September is Healthy Aging Month, and we believe that focusing on the positive aspects of growing older isn’t just for us humans. As our pets move into their later years, there are steps we can take to help them age gracefully, happily, and comfortably. After all, we want the best for our babies, no matter how old! At The Missing Link®, we haven’t just studied and learned about senior dogs, some of us live with them! Here are 10 tips for senior dogs aging healthfully:
1. Listen. If our older dogs could talk, they’d tell us that they tire more easily, their joints are sore in the morning, they get confused sometimes, or that it is getting harder to reach the food bowl on the floor. Of course they can’t talk, so they rely on us to “listen” in other ways. Watch how he or she moves, pay attention to when they seem more energetic, give them a bit more time to do what they used to do quickly, and be prepared to gently guide them if needed.
2. Short strolls. Your senior pup probably still loves to get out of the house and away from the same old yard. But long fast walks are likely a thing of the past. Shorter distances are better, and slow that roll – let the outings be more about sniffing and exploring than beating any speed records. Frequent stretches are good for stiffening joints and bones, and you can help your pup with gentle stretches at home – you both can enjoy some downward dog time with doggie yoga. “Dogmaste.”
3. Sir Pants-A-lot. Just like older humans, aging pups have a harder time regulating their body temperature. So temperature extremes can be a challenge. In the summer, watch for excessive panting, and keep them out of the heat as much as possible. In the winter, they may need more help staying warm with a cozy bed, blankets or even fashionable outdoor wear. What’s not to love about looking cute AND being warm?
4. Slip & Slide. Along with potentially achy joints, our aging doggos have a harder time maintaining their balance on slippery surfaces. Tile and hardwood floors become scary places. It may be time to relinquish some of your home style choices to make certain areas easier for your pup to get around. Even if it means adding half a dozen non-slip throw rugs in a tile floor kitchen. Not a design look to love, but easier and safer for the dog you love.
5. Say What? Our pups may be coping with changes in their hearing and eyesight. They could be dealing with diminished senses, OR they may become more sensitive to loud noises. My boy is now scared of “loud” kitchen noises so when it is dinner prep time, he leaves the room and hides until it is time to return for taste testing. If changes happen drastically and quickly, see your Vet. Otherwise, be your pups’ additional eyes and ears to help keep them safe. Consider gates to keep them from dangerous situations if failing eyesight may lead them astray.
6. Playtime. They may not be able to run for a ball or leap high for a frisbee, but one of the most important tips for aging dogs, regular playtime, is still an important way for your dog to feel loved and stay active physically and mentally. Playing with a favorite squeaky toy, splashing in puddles, playing doggy poker (which hand is hiding the treat?) or even just getting on the floor for tummy rubs and light wrestling are all good ways to stimulate a dog’s brain and muscles – and does wonder for our moods too!
7. Spa-ahh. A little TLC goes a long way, and can really help our fur kids age gracefully. If you visit a Groomer, make sure they are equipped to handle older dogs and any possible mobility or comfort issues. At home, brush their coat frequently (also a great way to check for ticks, or any new lumps or bumps), brush their teeth to help keep their chompers healthy, and if suggested by your vet, keep their ears cleaned. We all feel good after a bit of Spa time.
8. Not “just”. Don’t assume that problems or drastic changes are “just old age.” If you notice fairly dramatic decreases in appetite, changes in personality, bathroom habits, activity levels, or abnormal lumps and growths, these could be a sign of a medical problem, so schedule a visit with your vet. Once diagnosed and treated, our senior dogs can get back to being more like their “old selves”.
9. Dinnertime. Nutrition is just as vital in dogs’ later years as it is when they are young and growing. Check with your vet for any suggested changes to daily diets to get the right balance of calories, fiber, protein and fats. With a slowdown in exercise level and metabolism, it may be time to cut back a bit on the quantity they eat to avoid weight gain which is harder on joints and heart. No matter what kind of diet you’re feeding your dog, it’s hard for them to get all of the age appropriate and necessary nutrition at mealtime. Adding supplements from The Missing Link® family of products is a great way to fill in nutritional gaps. The Missing Link® Senior Formula is especially effective, with balanced Omega’s, probiotics, dietary fibers and glucosamine to support your aging dog’s flexibility, mobility, digestive system, skin & coat and even energy level. With just a spoonful a day, your doggo can go from good to best.
10. Smile! You probably have hundreds of photos of your fur kid when he or she was a puppy and an active teen. Be sure you continue to snap those pics to capture those beautiful eyes, great expressions and natural handsomeness or beauty. Share your dog-and-me selfies with friends to support the love of senior pets and encourage older pup adoptions. You’ll get aww’s in return, and you’ll be glad to have those memories preserved. We hope you can use some of these tips for senior dogs to help your wizened, experienced, oh-so-cherished just don't call them "old" senior pups have happy and healthy golden years!