As standards and procedures of care for our pet dogs improve with an ever-increasing understanding of what our canine companions need to be happy and well, many of our dogs are living longer lives. It is not at all unusual to see a dog live well into his teens. How can we be sure to maintain a good quality of life for our dogs in their senior years?
One of the first really obvious signs of aging in our dogs is a general stiffness in the hips and joints. To help our dogs feel better, we want to make sure we're addressing their nutritional needs in this regard first and foremost. Supplements of fish oil can help bring back mobility for those dogs suffering from arthritis, or given as a safety measure to help prevent problems down the line. Coconut oil is another great alternative. If inflammation is at issue for an arthritic dog, glucosamine is a well-known, often-used treatment option that will not only protect the joints, but help to lubricate them as well.
Providing for the dental care of our beloved pets is often enough to make any pet owner wince a little bit. Not only can dental care be punishingly expensive at the veterinarian's office, dental problems left unchecked can cause a whole host of other health and behavioral issues to arise. These problems can include the heart, kidneys, liver, and brain. We can stay on top of our dog's dental hygience by providing regular brushing each and every day to help address any plaque and tartar build up. Some dog owners even swear by the teeth cleaning power of feeding raw bones. Whatever you do in regards the oral health of your canine companion, diligence is always the very best, and least expensive, policy of all.
Many dog owners find it challenging to provide for the exercise needs of their senior dog. When stiff joints, lethargy, and all around malaise take old of our furry friends, it can be difficult to know when it's time to encourage a little activity. Not all activity is appropriate for your senior dog, but you want to make sure you're not avoiding it altogether. Beware of high impact exercise like jumping and hiking. Extend your walking time instead, and keep it low-key. Prevent falls by providing non-slip grip mats in feeding areas, stairs, and slippery floors. If you like to take your dog on car rides, or your dog faces steep stairs coming to and from the house, a ramp is definitely a great investment.
Aging dogs have as much need for training and mental stimulation as young puppies. These kinds of challenges can add years to your senior dog's lifespan. Keeping the work challenging while being physically non-demanding can be tough! Consider snuffle mats and sniffing games with high value, low calorie treats. Puzzle toys can be a great investment at this time, but be sure to train your dog in how to use it to avoid any frustration. Even something as simple as giving your dog a new terrain to walk through on one of his regular walks can be enough to keep his brain firing with all the new sights, smells, and sounds.
Providing a high quality of care in the golden years of our pets lives is something all dog owners hope and aspire for. These kind, compassionate animals give us their all through their lives, from puppyhood and well into old age. Let's repay them the wonderful favor by ensuring we're prepared to provide them the standard of care they need at all stages of life, without reservation, resentment, or hesitation. By educating ourselves on senior care for our dogs with the same vigor we have for our puppies when they're fresh and new, we ensure a high standard of care for all of their days together. We know these selfless creatures surely have earned it after a lifetime of love and devotion.
Camille Salter is the founder of All Dogs Toronto and a certified, knowledge-assessed dog trainer (CPDT-KA). She is the author of two books on dog behavior: Pandemic Puppy, and Decoding the Dog Park.