Shelley Frost has worked and volunteered for animal welfare organizations for over 30 years. Her border collie Kellie is 15 years old.
Older Dogs Have Special Needs That May Need Attention
If your older dog could talk to you, she would likely put in requests that would make her body and life more comfortable. But since she cannot tell us how she is feeling, just think for a minute how our bodies feel as we age: A few more aches and pains in places we didn’t know we had; Pressing the ‘up’ volume button on the television remote control so we can hear it better; balancing on one foot seems like an Olympic feat.
How to Recognize Signs of Aging in your Dog
One of the first signs that your dog is aging is when she begins to slow down. Perhaps she has trouble jumping in and out of the car. Maybe the stairs are suddenly too much of a challenge. For those of us who have the strength, we may pick up our pooches to help them navigate stairs, car doors, or even living room furniture.
You may also notice that when going for walks, your dog seems to take her time sniffing at one spot. Or perhaps her walk is slower, and she is ready to go home sooner than normal.
Hearing loss in older dogs is one of the first signs of aging. You may notice that you have to raise your voice to get your dog's attention. Or perhaps the sounds that usually make your dog perk up, seem to no longer have an effect.
Other signs that your dog is aging include cloudy eyes, bad breath, new lumps or bumps, weight loss, or gain. A visit to your veterinarian where you can ask for a "senior dog blood panel" will give you an overall picture of how your older dog is feeling.
At What Age Does a Dog Become a Senior?
10 - 12 years
8 - 9 years
6 - 7 years
Five Ideas to Make Life More Comfortable for Older Dogs
1. Portable Stairs or Ramp
One solution for arthritic or dogs with pain is to provide her with a portable staircase or ramp. You can build your own or purchase folding ramps that can help your dog get into and out of the car.
To help your dog climb onto the couch or your bed, consider a stair ramp. Helping your older dog become more mobile with less pain, will give her more confidence as she navigates through her day.
2. Extra Water and Cooling Pads
When the summer temperatures begin to spike upwards, your senior dog may feel the heat more than we do. You might notice your dog exhibiting labored panting even when they are lying still on the floor. Dogs release heat through panting and their paws. Always be sure their water bowl is filled with fresh, cool water.
Cooling pads could provide comfort for senior dogs living in a hot environment. Chillz Cooling Mat for Dogs is activated when a dog lies on its surface. It absorbs body heat and provides cooling relief for your dog’s paws and tummy area.
3. Raise Their Food and Water Bowl
All her life, your dog was perfectly happy to gobble up her food from her bowl on the floor. But now that she is older, she may sometimes have difficulty bending her head towards her food bowls.
Neck or shoulder pain is more prevalent in larger dog breeds. Raised food bowls will give your dog comfort and relief from these types of pains.
4. Think About Investing in a Stroller
Now that your dog is a senior citizen you may have noticed that the walks she once leaped in circles for, she now shuffles a few yards from home. Even though your dog is older does not mean that she has stopped enjoying the great outdoors and all its wonderful smells.
Taking your dog for a walk in a dog stroller can provide her with the necessary stimulation to keep her engaged and happy. On the market today are strollers to fit all sizes of dogs. There are even jogger strollers that allow you to exercise while your older dog enjoys the ride.
5. Get a New Pet Bed
Lastly, when it’s time to go to bed nothing feels better for old bones and muscles than an orthopedic mattress. Consider trading in your dog’s old, worn-out bed for a bed made specifically for senior dogs.
Many of these dog beds are waterproof and provide comfort to dogs with body aches. Senior dogs can often be restless at night which can disturb your sleep too. A comfy, cozy bed is likely to encourage him to rest throughout the night.
- Veterinary visit for a senior blood panel to determine his overall health.
- Feeding your dog a high-quality senior dog diet.
- Fortifying your dog’s diet with supplements for healthy joints such as glucosamine and chondroitin.
- Brushing your dog’s teeth to reduce pain and inflammation.
- Exercising with your dog.
- Bringing home new toys to keep his mind and body stimulated.
Happy, Healthy Senior Dogs
Your senior dog has been your faithful companion for many years. Now that she is in her golden years, by giving her these comforts will hopefully add to her quality of life.
With patience, care, and lots of head and tummy scratches, your senior dog will hopefully remain your faithful family member for many years to come.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Mariah Bruce from Portland, OR on August 10, 2020:
I liked your idea of thinking about how our own bodies feel as we age, and using that knowledge to help our furry friends. It's important to remember that our animals need special care as they get older, just like people do.
I think when people buy puppies, sometimes they don't realize what a long-term commitment they are investing in. It is your responsibility as a pet owner to ensure your pet has the care and support it needs at all the wonderful stages of their life, not just in its puppy years.