warm it up.
- Keep his mind active. Spend some quality time with your dog working on some new training—manners or a new trick. Keep in mind any physical limitations your dog might have. Just a few minutes a day training can also help your dog build confidence as he might be experiencing sight or hearing loss with old age.
Our dogs are our best friends, and with a few modifications, you can help make their later years just as good as their early years. Look to your vet for the best advice, and remember that old dogs really can learn new tricks.
By Rachel Leisemann Immel