Helping your senior dog age gracefully ~ By Jaime Thrift


Jaime and her senior dog, Sara

Jaime and her senior dog, Sara

A dog is considered a senior at seven years old. You’ve most likely known your dog for all seven of those years and you know each other so well you can anticipate each other’s needs. Senior dogs are incredibly special, seasoned companions but living with a senior dog can be a day to day challenge for both you and your dog.

Over time senior dogs can lose their ability to “hold it” for long periods, become less mobile, move slower and it can be harder to get their attention (in my house we call it doing things in “Sara time”). Sometimes these changes are very subtle and other times they come on seemingly overnight. There are several things you can do to help your senior pet age gracefully and make the transition easier for you as well.

Keeping senior pets moving is important. Take your dog for a walk, but only as much as he can do or is willing to do. If walking or using stairs is a challenge talk to your vet about ways to keep your senior moving. I have found that consistent exercise is just as important as the level of difficulty or length of the exercise. You and your senior should enjoy the exercise, otherwise it’s just another task and both of you will dread it. Here at AMC we have doggie daycare which is a wonderful way for your dog to stay active both physically and mentally.

There are several options for dealing with a slow moving senior, most of the time they’re moving slowly because they’re uncomfortable. Arthritic joints and being overweight are two reasons your senior dog could be moving slower. Some options you can discuss with your vet include glucosamine and chondroitin supplements, fish oil supplements, physical therapy and cold laser therapy. These options are usually the easiest for most pet owners and dogs. I have found cold laser therapy to be a very simple and inexpensive way to make my Sara feel better. She enjoys the treatment and it’s non-invasive, two things that are a must for a nervous hound dog. For seniors who are having a lot of difficulty getting around there are prescription non-steroidal-anti-inflammatory (NSAIDs) drugs that can also help. These drugs require regular blood work to make sure your senior is healthy enough to start and continue to take.

The most important thing to remember about life with a senior dog is it requires patience and a good relationship with your vet. The rewards you get from your wonderfully mature dog will be priceless!!