Just ask any senior dog and they’ll tell you they make wonderful pets. They’re loving companions – content to curl up at your feet for a nap or take a leisurely stroll around the block. And they have fewer of the high-energy problem behaviors of younger pups. They won’t bounce around demanding attention like in their youth, but they still want you to know they have specific age-related needs. Here are some easy ways to keep your senior dog happy and repay all their years of friendship
Provide Appropriate Exercise
If you were to give older dogs a choice, they would likely skip jogging marathons and mountain hikes. But increasing age doesn’t have to mean decreasing activity. Senior dogs still want to play games, get exercise, and go out to sniff the world every day. Even if they need a little encouragement, it’s important to keep up their strength and muscle tone. Stiff joints need all the support they can get.
The trick is moderation. Your senior dog would like you to keep them limber, prevent weight gain, encourage their appetite, and maintain fitness all while being aware of their limitations. Find the right activity for your senior dog. Consider slower strolls, low impact activities like swimming, age-appropriate canine calisthenics like platform work, or gentle games of fetch or hide-and-seek.
Keep Your Dog’s Mind Sharp
Senior dogs can suffer from age-related cognitive decline, including cognitive dysfunction syndrome, which is all the more reason to provide lots of enrichment opportunities. In fact, mental stimulation is a surefire way to prevent boredom, encourage engagement with you and the environment, and keep your dog happy.
Thankfully, many types of physical exercise provide mental exercise as well. For example, most senior dogs love sniff walks where you let them explore at their own pace and track every scent. They also love puzzle toys that challenge them to solve a problem to obtain a toy or treat. And what dog isn’t yearning for a snuffle mat? Trick training is fun enrichment too.
Make Your Home Accessible
Senior dogs want you to know it can be hard for them to navigate their environment. Mobility issues like arthritis, stiff joints, or other painful conditions mean the things they once did with ease, like jumping into the back of the car, are challenging now. Stairways and slippery surfaces, like hardwood floors, can be particularly tricky. The struggle can even erode your dog’s confidence.
Your older dog would truly appreciate it if you made your home more accessible for them. What about adding carpets for better grip? Or providing traction with a yoga mat or anti-slip rug pad on slippery floors or in front of food and water dishes. Pet stairs will help your dog get on and off furniture safely, and a ramp is wonderful for getting in and out of the car.
Provide the Right Dog Bed
Unlike in their younger days, older dogs can’t get comfy curled up on the floor. Hard surfaces are unforgiving, and the couch might be too far of a jump. Your senior dog would love it if you provided thick, high-quality dog beds around the house. Then they can snooze in comfort and get some restorative sleep while staying nearby.
If your dog has joint issues like arthritis, consider an orthopedic bed or one made of memory foam for joint support. Or what about a heated bed or a heating pad on top of the bed? They’re great for soothing stiffness and aches. Dogs who feel the cold love them too.
Watch Out for Weather Extremes
Speaking of feeling the cold, senior dogs can’t tolerate the same temperatures as younger dogs. They want you to know their bodies are more sensitive to hot and cold conditions, so they would love it if you would help them stay comfortable. That could mean a coat or sweater in the winter, even inside the house. And for the summer, consider air conditioning or a fan indoors, and provide constant access to shade and cool, fresh drinking water outdoors. No matter the season, watch how long you spend outside with your dog on days with extreme weather.
Adjust Your Dog’s Diet
Senior dogs have different nutritional requirements than other life stages. For example, older dogs are less active so need fewer calories. Overfeeding leads to obesity which burdens aging joints and can lead to other health concerns. Your senior pet might benefit from easier-to-digest ingredients as well. Or consider switching to wet food. The higher water content is good for the kidneys and its softer texture is easier on aging teeth. Medical conditions can also impact diet choice and the use of supplements like fish oil for joint inflammation. Talk to your veterinarian about the best nutrition options for your dog.
Provide Extra Grooming Sessions
Senior dogs want you to know they would appreciate a bit of extra grooming. As they stiffen with age, it can be hard for them to reach every area of their body, so help prevent matting with regular brushing and hair cuts. Don’t forget about increasing the frequency of nail trims too. As your senior dog is likely less active, their nails won’t naturally wear down the same.
Grooming sessions are also the perfect time to examine your dog for any health changes like lumps or bumps which become more common with age. These could simply be fat deposits, but they may also be cancer, so it’s important to catch them as soon as possible. And finally, grooming is wonderful bonding time. Keep grooming positive and pleasant and your senior dog will soak up the pampering. After all, every dog adores love and attention, especially seniors.