Toby, Deb Hipp’s 11-year-old Lab-Chow mix was protective, feisty, and fun-loving… until he wasn’t. Curious about the comparison, Hipp looked up Toby’s age in human years when he turned 16. Turs out he was the equivalent of a 120-year-old man! At this point, the dog struggled to stand, suffered digestive issues, and needed as much attention as any aging family member.
“We all age differently, and it’s the same thing with dogs,” claims Connie Schulte, a certified rehabilitation practitioner and doctor of physical therapy at Blue Pearl Veterinary Specialty & Emergency Center in Missouri and Kansas. She has seen 12 year old dogs that show signs of aging and she has seen spunky 12 year old dogs showing not a hint of getting older (nextavenue).
Even if your dog isn’t a 120-year-old man just yet, here are some ways to enhance your aging dog’s quality of life:
1. Watch for signs
Have you noticed a change in confidence? Is your dog a little hesitant when it comes time to go up or down stairs? Is he or she fearful to go outside at night? This may be due to a degeneration of vision. Similarly to humans, dogs’ eyes change with age. Their lenses thicken and the potential of developing cataracts becomes a reality (theoaklandpress). Tip #1: turn on the outside light!
Maybe Zeke doesn’t run towards the door anymore when he senses a visitor. This could be a sign of some hearing loss, which is expected as dogs grow older (again, similar to humans). The best thing to do is make your presence known so not to scare Zeke. When approaching, make a sound loud enough for him to know you’re there. Tapping the floor is another option, allowing Zeke to feel the vibration of your presence (theoaklandpress).
2. Keep your dog active
From the time Sadie was a pup, you probably made sure you had time to get her to the park, giving her space to roam free and chase frisbees. What with all that energy, it was an obligation. But now, Sadie might be slowing down a bit, just plopping down to the floor from a standing position. As mobility and muscles weaken, it’s best to keep Sadie active to strengthen muscles she uses to sit with ease. Even brief spurts of activity can improve dogs’ ability to get up and down, so every bit helps.
3. Watch the weight
Another reason to keep your dog active is for weight purposes. “Weight on the joints can contribute to arthritis, and it makes it harder for dogs to get up because they have more weight to lift,” says Schulte. She recommends keeping your dog fit to lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and other obesity-related illnesses. If you are able to feel the ribs with your fingertips but are unable to see them, then your dog is probably the proper weight (nextavenue).
4. Support Mobility
Going hand-in-hand with #2, to promote range-of-motion, moving your dog’s legs can keep joint fluid from becoming sticky and make movement more comfortable. Here’s how you do it: gently extend, don’t pull, each leg five times while he or she lies on their side. Then turn them over and work the other side. If you need some assistance, there is an array of instructional videos to watch on Youtube that will help guide you through exercises and rubs (theoaklandpress). Who WOULDN’T like a massage?!
5. Enhance nutrition
The supplement route for pets has been an increasingly popular one to follow. Dogs can benefit from dietary supplements, just as we do! Older dogs could especially use the extra boost when it comes to joint health. Glucosamine, turmeric, omega-3s—these are all great options of supplements to help with, respectively, mobility, inflammation, and canine arthritis (theoaklandpress). If you are already in the business of making supplement products for humans, why not extend that business to pet products? We at Makers Nutrition fully support you. We support you SO much that we already have pet supplement formulas for you to name your own! Check it out: https://www.makersnutrition.com/stock-pet-supplements/. Our minimum order quantity is comparable to competition, our customer service is outstanding, and our quality is top notch… something to think about!
6. Keep up the happy
Even if Luna can’t move as fast as she used to, playing hide and seek, hiding treats in bowls around the house, and rolling a ball around are fun ways to both keep her moving and let her know you care.
Providing the best
Look, no one wants to see their old companions go, but why not make their life as comfortable as possible in their remaining years. They’ve always been there for us, the least we can do is love them as best we can. After all, they are our family.