The ‘Ouch’ Years: Tips for Improving Your Senior Dog’s Mobility
There’s more than a few more grey hairs on his muzzle, and he sleeps twice the hours in the day that he used to do; it’s safe to say that your dog is definitely entering his golden years. Although our canine companions still have the same enthusiasm for life, there comes a point in every dog’s life when their body says ‘not now’ when they want to chase that ball or sprint after a squirrel. It’s pretty common for our dog’s joints to develop arthritic changes as they age, and along with a trend towards muscle wasting as they become less active, many dog lovers notice that their pooches lose a significant amount of mobility and flexibility too.
Because our dogs can’t actually tell us how they’re feeling, their behavior speaks for them. Pain may be obviously apparent; maybe it hurts to bend down to the floor to their bowl, so your dog doesn’t eat as much. Your dog may show more subtle signs of pain too, though – they might suddenly hate walking on your hardwood floor, for the simple reason that their reduced balance and muscle strength makes navigating that slippery surface scary!
Don’t assume that it’s all downhill from here, though; there are lots of ways to help maintain and improve your dog’s ability to get around! Although pain control for conditions like arthritis is an important solution (and one to discuss with your vet), let’s talk about some other options that can help your older dog get back on their feet and feeling good again.
- Activity: Old dogs need to be less active, right? Think again! Although it seems counter intuitive, regular exercise is really important for our older pups. Your couch potato pup is at risk of losing muscle mass and joint flexibility far faster than a more active mutt, which is why daily, low impact exercise like walking or swimming are perfect ways to keep those paws moving.
- Massage: A relaxing massage feels just as nice to your dog as it will for you; besides that perk, massage also relieves pain and tension and increases blood flow to damaged tissue, speeding healing.
- Chiropractic: Don’t laugh – canine chiropractic care is here to stay! Adjustments made to your dog’s spine and joints by a certified practitioner improve your pup’s posture and increase mobility.
- Laser Therapy: One of the biggest hindrances to movement for older dogs is pain; laser therapy increases blood flow to sore areas, reducing pain and inflammation and repairing damage to cells.
- Rehabilitation: We might think of a dog pacing a treadmill in a tub when we hear the words physical therapy, but canine rehab doesn’t just involve water play– it can also include balance, core strength, and proprioception (balance) exercises to help older dogs find their feet again.
- Acupuncture: Using small needles to stimulate circulation, acupuncture helps to tone down pain and inflammation for some dogs.
As well as getting professional help, as your dog’s owner, you’re the best person to give your dog a helping paw up, simply by making a few small changes at home. Cushy beds, ramps to make climbing less painful, easier access for potty trips make a big difference, for example. If you’re not a fan of carpet, then using temporary, non-slip mats around your dog’s beds, food bowls, and main exits will help prevent falls and assist him with grip as he gets up; foot covers like thin rubber Pawz do the job too.
It’s true that your dog’s changing abilities will affect how you live with them, but keeping your pooch active and involved in life is the best way to keep them happy as they get older – which is definitely something to bark about!
I started newdogowners.com for one simple reason, to help prepare new dog owners for owning a new puppy. My goal is to help stop the passing around of dogs. The forever home, should be a dog's first home.
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