Easing into the Golden Years: Although we can’t stop time slipping away, there are several things we can do to help our furry family members age a bit more like Betty White than Keith Richards.
Determining when your dog is ready for her AARP card depends to some extent on her size. Larger dogs tend to have shorter life spans than smaller ones, so a Newfoundland would be considered a senior around age 7, where as a Chihuahua wouldn’t reach golden status until closer to age 10.
As she gets older, moving to twice per year wellness checks can help keep your dog active, comfortable and healthy as possible. Discuss having a full blood work panel performed. Not only can it provide an early warning to potential problems now, but it will serve as a baseline for the years to come. Your vet can compare future blood work against it, making changes easier to spot and address early.
There are a variety of holistic treatments, vitamins, and herbal remedies, as well as prescription medications that can address some of the challenges aging throws our way, such as arthritis. Besides downward dog pose, dogs are rarely good at yoga however they may benefit from other options we use such as massage, acupuncture or physical therapy. Always work with a veterinarian or certified Canine Rehabilitation Therapist when utilizing supplements, medications, or treatments.
Additional options to help with mobility and fall prevention are non-slip treads on stairs, orthopedic beds, and stairs or ramps to get on/off furniture or in/out of vehicles.
Quality food and treats, exercise, and mental stimulation are still important in the golden years, but just like us, dogs’ abilities and needs change as they get older. You may need to switch or cut back on food, feed smaller portions more frequently, change the intensity, type, or duration of exercise. Daily exercise keeps both us and our dogs mentally engaged as well as physically active, however she may need to adjust the 5-mile run you always took with her down to a 3-mile walk.
Being able to communicate with your dog is important at any age. When I am instructing my students, I teach both hand signals and voice commands. This is due in part to how dogs learn, but it can also be beneficial later in life. Should your dog lose one sense, such as hearing, you still have the ability to communicate her via hand signals.
Even though becoming a senior doesn’t get your dog great perks like free coffee at McDonald’s or early bird dinner specials at the local diner, she can still enjoy an active and comfortable life throughout her golden years.
Canine behavior coach, behavior advisor, training counselor.