Your dog is getting older — and that’s a good thing! You probably have fewer chewed shoes and chair legs, and daily walks no longer feel like an extreme sport. But what about ways to keep older dogs active?
You may wonder if your dog’s maturity means they are having less fun. Here’s more good news – dogs are happiest when they are with you. The activities you share together are what keep your dog’s life fun and healthy. Here are 12 ways to help your senior dog keep their inner puppy thriving.
1. Exercise – every day!
Your dog will be more lively on weekend adventures if they’ve had a chance to keep their muscles limber with a 20-minute walk once or twice each day, instead of just stepping off the porch for a lazy pee. Regular walks will keep your dog jogging rather than slogging through their post-puppy years.
2. Include time to sniff and explore.
When your dog was a pup, the house and garden were new and exciting. Your older dog is pretty familiar with them now, so let them spend some time sniffing and poking in the grass when adventuring on walks. A dog’s nose could be up to 100,000 times more sensitive that our own, and they “see” more with their sniffer than we can even imagine Let them explore with their nose when you’re out and about.
3. Give your dog something to think about.
Unfortunately, signs of canine cognitive disfunction syndrome (CCD) is found in nearly 1 out of every 3 dogs over 11, and it gradually impacts almost every dog. As a dog’s brain ages, they may experience loss of interest, aimless wandering, loss of housetraining, and confusion.
Just as with humans, mental stimulation throughout life may slow down the progress of mental aging in dogs.
- Hiding treats around the house not only exercises your dog’s nose, it keeps their curiosity in high gear.
- Food puzzles will get the brain buzzing and the tail wagging.
- Life-long training makes for years of satisfaction and excitement. Don’t stop training just because your dog has mastered sit, stay, and come. Continue to add tricks and new activities to your dog’s repertoire throughout their life.
The ASPCA has five tricks that are not only fun for your dog, they can be helpful to your relationship, too!
4. Massage for bumps and lumps.
Pup-cuddling on the couch takes on an extra importance as dogs grow older. Petting your dog all over is the best way to catch anything odd on or under their skin.
Most senior-dog lumps are benign soft fatty tumors. They may only need to be removed if they cause your dog some discomfort. Other bumps could be a developing abscess, a painful cyst, or even a cancerous tumor that needs medical attention.
Any time you find something that just doesn’t feel right, note the location and size, and schedule a trip to the veterinarian. Addressing bumps right away means a more comfortable – and possibly longer – life for your dog.
5. Upgrade the bed to keep older dogs active.
As a puppy, your dog was probably happy to flop on any surface. They may be a bit choosier about comfort now that they are up in years.
- If they have abandoned their super-cushy bed to stretch out on the pile carpet, it may be difficult to struggle out of a deep, soft surface. A firmer foam bed may be just the ticket.
- They may avoid bouncing up into their favorite chair due to stiff joints. A step-up is a big help.
- If your older dog snarls when pounced on in bed by a younger canine buddy, consider having one dog or the other sleep on a bed in their crate so the senior can have an unbothered snooze now and then.
Watch for the choices your senior dog makes and take steps to remove barriers to their comfort.
6. Snip those nail tips.
Toenails get less natural wear when a dog spends more time lounging and less time playing. A younger dog can get by a monthly trim, but older dogs may need to have their tips snipped on a weekly basis. Extra-long nails make it hard to walk on slick surfaces, will change the way your dog carries their weight, and can cause damage to the skeletal system over time. Older dogs already are at risk of arthritis, and long nails can compound their discomfort.
Set a calendar alarm to remind you to give those nails a weekly check so your dog can trot gladly along at your side.
7. Watch that weight.
Fluctuations in weight are a good indicator that something is up, health-wise.
- Weight loss might be a good thing if you and your dog have added an extra walk to your day, but it can also be a sign of dental pain, heart disease, diabetes mellitus, cancer, or other hidden problems.
- Obesity is the most common disease in dogs in North America, and the most preventative. Obesity puts your dog at a great risk of heart disease, osteoarthritis, and joint degeneration. It can also indicate an underlying health issue like hypothyroidism or Cushing’s Disease.
If you don’t own an accurate scale or if your dog is too large to weigh at home, ask your veterinarian if you can swing by now and then to step on their lobby scale. Make these low-stress visits fun (treats and praise!) and your dog will learn to love rather than dread the vet.
By keeping a sharp eye on your senior dog’s weight and consulting your veterinarian if you notice unexpected changes, you’ll help your dog stay fit for a long and active life.
8. Feed your dog like a grown-up.
Speaking of weight and health: as your dog ages, they may benefit from a change in diet.
- Wet food may easier on the gums of a dog with dental disease.
- A lower calorie food may help slow weight gain.
- A dog with arthritis may benefit from added nutrients that help the joints, like glucosamine hydrochloride; chondroitin sulfate; omega-3 fatty acids, etc.
- A therapeutic prescription diet may help manage obesity, kidney disease and other health issues.
Don’t just grab a bag of food marked “senior” impulsively off the shelf. Your veterinarian can run some routine blood and urine tests for senior dogs that provide early insight into common age-related health issues. There are diets and simple supplements that can help support your dog’s individual health needs, or your veterinarian may tell you there’s no need to worry about a diet change at all right now!
9. Peek at the teeth.
If you’ve made a habit of brushing your dog’s teeth daily, good for you! If you haven’t, then it’s important to look at your senior dog’s teeth, front and back, at least once a month. Check for yellowish tarter on the teeth, swelling around a tooth, or red gums.
Dental pain may not be obvious, but it can make every moment of the day uncomfortable for your dog. Some signs of dental pain to watch for are:
- Bad breathe
- Loss of appetite
- Head shyness – pulling away from touch
Give your dog’s muzzle a rub and gently lift that lip right now to peek and sniff, just to be sure your faithful sidekick isn’t hiding dental discomfort.
10. Make sure your pup has lots of chances to “go.”
If we could chat over coffee, one thing senior humans and dogs would likely commiserate about is how annoying it is to have to climb out of a warm bed for more frequent bathroom breaks. Imagine being a dog…you can’t even open the door to pee when you need to go!
As your dog ages, you’ll need to provide more opportunities for outside breaks. You may end up going to bed a bit later and getting up earlier. Your veterinarian may even advise you to designate an indoor spot protected by a pee-pad where your dog can relieve themselves guilt-free.
You may never have thought you’d need to teach your dog to pee indoors. If you need some help, the AKC has advice on pee-pad training a senior dog. You and your dog can stop stressing about this simple result of aging and concentrate on fun instead.
11. Embrace the six-month vet visit.
As a dog grows older, the likelihood of age-related health issues increases. Many of them can be effectively managed if caught early. Consider adding an extra veterinary check-up to your senior dog’s calendar. Share any changes in food or water intake or frequency of urination with your vet. Catching a change in health before it becomes a serious problem can mean a longer and more active life for your dog.
12. Treat your dog – healthfully.
What life as a dog without treats?
There’s an entire aisle devoted to dog snacks in your nearest big box pet store, right? It can be overwhelming to read all those labels. You’re probably concerned about nutrition, calories, and additives. You also want your dog to love them. That’s why they are called “treats.”
At Pampered Pets USA we make it simple. We have a tasty ingredient list that’s short and wholesome (Here’s our Oatmeal and Pumpkin!), with no by-products, sugar, salt, preservatives, artificial flavorings or colors, and no wheat or corn. They are soft and chewy — gentle on older dog’s teeth and gums — and easy to break apart into pieces for training or smaller nibbles.
Feel young, be young!
Your dog doesn’t care if they have gray in their muzzle. They’ve long-since replaced the joy of chewing sneakers with the bliss of sharing new adventures with you. With a little watchfulness, a little accommodation and a lot of love, both you and your dog can enjoy those senior years – and more of them – with plenty of pep in your step.
At Pampered Pets USA, we know you consider your pet to be part of the family and want nothing but the best for them. We are here to provide you with accurate and updated information that will help you give your furry friend a healthy and happy life.