Taking care of an aging pet is bittersweet. You remember the days of puppyhood like they were just yesterday, but getting older doesn’t mean the fun is over. Getting ahead of common issues found in aging pets isn’t as daunting as it sounds. Listed are some specific main changes pets experience as they age:
- Hearing and Vision Loss
- Joint Problems
- Obesity/Gastrointestinal Issues/Incontinence
There is a lot of information on the internet about the best way to care for your dog, which can be overwhelming. The simpler question is, what is the best way to make life as easy as possible for your pet? As we age we seek a sense of normalcy, so why wouldn’t your best friend want the same thing?
General Home Safety Measures:
First, let’s take a look at some easy changes that can be made as a pet gets older. Some General home safety measures for your dog are as follows:
- Pet gates
- Leaving the television on
- Adjusting food bowl heights
- Consistent routines
- Anti-anxiety spot
Some pets can become anxious when in silence and/or alone. Think of the television as a white noise machine for your dog. A soft spot where your pet can relax without any surprises is also key. This can be somewhere in the living room or bedroom. Really, anywhere a boundary can be made between your pup and the rest of the house (ex. other pets, children, loud noises, constant activity) is what you are looking for when creating that anti-anxiety spot.
One of the first signs of aging in pets and humans (aside from the gray hairs) is hearing and vision loss. A previously adventurous pup may appear more anxious in new environments or avoid getting up the stairs or on the furniture with you.
With hearing loss, keeping sight of you will keep your dog more comfortable. While the loss of hearing may hinder things that were normal before such as being off-leash and voice commands, it doesn’t have to be too different.
Some solutions for addressing hearing loss in dogs are:
- Fenced in yards, yard tethers, leashed walks
- Utilizing the anti-anxiety spot
- Hand gestures
Safety is always first, so creating those boundaries allows the freedom to play and explore just like always but without the dangers that hearing loss can create such as cars, animals, or simply being unable to hear the callback command from their owner.
Some work with retraining the classic commands with hand gestures will likely bring you and your pup fully into the new normal.
With vision loss, it is understandably a little scary for both owner and pet to move forward. Some solutions for addressing vision loss in dogs are:
- “Baby proofing”
- Non-slip stair treads
Taking care of sharp corners and miscellaneous obstacles (covering sharp corners/installing ramps) is step one for a pet with vision loss. A pet ramp can be installed over small series of steps like those leading up to a deck or porch. Walking up a gentle slope will be easier for your dog than trying to find each step and not knowing when it ends. That combined with handling slippery surfaces and some good old-fashioned love and reassurance, the new normal won’t seem so bad. To make surfaces in your home less slippery, non-slip treads can be applied to virtually any flat surface. The treads create solid traction between tread and paw, stopping dangerous slips.
Another step to familiarize your pet with the house once their sight isn’t guiding them anymore is to walk through with them. Doing this a few times a day, week, or whenever you can help them create those paths they know are safe even when their owner is not around. Keeping a pocketful of treats to increase confidence doesn’t hurt the process either.
As pet owners, and as living creatures, we understand the pains of getting older. Along with that is the importance of still living your life. When arthritis and joint pain starts in our furry friends there are many adjustments that can be made, like:
- Low impact exercise (swimming, walking)
- Ramps (for cars and furniture)
- Non-slip stair treads
- Heat and massage
- Bedding adaptation
Swimming and walking are great low impact exercises for pets experiencing any type of joint or muscular issue. Those activities combined with the use of ramps (in the pool, in the car) can make a pups life much easier, and the exercise more fun! Even setting a ramp up to bed or creating a softer spot to lounge can make a huge difference especially for larger dogs that are harder to pick up. Paired with some very light massaging and a heating pad, their aches and pains may just melt away even just for a little while.
Not being able to see or anticipate certain ailments that come with aging is definitely unsettling. As a pet owner you may not even know something is wrong, but staying attuned to changes in behavior is important with these invisible changes. Not to mention, the vet is always just a phone call away.
Some solutions to address these health issues are:
- Diet change
- Puppy pads/diapers
Revisiting exercise and allowing more focus on diet is a good place to start for these ailments. Followed by some classic puppy favorites such as diapers and puppy pads just readapted for your older pup. Routine is important for older dogs and their families because it offers comfort and does not require any of the stress new activities may cause. Something as simple as setting up puppy pads near the door in case they can’t quite make it out is a great way to keep up the old routine.
Aging Gracefully With Knowledge and Love
The vet is always the first smart option in planning for the future with your pet. Outside of medical attention, creating a comfortable and safe space can make life easier for you and your pup. Aging isn’t a sad aspect, it is simply the next step and your pet will continue on its happy life with your love and compassion to help them along, even if they have to do it in diapers.