Eight ways to prepare your aging dog for their later years

Aging in dogs is inevitable. Yet the senior years can still sneak up on us and leave us searching for answers on how to cope with our aging dog. It is smart to take a proactive approach instead of a reactive one when caring for our dogs.

As a caring pet parent, the best thing we can do is recognize and address aging and learn how to make an old dog comfortable. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of eight things to consider when preparing your dog for its later years.

1. Make sure your senior dog gets plenty of exercise

A dog that is old in body is not necessarily old in spirit! Some aging dogs still have a spirited playfulness and need opportunities for exercise to maintain their body and mind, particularly their mental well-being. While older pets might not run and play as long or with the same endurance as they did when younger, their bodies still benefit from activity in shorter duration and lower intensity. Movement in a dog’s older years is paramount to keeping the body agile and flexible, lessening stiffness and joint pain.  A short walk with lots of interesting things to sniff keeps their mind bright too.

2. Be mindful of mobility impairment and increase your home’s accessibility

Floors  

Take notice of whether your dog is showing a preference for certain types of flooring. While a puppy will roll and slip and slide all day long, a slip and fall for a senior dog may result in a debilitating injury. Arthritic dogs often avoid uncarpeted floors to avoid the risks of the smoother surface.  If you notice your dog avoids uncarpeted areas, try placing a non-skid rug or yoga mat and see if your dog will again enter the room.

Stairs and cars 

Another mobility clue is your dog is wary of climbing stairs or getting in and out of the car. Do you notice a bunny hop instead of a fluid motion of each leg? If your dog enjoyed car rides before and is now reticent, it may be time for a portable ramp. Ramps can also make once-avoided stairs or elevated areas accessible again.

Aging in dogs presents itself in many ways. Old dog behavior such as showing signs of anxiety can sneak up on the pet parent and leave them searching for options.  Leap Years helps to lessen anxiety in older dogs. The information below, was provided by Heather Oxford DVM, MPH, CVA, CCRT.

3. Provide quality beds and more spots to relax and rest

If you have wondered, “why does my dog sleep so much?” One reason may be the quality of sleep they are getting. As your dog ages, it is important to assess the sleeping surfaces, and it may be time to provide a better bed. A young pup will sleep pretty much anywhere on any surface, sprawled out and enjoying those Z’s. However, an older dog will begin to experience stiffness when sleeping and benefit from a thicker, plush bed that gives joint support when their body aches.

A quality place to lay down will boost their comfort and hopefully result in more restorative sleep and more activity during the daytime. Also, consider placing multiple beds throughout your home at key locations, not just at your dog’s nighttime spot. Having numerous quality bedding surfaces will allow your dog to get restful sleep, at all different times throughout the day.

4. Watch for changes in vision, hearing, coat and skin

Vision 

It is common for geriatric dogs to experience some vision loss. Dogs’ eyesight can deteriorate slowly over time or more rapidly with certain diseases or conditions. However, with a few simple strategies, pet parents can help their dogs cope with vision changes and thrive in their environments. For starters, place night lights along stairs, around food and water bowls, and near entrances. Decreased vision in low light situations often results in a hesitation to climb stairs, play fetch or walk around obstacles. If other pets are in the household, consider affixing bells to their collars that will alert the dog with reduced vision where they are approaching. These simple strategies provide accessibility for dogs with waning vision.

Hearing

Age-related hearing loss is common in canines. The mid to high frequencies are affected first, then a loss of all frequencies. As a pet parent, you’ll notice that vision and scent become paramount for daily function when hearing declines; make sure your dog can take visual cues of day-to-day activities like where the food and water bowl are located. For the senior dog who has vision and hearing loss, it is most important to set up a living area that ensures they can use multiple senses to meet their needs.

Coat and Skin

You may note your dog’s coat looking dull or the skin appearing dry and flaky as they age; their skin’s natural oil production decreases with age. To keep your dog’s coat soft, shiny, and skin healthy, regularly brush to stimulate oils and add a fatty acid supplement to their diet to replenish a dry coat. As a dog’s skin ages, it loses elasticity, increasing susceptibility to infections. Continue good grooming practices, do a lump and bump check when you groom your dog and consult your veterinarian if you find any growths, bumps or compromised skin areas.

5. Maintain a healthy weight

You may notice weight gain or loss with age. A dog’s metabolism begins to slow, weight accumulation may be expected. However, several medical conditions in old dogs such as thyroid or adrenal disease may also cause weight gain. Weight loss may represent under feeding or another underlying medical condition. It’s important to understand your specific dog’s nutritional and caloric needs. If you notice changes in your dog’s appetite or weight, speak to your veterinarian for a nutritional consultation and thorough physical examination.

6. Be mindful of temperature preferences

As dogs age, their ability to regulate their temperature declines and they become more sensitive to hot or cold weather. More than likely, aging dogs will eventually need assistance to maintain a comfortable temperature. The goal for pet parents is simple: keep dogs cool in the summer and warm in the winter. For the warmer months, use fans and air conditioning, and monitor outdoor activity. (Read our recent blog on heat related challenges for older dogs). During the winter months, use added blankets or even a coat for extra frigid days.

7. Increase the frequency of veterinary care 

It is a good idea to schedule two wellness visits per year with your veterinarian after your dog reaches half its expected age. Veterinary care benefits pet parents when coping with an aging dog, particularly by preventing chronic diseases of aging.  A veterinarian can tell you if your dog is dealing with an old dog syndrome and what strategies to take with your care plan. They may recommend supplements to address issues associated with aging.

8. Consider adding supplements, like Leap Years®, to your dog’s daily regimen

Leap Years® is a chewable supplement system that works throughout the body at the cellular level in two ways: to restore cellular health by boosting NAD+ production and to clean out damaged cells to make room for new, healthy cells.

While many pet parents turn to Leap Years® for their senior dogs, it is also an ideal supplement for middle-aged dogs. Research shows it is around half of a dog’s predicted lifespan that NAD+ levels begin declining. For example, if a specific dog breed lives twelve years on average, it would be the right time to start the chews at six years of age.

Incorporate Leap Years® soft chews into your dog’s daily regimen to boost NAD+ and promote increased vitality and engagement. Try Leap Years® today and see the benefits for yourself.

 

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