Top 7 Ways to Support Senior Dogs is for you if you are struggling with ways to support your dog. Are you feeling alone, isolated or not sure where to find resources to help you through this time? You’ve come to the right place.
When your dog makes noticeable shifts in their behavior, stamina, appetite, and activity level, it’s time to look at modifying things. Their care, exercise and way of life may need to be adjusted to help them be more comfortable and enhance their quality of life. Let’s dive into that further. I’ll share with you some of the things I’ve learned over the years caring many of your pets as well as going down this path with my own dogs. So here are the, “Top 7 Ways To Support Senior Dogs”.
Shorter more frequent walks are better than one long walk. It’s easier for your dog to recover from a short walk than a long one because the longer they sustain an active state, the more likely to over exert themselves. And they may just no longer have the stamina or ability to endure the longer periods of exercise.
By splitting walks into two or three shorter distances throughout the day, your dog can rest and recover much easier between walks. Moving during a walk will encourage blood flow, reduce inflammation and help keep them mobile longer. As a result, this can also help manage pain because when inflammation reduces, pain often subsides. It’s a win-win.
Plus, walks are great low impact enrichment for your dog since most dogs love to sniff and can surrender to their curiosity. Therefore, walks provides both mental and physical stimulation.
Similarly to walks, any type of exercise should be modified to shorter, more frequent stints than one long routine. This goes for training for competitions, swimming, playing ball/fetch, rough housing with their other dog friends and any other type of strenuous activity. You may need to reduce the amount over overall exercise. Sometimes it can still be too much for them to break the same amount of exercise into smaller segments. Watch your dog for signs of pain and modify accordingly.
Also, you may need to start modifying how they play and exercise. For example, if your dog love to fetch but tends to get sore after playing. Then, switch it up; stop using the Chuck-It device, hand toss or roll, limit activity to 5 minutes with a 5-10 minute break between rounds.
As your dog ages, his nutrient needs can change. They may need more or less food – often less since they become less active and their metabolism slows. In this case, reduce the amount of food per feeding. I prefer to do that as opposed to taking it out of one meal or omitting a whole meal so that their normal feed cycle continues.
It is also possible that your dog begins to lose weight. The dogs could be absorbing less nutrients or it could be symptomatic of another health concern. If weight loss is apparent with no other indicators as to why, first I’d suggest visiting your vet (we’ll talk about that in a minute). I often suggest increasing their food intake and adding a digestive enzyme to support their digestion and immune system, as it will help with the absorption of nutrients. Most senior dogs will benefit from this type of supplement anyway because their body just doesn’t operate the same as it used to, so adding some additional support can be so beneficial to keeping them healthy. Also, adding toppers or bone broth can are often nutrient dense choices to add healthy calories to your dog’s diet.
With any dog food you choose, be it raw, home cooked or kibble, be mindful of the ingredients. Avoid products that contain soy, wheat and corn as they are not bio-available food sources for dogs and can often lead to digestive issues, allergies and other ailments. This really applies to any age dog for those of you reading along that don’t yet have a senior dog.
It’s important to be mindful of your dog’s weight since keeping him or her at an ideal weight will impact their overall health, pain, comfort level and mobility. Just like humans, weight management impacts so many diseases.
As their physical body ages, it can show signs of degeneration. Also, often less noticeable, organ function can deteriorate, which is key to properly supporting your pet from the inside out. Did you know many of their immune receptors are in their digestive tract. Sometimes, the absorption of their food declines, so it’s helpful to give them an additional nutrients, especially in key areas where weakness is noticeable. So, as your pet embarks on the golden years, it can be helpful to introduce supplements to support their body’s in different ways such as digestive enzymes (previously mentioned – are you seeing how important they are yet?), medicinal mushrooms, joint support and CBD oil for managing pain and inflammation.
As a side note, if you want to learn more about CBD oil for pets, hop on over to another blog dedicate to that product.
Dogs considered “seniors” often have some level of limited mobility and health challenges. This means their bodies are working harder to move, digest and function. To support them fully and help lessen the impact of these hard changes, bodywork can be incorporated into their routine care plan: canine massage, Reiki, chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture and other forms of bodywork. These types of natural and holistic treatments are ancient forms of healing that are proven to support your dog’s mobility, organ function, comfort and overall quality of life.
As an animal body worker myself, I can share that I’ve seen many pets live longer, have a better quality of life and in more comfort when incorporating in a combination of these types of healing options. Find a practitioner, vet or doctor in your area that provides these types of services. I can also bet that they’ll have more resources for you that you weren’t even aware of that can help your senior pet.
Things can change much quicker in a geriatric dog. So, it’s normal to have senior wellness exams and additional appointments with your vet to help manage your dog’s health. They may eventually want to start him or her on pain management or anti-inflammatory prescriptions. There are also options for appetite stimulants and anti-nausea medication depending on what is happening with your dog. Running blood work will give your vet valuable information. It can indicate how your dog is tolerating any medicine and their internal functions. This can help your vet decide how to address any changes, declines or abnormal results.
There are traditional, holistic and integrative clinics, depending on what aligns with the way you would like your dog cared for and treated. Find one that works for you and your dog. Sometimes, people have added specialty vets for their pet’s senior years and keep seeing their traditional vet for standard items.
*Note, I am not a veterinarian or medical doctor. This is only a suggestion from someone that has been practicing holistic healing methods on animals since 2005. This is only a suggestion, as is everything else in this article.
You don’t have to do this alone and you may not be able to adjust your schedule to accommodate the changes your dog needs to continue to thrive in their golden-hood years. Also, it can be very draining and stressful as you face your pet’s mortality. Taking care of you is also taking care of them. Here’s some things that might help:
- Pet sitter / dog walker / potty breaker
- Dog Taxi – yes they exist! And can help get your pet to grooming, daycare, vet, bodywork appointment and more. Let Google be your friend.
- Hospice Care Program. Animal Intuition has Emily’s Path Pet Hospice Care Program. There are also hospice care vets. Check them out.
- Look into adjusting your work schedule – can you work more from home?
- Pet Support Groups – have an outlet to share your own struggles.
- Animal Communicator – (like me). People with these talents can help validate your feelings, give you clarity and support both you and your dog as you navigate these times of change.
Here’s a gentle reminder that if you’re unwell, exhausted and overwhelmed, it makes it so much more difficult to provide the care and support you want to do for your dog. So, be sure to take care of YOU. You matter too and make the rank in the Top 7 Ways to Support Senior Dogs.
Home Set up
Sometimes it becomes necessary to change how things are set up in your home so that your dog can get around easier and minimize the chance of injury. Consider adding or modify these types of things within your home to help keep your dog safe, independent and mobile:
- Ramps to beds, couches and to replace stairs where applicable
- Rugs or mats for traction
- Booties for traction
- Limit space – add gates to dangerous areas (i.e. slippery, stairs, areas they can get wedged in and unable to maneuver)
- Adjust feeding station
- More frequent potty breaks
- Add waterproof protectors / pee pads where your dog sleeps
You can pick and choose different options or add others that makes sense for your space and your dog. Many dogs can learn to use ramps. It is especially helpful for them to learn before they actually needed it. So, all you dog moms and dads with young or adult dogs not yet needing them – this is your tip to start now with exposure and training. Some dogs simply will refuse to use apparatuses but others will comply and modify their route easily. Especially when they learn how much said change helps them.
One last note – as dogs age, their muscle strength will weaken, which can cause a sense of urgency to use the bathroom and/or they have less capacity to hold their bladders and bowls for as long as they did when they were younger. Being aware of these changes can help your dog feel more comfortable and also lower your stress if you can avoid accidents.