Elderly Dogs - Tips for Quality of Life
Posted by Scott Jones on Jul 16th 2020
As our dogs get older their needs both change and increase. Sadly the older they get the more this becomes the case.
The older your dog is, the more likely they are to need increased levels of care and attention around certain health and mobility issues.
By putting some thought and effort into meeting these needs we can make sure our pets have a high quality of life as they progress into old age.
So in this blog post I have listed five tips for improving the quality of life for your elderly dog.
Hopefully you will come away from this post with some ideas to help your dog live their best life.
1. Regular Gentle Exercise is Still Important
2. Make Sure They Sleep on a Really Good Dog Bed
3. Nutrition is More Important as Your Dog Ages
4. Heat and Hydrotherapy Work Wonders on Stiff Joints
5. Love and Cuddles Make All the Difference
Regular Gentle Exercise is Still Important
Some dog owners think that as their dog reaches old age, exercise becomes less important but this is totally wrong.
It is still vital for your dog’s physical and emotional well being that they get out for some exercise and mental stimulation.
Most dogs lose some mobility due to the natural ageing process but as my vet always says to me “motion is lotion”.
What she means by this is, that keeping the dog’s joints moving fights back against the loss of mobility
Also the mental benefits for your dog of being outside, the sights, smells, sounds and other sensations are so important for keeping them alert and emotionally nourished.
The basic rule of thumb for old dogs is that shorter more frequent periods of exercise are better than longer ones and that you should let the dog set the pace.
Always bring them in before they get too tired and remember that mental stimulation is just as important as the physical parts of their walks so let them enjoy a good sniff around.
Make Sure They Sleep on a Really Good Dog Bed
The older your dog gets the more aches and pains they will pick up (you might be able to identify with this, I know I do!).
So they both need and deserve a good quality orthopedic dog bed to ensure they are comfortable when they are sleeping.
An orthopedic dog bed is a bed that has been built to give your dog’s bodyweight complete support.
All of your dog’s body should be well up off the floor, fully supported with no hard, uncomfortable pressure points (think about when you lie on a good quality mattress and you will get the idea).
Sadly there are two ways in which some manufacturers let down dog owners with the “orthopedic” beds they sell.
1. Many dog beds that claim to offer orthopedic support do no such thing. They just sell a normal dog bed and throw in the term “orthopedic” to sell more beds!
2. Lower quality orthopedic beds will start off offering good quality support but very quickly will lose their firmness and your dog will soon be sleeping on a worn out, thin, uncomfortable bed.
My advice to avoid this is to do your research carefully, keep an eye out for customer reviews, products descriptions and manufacturing details.
If you spend a couple of hours reading and researching you will stand a much better chance of buying a bed that will actually give your dog longer lasting orthopedic support.
Note – As well as making sure that your dog’s bed can support them comfortably, it is well worth finding one that is easy to clean.
Most dogs lose some bladder control in old age and leakages most often happen when they are asleep.
So a dog bed with either waterproof or removable, machine washable covers can be really helpful when dealing with their incontinence.
Nutrition is More Important as Your Dog Ages
Older dogs have less overall caloric requirements than when they are younger.
So it would seem obvious to assume that you would need to use a less calorie dense food.
If you dog is overweight this can be the case, however many dogs can lose their appetite as they age, this means that you might need to give them a more calorie dense food so they don’t get too skinny.
If you are not sure about this you speak to your vet, but in the meantime this article has some useful advice.
As well as making sure your dog’s overall caloric needs are met you can also make sure they get some of the most important nutrients for joint health to help keep them more mobile for longer.
The two main supplements I always recommend are Omega-3 oils (found in fish oil) and a combined glucosamine chondroitin product.
You can buy tasty treats that contain these supplements, making it really easy to make sure your dog is getting the nutrition they require.
Heat and Hydrotherapy Work Wonders on Stiff Joints
Heat therapy and hydrotherapy can be effective methods of increasing existing levels of joint mobility and also maintaining mobility as your dog ages.
Both work on the same core principle that to keep your dog’s joints mobile they need to keep moving.
Think of it like an old iron gate, if you leave it in one position it will eventually seize up but if you keep it moving it might creak and groan but at least it will still work!
Don’t forget what my awesome vet loves to say “lotion is motion”.
Heat therapy works by applying heat to the muscles around the joints, this heat relaxes the muscles, which reduces discomfort and increases mobility.
The easiest and cheapest way to do this is to buy a heat mat for dogs, make sure you get a good quality one, with a chew proof power cord and overheating protection.
Then just lay it in the dog’s bed or on the floor and let them figure it out, most dogs will naturally take to it without the need for any encouragement (they like the heat on their joints even if they don’t know why it is good for them).
Canine hydrotherapy uses heat to relax a dog's joints but it is also a form of physical therapy.
The warm water supports your dog’s body weight and this means it is easier and less painful for them to move.
So their muscles relax in the warmth, they are supported by the water and can then more easily move and do exercises to build up strength and mobility.
You will have to go to a specialist centre for this option, it can be expensive, if you have pet medical insurance they might cover it.
If not you can keep an eye out for coupons, some centres will offer discounts at quieter times of the day.
Love and Cuddles Make All the Difference
As a loving dog owner, you will instinctively know this is true but it is always worth thinking about.
Dogs give us unconditional love and we love them back, it is a truly beautiful thing.
As your dog gets older, less energetic, less mobile, less excitable one of the most important things you can do is give them even more love.
More strokes, more cuddles, more attention, more love.
A final note – I am not a qualified vet, if you have any serious concerns over your dog’s health please take them to your local vet as soon as you can.
If you are short of money and can’t afford veterinary care you can find some advice and support here.
That’s it for this post, thanks for reading. I hope you and your lovely old doggo have a very long and happy life together.
Scott Jones is the owner, blogger and chief dog lover at PupsterPasstion.com.
He has cared for and loved dogs for 40 years since he was a very young boy and now spends his days trying to help other dog owners better care for their beloved.