Our senior dogs are living longer than they used to. As my Australian Shepherd Sadie ages she is needing adjustments to keep her comfortable, safe and happy. Having been diagnosed with kidney disease and her 13th birthday coming up, helping her with her health and ensuring her quality of life is a top priority. There are steps that we can take to keep our senior dogs happy and healthy.
Senior Dogs and Pain
Aches and pains of aging can affect many areas of a senior dog’s life. Pain can for example limit mobility, restrict daily activities, decrease appetite, disturb sleep, and can seriously decrease a dog’s quality of life. It’s important to assess what pain your dog has and to manage it. Dogs typically do not vocalize pain, so you need to recognize the body language and behavioral cues they use to indicate discomfort. .I talked about how to recognizes pain in your dog in a previous article, “ How to Know When Your Dog is in Pain.” A thorough veterinarian examination with the necessary testing such as blood work, gait analysis and/or x-rays is important to identify the location and source of the pain in order to get the proper treatment.
There are many methods for alleviating pain. Acupuncture, Chinese herbs, Reiki, massage, laser therapy, chiropractic, hydrotherapy are all examples of holistic methods that are available. These can act synergistically with each other. Sadie is responding very well to a combination of chiropractic, acupuncture, Chinese herbs, massage and Reiki.
Senior Dogs Safety
Sadie has increasingly been struggling with her balance and is not as strong and is less stable in her back legs. Therefore, ensuring her safety at home has called for a few modifications in my home to make her more comfortable.
Something that is easy to do and has helped Sadie is installing skid proof, rubber backed rugs and runners throughout my house. I have hardwood floors and these give her traction and help her avoid sliding and falling on slippery floors. Sliding and falling can cause more stress on joints and muscles and cause more pain. Often, senior dogs can feel uncertain or worry about falling on the slippery floors. These “safety” rugs can help a dog feel more confident.
Stairs can be particularly challenging for senior dogs. Having stairs covered with runners so they are not slippery, installing a ramp if the stairs become too difficult and having a good light source both at the top and bottom of the stairs for dogs with compromised eyesight are all things we can do. Helping a dog with a support sling or blocking the stairs completely may also be considered.
Exercise is important for senior dogs. Activities that they enjoy done on a smaller scale and for a shorter time can be very beneficial. A herding dog, Sadie, loved working sheep or running ducks. Now, I let her work with stock on smaller fields at her pace and for short periods of time. We still go for daily walks, now for about a half a mile instead of two miles and she still loves to walk on the beach. Even if your dog is not this active, games and tricks are super to keep them mentally active. There are many books and Youtube videos you can find.
With a little bit of extra care and preparation, senior dogs can still live out a safe and comfortable life. Dog massage is one of the easiest and rewarding you can do to accommodate your pet.