Comfort and Safety for our Seniors
Just like children, our furry four legged friends grow up far too quickly and, before we know it, or actually realize it, they have become seniors.
Changes in our pups happen slowly over the months and years and we often don’t notice the subtle changes until one day our fur baby can’t seem to make that jump into the car or onto his favourite spot on the couch. That’s when we get an eye opener and start thinking about age.
While some dog breeds, especially small breed dogs, have a longer life span, most vets would consider your pup a “senior” at about age 7 or 8. Once your pup gets past the age of 10 or 11, he is considered “geriatric”.
If your fur baby fits into this category, it’s time to start making some modifications to your home and to your daily schedule of exercise and feeding.
As our pups age, mobility is generally the first issue to deal with. If you have hardwood floors in your home or slippery vinyl or stone floors, you may need to add a non-slip rug or a runner so your pup can easily get around and get up from a sleeping position without sliding and splaying their legs on the floor.
If you have wood stairs, you may want to get some carpet pieces to secure to each step so your pup can easily go up and down the stairs without fear of slipping and falling. You may also want to put a non-slip rug at the bottom of the staircase to help your pup to land safely without slipping.
On the other hand, if your pup tends to be losing his eyesight or has other mobility or balance issues, you may want to consider installing baby gates across the door thresholds, or tops and bottoms of staircases, to prevent your pup from accidently tumbling down the steps.
Often our pups are used to jumping up on a sofa or chair to relax in a sunny spot and look out a window. If this is or has become an issue for your aging pup, you need to offer him a “boost” by setting up a small ramp or doggy stairs, or even a toddler’s step stool so he can get up and down easily and safely. It may take a couple of days to teach your pup to use these things, but most pups will adapt very quickly.
As our pets age, they often get muscle stiffness, joint pains or arthritis, and can have difficulty getting up and down or standing for long periods of time. When this is the case, your pup will be more comfortable in an orthopedic bed, or a soft cushiony dog bed or even a used crib mattress.
You should also consider getting your pup a raised water and food bowl or those that are angled toward your pup which is beneficial for those with neck and back pain. Also, be sure to add additional water bowls in your pup’s favourite spots in the home so he always has access to water without having to travel as far to get it.
Other things that you may notice changing in your aging pet is that he is less enthusiastic to get out for a walk. If this is the case, you may want to start taking shorter strolls, not trying to go at a fast clip, and making the walk as enjoyable as possible for your pup. If you find your walks are getting shorter, start spending more time in the yard or in the home playing games to exercise your pup’s mind.
As the need or ability for physical activity decreases in your pet, you also need to compensate by feeding your pup smaller portions of food or offering some fruit, such as apple pieces or blueberries, or pieces of red or yellow peppers as a snack in place of a dog treat. This will help your pup to keep his weight down and, in turn, will help with joint issues.
As your senior pup continues to enjoy life, be sure to take care of yourself as well. As time goes by your pup will need more and more extra support and constantly lifting or carrying him can take a toll on you as his caregiver. You can purchase support and mobility harnesses with a handle which will allow your fur baby to be a little more active and help you not to injure your back. There is also available a product called the “Help’Em Up Harness” which is a lifting aid designed for all day wear, and the “GingerLead Dog Sling”, which is a support for the hind end of your pup used for walks and in helping him to get up and down stairs.
In addition to all the comforts we can provide and the physical assistance we can offer, older pups need a lot more of our love, patience and understanding, and this in turn generally means more money.
So before the love of your life gets to that stage, be financially, physically and emotionally prepared to be a caregiver, providing and administering any required medications, taking very slow walks, and cleaning up several accidents each day. The better prepared you are, the better you can avoid burnout, and the more you will enjoy the months and years with your grey or white faced senior pup.