The average dog’s lifespan is between 10 – 13 years.
Smaller breeds tend to live longer whole large breeds like Great Danes live 8 – 10 years.
What’s important to remember is that dogs age just like us humans.
As they enter their autumn years, older dogs slow down and become less mobile.
Whilst it’s understandable that owners let their beloved pooches take a well-earned rest from long hikes and chasing the mailman, it’s also essential that you try to help your pet stay mobile for as long as possible.
Here are some tips to help you do just that.
Keep On Walking
As dogs age, their appetite for long walks lessens. Most older dogs begin to show signs of arthritis and joint pain in their later years, so too much exercise can cause them discomfort.
They’ll also slow down when they do go out for a walk, so expect your walks to take longer than they did when your dog was an exuberant pup eager to chase squirrels and other dogs.
Even if your dog has slowed down and doesn’t seem as bothered about his daily walkies, it’s still important to encourage him to go out for exercise a couple of times a day.
A slow walk will help to loosen up his joints and ligaments. It encourages blood circulation, which is good for an older dog’s joints.
Choose walking routes where the surface is nice and even, such as a stroll around your local park. Avoid walking your senior dog on a very cold day, as the cold will make his joints stiff and painful. Very hot days are also best avoided.
Don’t be in a rush to do your circuit and get home. Let your dog take his time and find his own pace. If he’s struggling, shorten the route and give him plenty of breaks to sniff lampposts and bushes. He may be happy just doing a slow circuit around the block.
If that’s the case, be prepared to amble along at his pace and save your speed walking for later, when he’s snoozing in his bed.
Provide a Soft, Comfortable Bed
Older dogs need soft comfortable beds that cushion and support their sore joints. When your senior dog is comfortable in his bed, he’ll sleep for longer and more deeply, which is important for his health.
Orthopedic beds are ideal for senior dogs, as they are soft and supportive. Memory foam bedding is perfect for older dogs, as it molds to the dog’s shape and helps cushion his limbs.
Look for a bed you can throw in the washing machine if your pet has a toilet accident (common in older pets).
Try and ensure your dog has a nice, warm spot to sleep in. Drafts will only exacerbate his joint problems, especially in winter.
Older dogs will do much better if they can sleep indoors during cold weather, so if your pup was previously an outdoor dog, it’s probably kinder to let him move indoors when he reaches his senior years.
Discourage Jumping on Furniture
If your dog sleeps on the bed, be aware that he might find it difficult to jump on and off the bed. In trying to do so he could end up injuring himself, which will cause him pain and long-term problems.
An injured dog won’t want to go for a walk, and the longer he remains inactive, the harder it will be to resume any normal activities.
To prevent issues, provide him with a ramp to climb on to the bed, or give him a bed on the floor, where he can sleep close to you but without exerting himself.
The same applies to sofas. Lots of dogs snuggle up with their humans on the sofa, but older dogs are more likely to injure themselves doing so. Ramps and steps are readily available for dogs.
It’s also sensible to prevent your dog from climbing the stairs. Use a baby gate to block access and carry him up to bed if he’s small enough.
Feed a Healthy, Age-Appropriate Diet
Obesity is a major problem for older pets. The more weight your dog has to carry around, the more pressure it places on his joints. Once a pet reaches his senior years, it’s best to switch him on to a diet suitable for older dogs, as older dogs have different nutritional needs.
Don’t be tempted to supplement his diet with treats and human food. You’ll end up killing your dog with kindness.
Because older dogs need fewer calories, look for a low-cal dog food suitable for senior dogs. Complete foods are best, as they contain the right mix of essential nutrients and high fiber.
Foods containing fatty acids and glucosamine help fight the effects of arthritis, which should ensure your dog stays mobile for longer.
Try Joint Supplements
Supplements can be really useful for senior dogs. Fish oils contain essential fatty acids, which have anti-inflammatory properties and boost joint health. Glucosamine for dogs also has a similar effect.
Look out for high-quality products for older dogs. Senior dog supplements can work wonders to improve mobility in older dogs. Look for products that contain natural ingredients such as elk antler velvet, salvia root, and ginseng. Omega Fish Oils are also a useful supplement for older dogs.
Take Your Dog for Twice Yearly Health Checks
Book your senior dog in for a health check twice a year. It’s a great opportunity for the vet to check your dog’s health and mobility.
Tell the vet if your dog is struggling with stairs or reluctant to go for his daily walkies – it’s a clear sign something isn’t right. If your dog is diagnosed with arthritis, the vet might be able to prescribe medication or a course of injections to ease discomfort and loosen the joints.
Finally, try giving your dog a gentle massage to help ease his pain and aid relaxation. All dogs love extra attention from their humans, so a nice massage is just the ticket.