We all grow old; however, it’s not until we see Tippy stumble going up the stairs or the wet spot on Sadie’s bed that we realize that our canine pals are no longer puppies. Sadly, most of us dog parents will live to see our dogs depart this world before we do (as Agnes Sligh Turnbull wrote, “It’s their only fault, really”) and as much as we don’t want to think about it, being prepared will help with the transition.
With a dog year equaling about seven of ours, by the time a dog has lived ten years, he’s actually a senior citizen. Just like us, dogs experience age-related illnesses, aches, and pains. So what we can we do to help them grow old gracefully and painlessly, not to mention extend their time with us for as long as possible? We here at Modern Dog have researched the following products, techniques, and services that will assist you in giving Rover the Golden Years he’s earned. Don’t forget, though, your first resource should always be your veterinarian.
The Bottoms Up Leash shifts weight from your dog’s hind legs and provides support, so your elderly dog will find it easier to walk or use the stairs. (For photos, see page 109.) bottomsupleash.com. The Walkabelly harness is also helpful for mid-region support. It wraps around the mid-section, then fastens with Velcro. The handles are long enough so you won’t have to stoop while helping your dog along. walkaboutharnesses.com
Fifi can’t jump up on the bed or sofa anymore? Pet stairs to the rescue…either custom made to complement your home décor (carmensteps.com) or lightweight stairs sculpted from foam then carpet covered (decadentdigs.com).
Getting a large dog with mobility problems into a vehicle can be back breaking. That’s when a pet ramp is indispensible. Check out petstep.com or ottostep.com.
Canine carts can really help severely immobilized dogs run around again. Check out wheelchairsfordogs.com or dogkarts.com. Both sites feature a variety of styles for different needs and provide useful info on how carts work, sizing, and measuring.
The Burley Tail Wagon is a sporty mode of transportation that allows Poochey to come along whether you’re out for a stroll or a bike ride and can accommodate dogs up to 75 pounds. burley.com
Splints for support and healing are modeled after the human versions and go from above the hock for back-leg splints or below the elbow for front legs and extend completely under the foot. They can also be custom designed. handicappedpets.com
Soft fluffy beds may look cozy, but a firmer model like the Woof-A-Pedic bed makes it easier for Fido to get up and down and provides better support for his old bones. Draper Therapy beds deliver increased circulation and oxygenation to combat stiffness and soreness. drapertherapies.com
Aging dogs can develop weak bladder sphincters, causing them to leak urine, especially when they’re relaxed while asleep. Your veterinarian may suggest an estrogen supplement for your female dog or you can try the many attractive “pantie”-style diapers for girl dogs or belly-band diapers for the boys, available in disposable or washable styles (pantsfordogs.com; dog-diapers.com). Getting out for more frequent bathroom breaks will also help.
Older dogs often need to take more medication more frequently. You’ll find Pill Pockets indispensible for the previously stressful task of trying to get the meds down your dog’s throat. A malleable and nutritious treat formed into a pocket, they come in two sizes. Simply drop the pill(s) into the pocket and pinch the top closed. Rover won’t suspect a thing and the medication will be down the hatch in seconds. greenies.com
As dogs age, they become more sedate and enjoy longer and more frequent naps. This can lead to weight gain unless we control their calorie intake. Ask your vet about the right calorie-reduced diet to keep Poochey in top shape.
Be aware of your dog’s limits. A senior dog will not have the same endurance he had when he was younger. Although he might have been your running partner as you trained for the half-marathon, he won’t be able to keep up now, but will still try. Be aware of what you’ve got him doing and take shorter, but more frequent walks. Overdoing it will cause inflammation and joint pain. If you suspect your dog is in pain, ask your vet to recommend an appropriate medication, such as Metacam. Other choices such as glucosamine with chondroitin or Sasha’s Blend (a more holistic remedy) may be effective in getting your dog moving painlessly again. sashasblend.com
Hydrotherapy can also work wonders. The water keeps the dog buoyant, taking body weight/pressure off joints and allows for weightless exercise. Your dog may also benefit from massage and/or reiki treatments.