How could you make life better for your senior dog?
Like it or not, we can't cheat time, which means our canine companions age all too quickly. Before we know it, the years have passed and that once mischievous pup has changed into a dignified senior.
When we get a puppy, their needs are obvious. We think nothing of getting a crate, dog bed, toys, bowls, and all the other paraphernalia that comes with a new dog in the house. However, with the passing of the years somehow we become less focussed on the needs of this later lifestage.
Let's redress this now by looking at those essential supplies which could make your senior's life that little bit easier.
#1: Comfortable Canine
The older dog spends more time asleep or resting. They are also prone to arthritis and liable to have stiff joints that seize up with inactivity. Believe it or not, you can make a big difference to their quality of life by making changes to their bed.
Orthopedic mattress: There's a buzz about memory foam dog mattresses at the moment. The reason being, it's efficient at spreading the dog's weight and cushioning sore joints. This means improved comfort and quality of sleep. These mattresses are expensive but consider it an investment that could ease discomfort without drugs.
Heat mats: On a similar theme, arthritic joints do better when kept warm. Look for a pet-safe heat mat that your dog can rest on in cold weather. Alternatively, an inexpensive alternative is to purchase a microwaveable heat pack which you can rest on the stiffest joints to give them some ease.
Vetbed rugs: If your dog 'crashes' in a favorite spot and sleeps there, then consider some Vetbed rugs. These are a type of synthetic sheepskin, which cushion the body, hold heat round the joints, and wick away moisture (such as if your dog leaks in their sleep.) They are much better than sleeping on a hard floor, and your dog will thank you for it.
#2: Access All Areas
That stiff senior isn't as nimble on their paws any more. Take a look at your dog's daily life from their viewpoint and troubleshoot areas where access is a struggle, such as those steep steps to get to their toilet spot.
Here are some suggestions to help:
Ramps: A lightweight folding ramp is invaluable in the trunk of the car. This allows the large dog to get in and out with dignity and is kinder to their joints. Don't forget to look for other spots where a ramp could be helpful, such as a high front step or steep terracing in the yard.
Non-slip flooring: Laminate flooring is the senior dog equivalent of a skating rink. Give their paws some purchase by laying down runners with a grippy surface to help their footing.
Mobility aids: Believe it or not, there are mobility aids for dogs! These range from easy-to-use slings to support a dog with a weak back end, to doggy pushcarts for the dog who enjoys fresh air but struggles to walk.
#3: Thoughtful Touches
Consider any disabilities your senior dog may have. For example, how is their hearing and their vision? Take a look at these suggestions which could make the world a less confusing place for the older fur friend.
Wind chime: OK, this may sound bizarre, but how about hanging a wind chime by the back door? This gives the dog with failing vision, a sound marker to head for after they've finished toileting.
Night lights: Likewise, providing a low light at night can reassure the older dog who doesn't see so well.
Raised food bowls: Consider a raised feeding station, which makes it easier and more comfortable for a stiff dog to eat and drink
A Dog's Eye-View
It's good to take a step back and see things afresh….just like when you got that new puppy all those years ago. Consider how and where your older dog may struggle and put provision in place to make life that little bit easier.
This might mean sourcing some essential supplies such as a memory foam mattress or a raised feeding station. These are every bit as important to the senior as buying all those toys was to a pup, it's just that sometimes these essential are less obvious.