As our pets age they need special care, perhaps a special diet and they definitely need a place on which to lie their aching bones to help them get restorative sleep without adding undue pain to their joints. We know that out big dogs tend to hide their pain — it’s a survival instinct because if they were in the wild, showing any sign of weakness could mean he or she could be attacked by a rival. It’s up to us, as pet parents, to take note of whether our big dog is limping or if it looks as though he is struggling to get up and down the stairs or even whether getting up or lying down appear to be causing him pain. Here are five ways you can care for your aging dog.
Check his diet.
Offer your dog nutritious foods and talk with your veterinarian about a joint supplement and whether he would benefit from it. If your dog is obese, or even a little overweight, it could negatively impact his ability to move without pain. A healthy weight for your dog can go a long way in improving her overall quality of life. Ask your veterinarian if you aren’t certain whether your dog is overweight and for tips on helping her get to a healthy weight.
Cut back on exercise.
While you don’t want to completely cut out exercise with your pet, if he or she is showing signs of joint aches and pains, you may want to scale back the running, Frisbee chasing and jumping off the dock into the water. Just as we may not run as many miles a day as we once did, we still need to exercise, but maybe not as much or by running as far.
Annual vet checks are crucial.
Responsible pet parents take their pets in for vaccinations and for care when they appear sick or injured, but you will want to get in the habit of taking your big dog to an annual check-up even if he appears healthy. As your pet ages, your vet will likely recommend blood tests to check for liver, kidney and heart functionality and to assure that your pet is as healthy as she can be. If you haven’t seen your vet other than for vaccinations, schedule a “well dog check-up” today.
Look for changes in your pet’s behavior.
Has your Great Dane become a “grumpy old man?” Do you notice your Mastiff being a bit snippy with the cats or other dogs in the house? It could be a sign of aging. Your senior dogs simply may not want to be bothered by the more rambunctious pets in the house, but it could be a sign of a change in his or her emotional and mental state. Ask your vet if you have concerns that your dog is “just not himself lately.”
Rehabilitation and pre-habilitation are becoming the norm in pet care.
Don’t wait until your pet has suffered an injury and is relegated to bed rest or needs surgery or physical therapy. If you notice your dog slowing down, look for exercises that are heart healthy, but that don’t put undue stress on her aching joints — consider swimming as a viable option. Walk on softer surfaces, like the ground and grass rather than running on sidewalks. Take slower walks. Offer him a comfortable place on which to sleep at night or during daytime naptimes. When you consider how great a good mattress feels when you go to sleep at night you can imagine how nice that would be for your pet as compared to the hard linoleum floor! One of the quickest and easiest ways you can help your pet relieve joint pain is by offering him or her a quality bed. Medications will assist, but they will not offer immediate relief.
Do you have any tips for caring for a senior dog? We would love to hear them! Download our Canine Arthritis Guide.