Accommodating an Old Dog

By Suzanne Alicie

I wrote an article a short time ago about living with an older dog. Our Bear is definitely showing her age, and many times her irritability makes it hard to do anything that helps her feel better. If you have an older dog, you may want to start making some changes around your home that will make life easier for them. I like to think of it like dealing with an elderly person who doesn’t want to admit there are things bothering them. Changes are made gradually and are designed to give them a choice without any attention drawn to the easier choices when they begin making them.

While your dog may have always flopped down for a nap wherever he felt like it, you can make it more comfy by placing therapeutic “egg carton foam mattress” dog beds in their favorite places. Bear has a hidey hole in the bathroom where she likes to lay away from the hustle and bustle of the house. She also has her spot next to our bed when she’s too stiff to go underneath it, and a spot beside the couch where she lays when she’s feeling sociable. Her cushioned beds in those places are new additions that make her favorite napping spots more comfortable, easier on her joints and warmer.

If your dog has trouble with the stairs, there are a few things you can do. Non-slip mats on the stairs will help your dog balance out unsteady steps without fear of slipping and falling. Moving food and water to a place where your dog spends most of her time can help cut down on the trips up and down the stairs. We have a terrible set of spiral stairs that are difficult for humans to navigate. Bear has always flown up and down them much faster than me, but now she tends to stumble and stops midway to rest. I worry constantly about her falling down the steps. My better half has declared that when Bear is unable to manage the steps he will build her a slide. My job is to make sure that does not happen – I don’t want her sliding to the basement, so I am making it more comfortable for her on the main level of the house. If everything she needs is upstairs, she won’t need to go down the steps.

Many older dogs seek the comfort of their people’s beds but are stiff and sore, making it difficult for them to jump up there. A small set of doggie steps can make it easier for your older dog to get up on the bed or sofa.

Your dog may experience a more sensitive digestive system as they age, or their teeth may make it difficult for them to chew hard foods. CANIDAE Life Stages natural dog food is easy to digest and comes in wet or dry formulas to make feeding your older dog easier. The Platinum formula was created specifically with senior dogs in mind. It’s great for older dogs that need an energy boost and relief from joint pain.

Just as the weather can affect how we feel, older dogs really feel the cold and it can make their joints stiff and painful. When you walk your older dog on cold days, make sure to put a doggie coat on them and have a nice cozy place for them to rest afterwards.

Bathing and grooming can become difficult as your dog gets older. You may have to lift the dog into the tub and will have to be very careful that she doesn’t slip and slide because this may damage her hips and can cause pain. Handle your aging dog gently and when she is irritable about having her nails clipped or fur trimmed from around her pads, consider waiting until she is in a better mood. We’ve had some battles over pedicure time with Bear, but brushing seems to be calming and make her feel wonderful. She will sit in front of me for as long as I feel like brushing.

Part of being a responsible pet owner is understanding that your dog will age and change just as you and your children do. Making accommodations to ease the pain and discomfort of aging and physical ailments is part of having a dog in your family. When your dog gets too old to jump and run easily, you will have to adapt the time you spend with her to be less playful and more comforting.

Top photo by normanack
Bottom photo by Mr. T in DC

Read more articles by Suzanne Alicie

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