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. We have a few more aches and pains in places we didn’t know we had. We press the ‘up’ volume button on the television remote control so we can hear better. We find that 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 includes 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 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 her walks, where she once leaped in circles for, now only see her shuffling a few yards from home. Even though your dog is older, that 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, 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.
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.
Symptoms that your senior dog behaviour is anxious?
As your doggy friend cannot explain to you that he is anxious, you have to understand whether it is anxious or not just by observation. Anxiety in senior dogs can include some common symptoms such as
1. Excessive panting and lip licking
2. Shaking and acting nervous
3. Aggression towards others and other dogs
5. Excessive licking and biting themselves
9. Destructive behaviour and barking excessively
10. Urinating and defecating in the house
All these symptoms may not be exhibited by every dog. The presence of these symptoms depends upon the individual dog and its levels of anxiety.
How Much Protein Should My Senior Dog Eat?
Increasing protein will help maintain muscle. But isn’t protein bad for old dogs because it overtaxes the kidneys? No — that myth began with rodent research from the 1940s. Dogs evolved to eat more meat and protein than rats, and subsequent studies have debunked the idea that protein is bad for old dogs and confirmed that protein does not adversely affect the kidneys. In fact, there’s evidence these days that suggests old dogs need more protein. A study comparing protein requirements in 2-year-old Beagles versus 13-year-old Beagles found that the senior dogs needed at least 50 percent more dietary protein.
Protein is important for older dogs. Even with exercise, older dogs tend to lose muscle mass, which means losses in protein reserves. Losses in muscle tissue and protein reserves may impair the immune system and decrease the body’s ability to respond to physical trauma, infectious agents, or stress. Loss of protein reserves also means the body may not have enough amino acids for tissue repair and energy metabolism. Senior diets should have increased protein-to-calorie ratio, providing a minimum of 25 percent of calories from protein.
Five Ways to Give Comfort to Your Senior Dog - pets
None of us are ever ready to say good-bye to our loyal, furry friends. For most, dogs become a part of one's family and losing one is paramount to losing a beloved relative far too soon.
But we all must accept the passage of time, one way or another, and the best thing that any of us can do for ourselves and our dogs is to prepare for the end as well as we can.
First, however, there are a few key symptoms and behaviors to keep any eye out for that are your dog's way of letting you know their time is coming.
Other Therapies and Rehabilitation for Dogs with Arthritis & Joint Pain
Acupuncture is safe and has minimal side effects (slight soreness for example). It involves the insertion of needles (very fine) into the skin at particular points along the body which helps relax local muscles, release serotonin and endorphins (natural pain-relieving hormones), improve circulation, and block pain signals in the body. Additionally, it can stimulate blood flow to the joints, nerves, and organs. In turn, your pet has improved joint range of motion as well as maintain its function longer. Therefore acupuncture can help with arthritis directly as well as help with other health issues that may be impeding your pet’s mobility. The International Veterinary Acupuncture Society has an online database of veterinary acupuncturists that's searchable by city and state.
Vitamin B-12 Injections
Vitamin B-12, also known as cyanocobalamine, has important health benefits for dogs. It helps with different aspects of the nervous system and brain function. It also plays a role in the formation and growth of blood cells. Vitamin B-12 is often used to aid with the gastrointestinal tract, especially if there are digestion issues as it helps boost energy levels and appetite. Combine all these things and it makes for a great supplement. It is only done in an injectable form.
Laser therapy (also referred to as Photobiomodulation) through several mechanisms helps to reduce pain, muscle spasms, and inflammation. By reducing inflammation in tendons and ligaments, pets have improvements in their joint range of motion due to being less stiff. It has also been found to reduce cartilage breakdown and inflammation of the synovial fluid (the fluid that helps prevent friction of cartilage between bones of the joint). Another benefit of laser therapy is that it improves the movement of nutrients through the cell membrane. Thereby, improving and returning to normal the function and health of the local cells of the tissues and organs being treated. Studies show that 85% of dogs have found significant improvement following treatment.
Pulsed Electromagnetic Field therapy (PEMF) is a non-invasive (FDA-approved for humans) treatment that has long been used in treating people and is becoming increasingly popular in veterinary medicine. PEMF devices target different tissues in a dog's body (depending on the wavelength used) to decrease inflammation and promote faster healing. This technology has been used to lessen pain and increase mobility for dogs with osteoarthritis and may help lessen the reliance on prescription medications.
There are many different PEMF products available, so it is important to research which provide supportive evidence and data for their effectiveness. Your veterinarian is a great resource to help you find the best PEMF treatment for your dog's condition and can prescribe a tPEMF device such as the Assisi LOOP or the LOOP Lounge PEMF mat.
Preventive Vet office dog, Sookie, resting during one of her Assisi LOOP treatments.
Massage helps by addressing soft tissue imbalances. A small animal massage practitioner can identify patterns of overcompensation as well as referred pain (this means an injury is at one location but the pain is in another). They are also able to identify trigger points along the body that cause increased pain. The therapist is able to loosen and lengthen muscles that have been fixed in position due to lack of use or improper extension/flexion. The pet is then able to be more flexible and less painful which always for increased activity.
Physical therapy offers a number of techniques (Manual Therapy, Therapeutic Modalities, Therapeutic Exercise) that help decrease pain, improve mobility, proprioception (body awareness), and strength. A certified canine fitness instructor consulting with your rehabilitation veterinarian can help you create a physical therapy plan and fitness routine. There are many tools that you can use during physical therapy, such as cones or balance discs. Check out Daisy working on a balance disc and balance pad during one of her physical therapy appointments:
And here's a photo of Daisy doing her cavaletti exercises, walking over poles on the ground to improve her body awareness.
It's essential to work under supervision of a canine fitness or therapy professional when introducing a pet with mobility issues to new exercises. Incorrect body placement or movements that are too difficult for their condition can cause pain and further injury. Before starting these exercises with your dog, ask your veterinarian for a referral to a qualified professional. Want to find a rehab professional near you? Visit www.rehabvets.org.
Warm Water Hydrotherapy
The warm water used in hydrotherapy helps reduce inflammation and loosen stiff muscles. It allows for non-impact exercise so that the muscles can be stretched and strengthened. Increased activity for your dog in this non-painful manner also aids in weight loss. It has also been found to improve circulation to damaged tissues. Being in the pool has also shown to improve the immune system and help naturally detoxify the body. Overall the whole activity leads to a decrease in pain for your pet.
All the options for support and treatment can be overwhelming. It is important to remember that each dog is an individual with their own unique needs when it comes to being aided with mobility and arthritis. You may have to try several different options or combinations until you find those that help support your pet care goals. Also, over time what once worked may no longer work and you will need to try new options. Never hesitate to discuss your concerns with your veterinarian. They are a valuable resource to helping your dog gain a better quality of life. Finding what works for you and your pet is what matters most so that you both can have an improved quality of life together.